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OPINION: Bill Walton, Too Much Weather

'And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights'
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In ‘100 Years of Solitude’, Gabriel Garcia Marquez writes that after the Banana Massacre it rained for 4 years, 11 months, and two days. The people around Houston were talking about the Biblical 40 days of rain but Hurricane Harvey slowly drifted away before a repeat of that epic rain. Marquez liked to set up preposterous scenarios and then make us believe they might just have happened.  He won a Nobel for his writing so maybe it did rain for a long time in 100 Years.

Marquez used ‘rain’ in many of his stories. He even had it raining flowers in one tale. Marquez is gone now but I wonder what he would be saying today if he watched the International news about weather disasters all around the globe. He would need no exaggeration to relate about the forest fires, the mudslides, the floods, torrential rains, high winds, heat waves, and melting polar ice. Whether Marquez would point a finger at global warming or simply have his characters struggle through is difficult to surmise.

It was interesting to see the meteorologists’ explanation of how the jet stream, stuck by Mother Nature high in the arctic, was forcing the low pressure of storm Harvey to settle over Huston. It sort of made sense but who believes weather forecasters and their ilk? There are naysayers on global warming but if they don’t believe the news they should at least take up reading or look outside. We are in a period of changing weather. (Surely next summer will be drier).

Our infrastructure was designed for ‘normal’ weather with the occasional extreme weather thrown in once in a hundred years. As the mayor of Windsor, Ontario said after the deluge on August 29 - we have had two ‘hundred year’ storms in the past year. All around the globe we are finding that we did not make allowances for so much rain.

Of course, we have not been helping Mom Nature by building so many houses, buildings, concrete and asphalt roadways where so much of this extra water might have filtered into the ground. Or clearing away trees and grasses and leaving only the bare ground to soak up water without the roots, grasses, and leaves to drink up the rain. To replace the too-small drains with larger ones is a hopeless task even if we had the money and time – which we don’t. Maybe dams and levees are the answer.

Perhaps if there weren’t so many of us we could have left the forests and plains to do their work in balancing the weather and temperature. Or is it in our nature to multiply and overrun the earth leaving it barren of all life? No doubt we got a little help from our religious beliefs and the encouragement to procreate madly to fill the coffers of the Holy fathers and mothers. Moreover, the economics of free labour meant having larger families to add to the common weal. In addition, we needed strong young adults to ward off sabre-tooth tigers and our waring neighbours.

I guess we just have to blame Mom Nature for our natural desire to over-populate. Well, and perhaps the politicians and their economic advisors who say we need more people. Sure, we have lots of room here in the Great White North but that’s not where our people want to live. We have become an urban nation adding more concrete, asphalt, and rabbit-warren houses over our once fertile lands.

The chances of us getting a Harvey Storm are pretty slim – just ask the folk in Windsor, one of our southern cities. But think about snow and cold. If that jet stream gets confused in the winter even hell could freeze over.

On a more cheerful note, one of our South American writers tells the story about it raining for 14 years. A man went across the street to visit his mistress one morning and that afternoon it rained. Without his umbrella, he simply could not return home. And it rained every day for fourteen years when finally one day the sun shone in the afternoon and he returned home. Actually, his mistress threw him out, but it was a good story. Not that that could ever happen here. I mean the rain part.