Within minutes after it became clear Hurricane Harvey was doing a number on Houston, the Chicken Littles took to social media, were granting interviews, and were clucking loudly that this is all the result of global warming. Those with scientific credentials did hedge their bets by adding the words “may be”.
Naturally the lemmings in California — backed by the advocates of the Twin Tunnels — started saying it can happen here as well in our own backyard in the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta.
Besides the fact we don’t have hurricanes, our problem with flooding is primarily attributable to either unseasonably warm rains when there is an early abnormally high snowpack or an above average snowpack. Most of the issues we face could be — providing we had the stomach for the solution — solved by building dams across even more Sierra canyons.
All of that said, let’s be honest, shall we? Whether this has anything to do with global warming is really a trite argument one way or the other. The reason we are seeing “more disastrous” storms has everything to do with there are more of us and the fact earth’s “recorded history” goes into the billions of years and not the 160 years of man-recorded weather data that we all start having heart attacks when we reach a new high, new low, or a new rainfall record.
In a way those embracing the theory that man is the leading cause of global warming are worse than those that dispute it. That’s because to believe that you’d have to accept that the forces of nature are somehow subservient to what man can do.
There were 103 million people living in the United States in 1917 compared to 324 million today. There were 3.3 million Californians in 1917 as opposed to 39.2 million today.
And where do most of these people live? It’s either by water or where there is substantial rain. You don’t see the nation’s fourth largest city in the middle of the Mohave Desert, in the grasslands of Nebraska or in the high Sierra.
Mother Nature has an efficient way of thinning the numbers of overpopulated species: Famine, flood, droughts, wild fires, and predators.
Man has managed to greatly reduce nature’s ability to strike a balance in the scheme of things.
Getting back to hurricanes, two of the strongest of the top five on record — that’s in the last 160 years and not in the last 4.54 billion years earth has been around — happened in 1886 and 1935. Topping the list was the 1935 Florida Keys Labor Day Hurricane that had the strongest readings ever for a Category 5 storm hitting shore. There were 432 deaths in that hurricane. For the record, Hurricane Harvey peaked at a Category 4.
So why is it so catastrophic? Houston proper today has 2.3 million residents. A hundred years ago it had 138,000 people living there.
Not only is that an 11-fold increase in people but its more than that when it comes to pavement, sidewalks, roof tops and other improvements that substantially increase the risk of flooding.
It is horrible because in reality we made it horrible. If Houston had only a handful of homes there would be no angst about global warming because those that push that line can’t say, “see what’s happening, we tried to tell you.”
The truth is man is just like every other species for the most part. We gravitate to areas where there is water and other items needed for survival. And while it’s true we can re-engineer nature as we have done here in California with the State Water Project, the Central Valley Project, and the Colorado River Project the bottom line is the force of nature ultimately will have the upper hand on those manmade improvements as well.
Eventually we are at 100 percent mercy of the elements. We can tweak what resources nature has but that is only temporary.
Mother Nature always wins. It may take a while but she’ll prevail regardless of how many dams we build, how high levees go, or how flood proof we believe we make an area.
That’s not to say we can’t be smarter in what we do.
It’s just that we are fooling ourselves if we think we can really control or manipulate the forces of nature to make them subservient to us.
The intellectual hysteria that is often whipped up as a natural disaster ramps up and during the lingering after effects fails to give the real world context.
We cannot be what we are today without cities like Houston and without the massive plumbing that has turned California into not as much the most populous state than it has created a valley that produces 12 percent of the nation’s food supply that includes the bulks of its fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
There is risk with everything we do. It’s no different than the other species here on earth.
A knee jerk decision to alter how things are done on the belief it could change or delay the course of nature by 0.00006 percent could have consequences even more deadly to the overall welfare of mankind.
Our levees in California function in entirely different conditions than the ones that were breached during Katrina and the ones being put to the test currently by Harvey.
While there are serious issues, the last thing we need is a one size fits all solution or Sacramento using the natural calamity of a hurricane that will never — at least in this current geological period on earth — hit the Delta in a bid to create a stampede of public opinion to push the Twin Tunnels forward.