Sunday, May 25, 2014
Dangerous flood waters
When I was kid back in the early 70s, my dad belonged to a local canoe and kayak club. Some of the best white water trips could only be paddled during spring floods. The water was so cold that a capsize could prove fatal. After 30 seconds or so a person's muscles would seize up and they'd be unable to swim. Death was not far behind. In spite of the danger we did it for the thrills.
Dry suits were unheard of. A few of us had wet suits. Most did not. We thought it was a big deal to actually wear our life jackets. Capsizes did happen but no one died or even got seriously hurt. Part of it was luck, but part of it was that we traveled in a group and knew how to rescue each other.
I really enjoyed paddling trough flooded forests, over farmer's fences, and through corn fields. Those days of flood water paddling were not limited to my misspent youth. In more recent years I've taken advantage of flood conditions to paddle into places that aren't normally accessible. Tiny streams became small rivers that connect to out of the way beaver ponds. Good fun. In recent years I've paddled over flooded parks, looking through the murky waters to picnic tables and charcoal grills. For some reason I just love looking at a flooded world.
Now I'm told that climate change will cause extensive coastal flooding. A recent NASA study of Antarctic glaciers shows them retreating with nothing to stop that from continuing. The oceans are supposed to rise, eventually flooding many coastal areas. The responsible adult part of me thinks: what a horrible upset that will be. The part of me that likes to padded flooded areas thinks it would be loads of fun.
Imagine sailing over the flooded remains of Miami. How about tying up one's boat on a New York Wall Street building? Picture exploring flooding ruins for salvage. What a life of adventure that would be!
Sadly, that sort of future is supposed to be a hundred or more years in the future. However, I am encouraged by the continual reappraisal of when this sort of thing could happen. Sure, they predict problems a hundred years in the future, but they used to say thousands of years. Maybe something like the release of trapped arctic methane gases would speed things up so I can enjoy the floods in my lifetime.
Does that make me a bad person? I don't think so. It's not my fault. My carbon footprint is a tiny fraction of the average American's. Just because there's a disaster going on doesn't mean I can't enjoy it. Being able to enjoy a good catastrophe made me a better firefighter, so it's not always a negative personality trait.
Someday someone will go boating through the flooded ruins of an earlier civilization. Only wish it could be me.