July 25, 2021
Pearl River In the polarizing struggle over Covid-19 and lifesaving vaccinations, the repeated call has been to “listen to the science.” The same cry is heard about climate change and global warming. People obviously decide when and where to listen. Maybe rather than debating about this person’s view or the other, we should listen to nature, if we’re willing.
Record heatwaves and lingering drought have created a crisis for trout in Montana for example. The water is running too low and the temperatures are rising past what is comfortable for them. One river after another has imposed “hoot owl” limits with no fishing after 2 PM in the afternoon. There was a picture in the Times of someone fishing on Rock Creek fifty miles, half unpaved, out of Missoula. For seven years, we camped on Rock Creek and fished there day after day. Sometimes we even caught some trout. We haven’t done so for the last five years, but change was noticeable even then. Gradually, the rules were changing, particularly when the fires were raging. We could no longer keep rainbow trout, only browns, and brookies within the limits. We went from waders to Chaco sandals and jeans. Your feet in the water and line flying across the riffles in the water bring back the voice of nature more effectively than any politician or scientist’s opinion. It can’t be ignored.
I hear the same thing on the bayou paddling near the Pearl River border between Louisiana and Mississippi. Record rainfall that will likely pass 100 inches this year doesn’t mean that temperatures aren’t also higher and the water level lower in the bayou, even as the water pools in the sandy clay nearby creating sinkholes for the oaks and pines in the abutting forest. The alligators stay in the deeper pools less visible this year even than last. The devil-backed crickets are less numerous and so are the birds that flocked to feed on them. Where are the ducks I saw last year at this time? I saw a snowy white egret today, but where are is the giant blue heron that was my regular companion last year?
I’m reading Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees, and I wonder what they are sensing and saying to each other? Are they conserving less water or are they storing it just in case? How are they coming back from the fire last spring? Are the pines and oaks willing to along a random magnolia to make it? What happened to the possums that were living there and the owl? Are they still there? Frogs and turtles have had a heyday. Mowing the lawn recently more than a dozen jumped out of the way of all shapes and sizes. Two snakes crawled past me yesterday.
Some come out ahead while others fall behind, but it’s hard to ignore nature’s cries to look harder and listen more carefully. Reality has a message stronger than opinion or politics if we’re willing to get out in it and pay attention to change all around us providing the source material for science long before the data points become debates.