I’m one of those individual’s whose mood becomes dark when the days are short and the weather is frightful. For that reason I have generally found myself languishing in a bit of a funk during February. Not even Valentine’s Day or the holiday provided by President’s Day is usually enough to bring more of a smile to my face. What I need to feel really good is sunshine. I believe that some psychologists call my winter time moodiness SAD disease, or seasonal affective disorder.
Usually February finds me feeling sluggish as though I am in a constant state of fatigue. There have been some winters when I have thought that hibernating like a bear might be a wonderful way to pass my time. My energy level feels greatly reduced and I prefer solitude to interacting with crowds. It’s not so much that I am depressed as that I just want to be left alone. When I was working I probably got sick more often in February than any other month. I generally thought of February with its leaden gray skies and cold days as a month that I simply had to get through so that I might finally reach the longer, warmer, and sunnier days of March.
Of course this year February in Houston has been way different from the past. Virtually every single day this month has been noted for the mild daytime temperatures and the beautiful blue skies. With this pleasant change from tradition my own state of mind has soared. I open my drapes and my blinds the first thing each morning and gaze upon a wondrous scene of roses blooming in what is usually the dead of winter and birds gathering in my backyard singing and cooing. I take long walks around my neighborhood with a big smile on my face and my energy is boundless. My little part of the world is so grand right now that I secretly wish that it might stay exactly this way for many more weeks but I understand that the weather marches to its own drumbeat and there is no telling what lies ahead.
We humans often forget just how much we are affected by the changing of the seasons, the vagaries of the weather, the natural processes that swirl around us. We also lose sight of our own effect on nature and sometimes even try to deny that we have any sort of impact. We do so at our own peril. Somehow I cannot understand either how or why a significant number of highly intelligent individuals are willing to contend that mankind has not contributed to changes in the weather and the climate. I would argue that even without scientific data it seems quite clear that every living thing interacts with every other living thing and all organisms have an impact on our planet. We live together in a symbiotic relationship and throughout history our actions have directly or indirectly affected one another.
There is so much evidence of the damage that we are doing to our world. The disaster with the drinking water in Flint, Michigan is only the latest tragedy. While the citizens suffer the politicians argue over who is to blame and the reality is that the situation was no doubt created long ago when little or no care was taken to keep factories and businesses from fouling the lakes and rivers. The pollution did not occur over night. It resulted from years of neglect.
When we all watched the horrendous damage to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina it was easy to blame the Corps of Engineers or President Bush or the mayor of the city for the tragedy but the real culprit had begun doing its damage decades prior. The torturous ways in which the waters in the area have been controlled for the sake of commerce has literally changed the way the Mississippi River drains into the Gulf of Mexico. The silt that once formed natural barriers that shielded New Orleans during hurricanes and storms is slowly evaporating. Land that once held homes and farms is no more. In our fantasy beliefs that we may tame nature without consequences man has created dire problems for a city that lives under a grave threat if nothing is done to fully repair the scars.
In the west we build dams that prevent water from flowing the way it was meant to be. Farmers in the eastern part of California are living on parched land and their very livelihoods are threatened by a prolonged drought that seems unlikely to end any time soon. If only the dams were undone they would have the water that they need. Right here in Houston we house one of the worst environmental disasters ever recorded, the Brio site. Because a company foolishly buried barrels of chemicals the land became a kind of dead zone as the containers rotted and the pollutants leached into the soil. An entire neighborhood, including a practically brand new school, had to be abandoned because of the dangers created by people who never thought about the consequences of their actions.
We worry about diseases like Ebola but never really think that we are loosing viruses that have lived quietly in rainforests and jungles for thousands of years whenever we cut down huge swaths of trees. Our actions seem innocent enough but the reality is that we are changing our environment at a rapid pace. Just recently naturalists have suggested that the rhinoceros may become extinct in our lifetime if poachers continue killing these animals at the rate of two a day. Elephants are not far behind.
Common sense should tell us that we really do need to be more mindful of the way we treat the earth. I have watched the entire Houston area change during my lifetime. It has become a repository of concrete. Areas that were once forested now hold vast housing developments. My husband recalls playing in the woods where the northern section of Interstate 45 now lies. My mother often spoke of playing along the banks of Buffalo Bayou and seeing wildlife and clear water suitable for swimming. A cousin used to dig for primitive artifacts near his home in Garden Oaks. The city of Houston was greener then and much cleaner than it now is. There has been far too great a tendency here to build an area, use it for a time and then move on to the next place rather than keeping what we already have in working order. We not only lack history but we seem to slash and burn far too often.
Our place on this planet should have little to do with politics. The destruction that we are reaping is not a matter for argument. Each of us should understand that we play a part in determining what the earth will be like in the future. We leave our marks on the land and hopefully how we choose to do so will be positive. We literally have to consider the consequences of the decisions that we make. If we truly want a better world for our children and our grandchildren then we need to admit that we have not always done the best job of protecting this beautiful world of ours and we all too often see the consequences of mistakes from the past. Rather than debating who is to blame we simply need to take the actions that will heal our land. We can’t keep waiting to react only in a time of crisis when we know what we need to do to prevent environmental tragedies in the future.