I intended this month to write about local issues in this space; after all, there’s a lot going on around town. My first thought was to comment upon the clash between the Zoologists (team color: black) and the Greenswarders (team color: green), opining at length about which side was more correct in the ongoing Overton Park spat.
Then I realized that the park dispute was relatively straightforward in comparison to the land mines Mayor Jim Strickland has been navigating during his first hundred days in office (see p. 22). Strickland actually dodged bullets long enough to present his first budget, which of course managed to upset many citizens, par for the course for first-time mayors. But clearly, it’s too early to make definitive comment about his or our city’s situation.
Then I pondered the subject of the Grizzlies, pathetic creatures that they have recently become. For half of this past season, they were a formidable presence in the NBA. Until all hell broke loose, literally. Gasol, Conley, Wright, Chalmers, et al, went down injured, leaving Tony and Zach feeling like little Dutch boys with their fingers in the dyke. The Dutch story ends well, but the Griz one not so much, as they were washed out to sea in the first round of the NBA playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs. Their season ended with a thud; providing a wrap-up of all that seemed overkill.
Of course, the next logical place to turn for column fodder was 2015-16’s interminable Presidential circus, er, campaign. A good idea in theory, maybe, but at this point, the TV “news” channels have achieved the impossible: their relentless barrage of over-exposure has made nobody the election favorite. For the first time in modern history, each party’s leading candidate — Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton — goes into the finals, so to speak, with voter-disapproval ratings well over 50 percent. Mr. Nobody is the people’s choice to occupy the Oval Office.
Meanwhile, there’s one big story out there that trumps all others. While we bid farewell to Josh Pastner and welcome Tubby Smith, and keep fussing about the Memphis murder rate, we do so, as always, assuming that the planet we live on will keep spinning on its axis as it always has. The sun comes up in the morning, and April showers bring May flowers, yes?
Trouble is, the world may be spinning out of control. Our glaciers are melting, our seas are rising, our coral reefs are disintegrating, and our atmosphere is becoming increasingly toxic, literally shaking the foundations of our everyday lives. Given all of our legitimate local and national concerns, it’s not surprising that the warming of our planet still has a tough time getting serious attention.
Maybe it’s time we moved the issue front and center. The day after Clinton and Trump solidified their substantial delegate leads in the New York primary last month, the New York Times ran an eye-popping story, not on the front page, but buried inside on page A3. The headline didn’t scream, although the words did jump off the page.
“Records Fall As World Temperatures Climb in 2016,” the April 20th headline read, as Tatiana Schlossberg, the story’s author, reported that average global temperatures for January, February, and March of this year were at all-time highs for their respective months.
But this not-so-reassuring, first-quarter fact was only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. While cities, nations, and humans continue to go about business as usual, Planet Earth is in real trouble. As Schlossberg matter-of-factly reports: “March was also the 11th consecutive month to set a record high for temperatures, which agencies started tracking in the 1800s.”
At this point, the question of whether that warming is man-made or the product of natural causes is almost moot. World climate is changing more every decade than it used to change every century. If these latest monthly reports don’t inspire a global wake-up call, I can’t imagine what such a call might actually sound or look like.
Perhaps it’s time for all of us to devote more attention to the future of Planet Earth, and a bit less to politics, sports, and entertainment; not just on Earth Day, but every day. The alternative is too gloomy to contemplate. Just remember what happened to the Titanic as the band played on.