Friday, 11 October 2019 19:53

COLUMN: Is our climate changing?

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Has anyone felt that our summers are hotter and our winters milder? Well, if your answer is yes, you are not alone. 

Scientists from all over the world report that our average temperatures of the planet are rising. Giant ice sheets are melting in our northern hemisphere and allowing our ocean levels to rise every year.

With warming temperatures, hurricanes, tornadoes and other types of storms are not just 500-year events. Seems every year our East Coast and other parts of N.C. are seeing floods, winds and major droughts and record temperatures brought on by our changing climates. There just doesn’t seem to be any fall or spring weather. It goes to winter to hot summer overnight and then back to winter.

As a farmer, I noticed over 50 years ago that our climate was changing. Seems my family had raised and butchered their own hogs for many years. They preserved the meat by placing it in a large wooden box and graciously rubbing each piece of meat with salt. Hardly ever did they lose any to spoilage until the winters started warming in the '60s.

Back in the day, most small farmers didn’t have any type of irrigation systems for their crops. They just took what rain the good Lord sent them. Without irrigation on farms today, you couldn’t make it. An example of this is that a friend of mine, who owns a produce stand, planted 70,000 collard plants late this summer. To keep his investment alive, he has already pumped over a half-million gallons on this field of collards. With no rain in sight, I wonder if his ponds will hold out before going dry.

It seems the rainfall is either feast or famine. A farmer can irrigate his crops but can’t do much when there is flooding caused by too much rain. Hurricanes like Hugo, Floyd and Florence have wreaked havoc not just on business and residential areas but agriculture as well. Chicken, hog and row-crop farmers have lost just about everything they own to floods. Hurricane floods can fill containers and stump holes, creating more breeding habitat for mosquitoes that can carry deadly diseases.

On the other side of the coin, extended droughts and high temperatures can cause a farmer’s crops not to come up or just dry up in the field. Irrigation ponds and wells go dry. The old saying about clay land — “If you stick with it when it’s wet, it will stick with you when it’s dry”  — does not always apply. During these high-temperature conditions, our power bills go through the roof.

Several years ago, my uncle farmed several acres of tobacco in the sandhills around Ellerbe. One of his favorite sayings was he could take chicken litter and water and grow anything. That works fine as long as you have enough rainfall or can pump enough water from your irrigation system.

I remember one year it was a hot and dry summer like this year’s weather. The rains didn’t come, and his tobacco was suffering bad. My uncle pumped water from every pond and creek he could find but soon found he was only pumping mud. He said his pond was so low that the catfish buried in the mud had dog ticks on their backs. Now that’s getting pretty low, don’t you think?

Long droughts can cause forest fires to rage out of control. Our country and state have seen its share of wildfires in the past years. A special thanks goes out to our firefighters who risk their lives fighting these fires.

It’s not just our country that is witnessing these severe floods and droughts but it’s also happening in other parts of the world. Scientists predict that climate change will continue and bring more disasters in the future.

So, what are we the people of this planet supposed to do? Seems our politicians and world leaders are too busy trying to get reelected to do anything about climate change or global warming. Even if they really tried, would it be possible to reverse global warming? Science tells us that global warming is a result of too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This can be caused by many years of burning fossil fuels and emitting greenhouse gases into the air.

In my meager opinion, I see too much timber being cut all over the world. Our trees take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen back into the air. More and more of our great rain forests are being either cut down or burnt every year. Our older power plants have burned coal and released tons of dangerous emissions of gases over the years. Our highways are full of cars and trucks, all releasing some form of carbon. More paved roads and parking lots have funneled great amounts of runoff into our streams.

Seems everything we don’t need we either dumped into our waterways, emitted into the air or soil all in the name of progress or sometimes greed. Our natural resources and those of the world are being used up, all at an alarming rate.

Why, some folks would say that nature is just running its course and that floods and droughts have been around since our world began. They are partially right, but for myself, I feel and see changes in our temperatures and annual rainfall.

In closing, I’m just an old farmer and storyteller but I know the good Lord put us here to be good stewards of the land, water, beasts of the field and birds of the air. My hope is that we can leave this world a better place for future generations.

J.A. Bolton is the author of “Just Passing Time” and co-author of “Just Passing Time Together.” He is also a member of the Anson County Writers Club and the Anson and Richmond County Historical Societies.