My parents live in Athens, Alabama. My mom took this photo of her neighborhood after tornados struck ground 1/4 mile from her house last month. Here’s what my friend and mentor Bill McKibben has to say about the recent string of “isolated, unpredictable, discrete” weather events, such as the tornados in Joslin, Missouri, and Tuscaloosa, Alabama—which made April, 2011, the most active April for tornados in our history:
“It’s far smarter to repeat to yourself, over and over, the comforting mantra that no single weather event can ever be directly tied to climate change. There have been tornadoes before, and floods—that’s the important thing. Just be careful to make sure you don’t let yourself wonder why all these records are happening at once: why we’ve had unprecedented megafloods from Australia to Pakistan in the last year. Why it’s just now that the Arctic has melted for the first time in thousands of years. Focus on the immediate casualties, watch the videotape from the store cameras as the shelves are blown over. Look at the anchorman up to the chest of his waders in the rising river.
“Because if you asked yourself what it meant that the Amazon has just come through its second hundred-year-drought in the last four years, or that the pine forests across the western part of this continent have been obliterated by a beetle in the last decade—well, you might have to ask other questions. Like, should President Obama really just have opened a huge swath of Wyoming to new coal-mining? Should Secretary of State this summer sign a permit allowing a huge new pipeline to carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta? You might have to ask yourself: do we have a bigger problem than four-dollar-a-gallon gasoline?”
P.s. YES! magazine is hosting Bill McKibben and Van Jones tonight at Town Hall in Seattle.
P.s. For more views on the question of whether the recent spate of extreme weather is linked to global warming, read this Yale Environment 360 article.