Saturday, August 23, 2008

Like Frogs In A Pot. It's Getting Warmer: A laundry list

Traditionally, the Tlingit Indians of S.E. Alaska packed for hundreds of miles annually to trade with the people from the interior. They paddled and sailed the water ways to harvest from forested islands, mammoth rivers, and the saw toothed mountains. Giant dug out canoes transported generations of villagers for potlatch up and down the sea coast. This industrious, highly successful, mobile, BUSY society opened the gateway, allowing contemporary culture it's toe hold into Southeast Alaska and the Chilkat Valley.
Today, in the communities of Klukwan and Haines, there is a growing number of those who walk, share rides, hitchhike, boat or use bicycles for transportation and to better their health. Even though the extra mile in scrappy weather is often hard to come by, there is growing momentum to do so. Especially at today's fuel prices.
There, many practice the three R's faithfully. Generally under crazy climatic conditions. Crazier of late. Pack it in, pack it out is reaching a whole different level of commitment as our extended winters continue into summer.
Up the highway, near the US/Can border where we live, thirty three feet of snow in one season recently accumulated. The berms grew so high they deserved geographic designation.
Snow management is a sizable task even for us minimalists. The winter of '06 -'07, I was determined to clear our parking area with a push scoop. My husband was away that winter and I wanted to see if it could be done without killing myself. I'd practiced for several winters on a few big dumps and knew it was possible.
We live, most of a mile in all directions, from our nearest and oldest friends. They are each old-school generous, and mechanically well endowed. I'm certain they thought I'd cracked. I really did appreciate their periodic widening of the area. In Alaska we help each other out. It's the code. So is self reliance.
I stuck with it and after a record breaking year, toward the middle of May, the gravel in the parking lot finally emerged. My daughter and I felt defiantly stronger and more capable; olympiads. Thanks in part to one hell of a winter, and a scoop and shovel.
Last winter, my husband went back to the snow blower. Unlike myself, he can keep our vintage Honda blower running. He's a damned good mechanic and being a newly retired teacher I think the effort helps as classroom replacement.
Is all this ummmpff and carbon use crucial? Kinda. For 27 years, we've walked in to the house on snowshoe packed trails. Age old wisdom: go over the snow. As rural Alaskans, we embrace impracticality with a certain relish. In truth, clearing the parking lot allows Joanie to deliver the mail six days a week. It also gives us the choice to drive 39 miles to town. Don't forget to haul the recycling and put a big piece of hemlock on the fire. Bank the stove down tight. We'll be gone awhile.
Alaskans annually run enough small gas engines that I'm sure we compete with the commercial mow, blow and go gardeners, so abundant here in S.Calif. Although we value well built, smaller sized homes and under utilize heating fuel and electricity, most use outboards, chain saws, generators, water pumps, and rototillers for our subsistence lifestyles. Lot's of aging boomer and neo - homesteaders heat with wood. For some, this requires Bob Cats, log splitters, pickups, and cargo snow machines, plus state timber sales or roadside cutting.
Public utilities offer electricity from giant diesel generators that are subsidized by hydro produced power. Again, adding to our sticky carbon footprint. Not to mention the cost. Though not as prevalent now as a few short years ago, there are some who still generate their own electricity or do without. I suspect many more will return to trickle charged solar or wind power systems and incorporate new innovations. Or do with out. Reflected snowlight is awesome.
Our busy roads system includes the Alaskan Marine Highway a system we dearly love when we aren't rabid about awkward scheduling.
Charter and commercial fishing boats and airplanes, Alaska Airlines, tugboats and barges for food, mail, and cargo; all of this bumps against a blooming tourist industry much of which is based on copious amounts of fossil fuel consumption. We are an incredibly busy species where ever we are. In Alaska, gratefully, for now, there are fewer of us.
Being in S.Cal these last few months, I'm startled to find how brand new the conversation around carbon calories and global climate change is.
Bako is a typical motor city. Generally one person per rig, most often several rigs per family. BUSY! Similar to Anchorage, Bakersfield is a smaller city, by today's standards. Desert country. Hotter than hell and gritty through open windows most which remain closed to accommodate A.C. in vehicles, workplace, shopping areas, schools and homes.
This summer has been one of the coldest on record in Alaska. Younger Dryas brewing? And we're here to witness it. Cool indeed!
In Kern, back in April, an unmeasurable amount of rain fell. That's been it. It's now late August.
Flying in from the north this month, I was dazzled by the highly baked surrounding region, vast and lovely in it's brutal dryness. Ravaged, tawny scrub-lands give way to industrialized agriculture, factory animal farms, and giant oilfields; razor fencing at the entrance of the Emerald City. Inside, the irrigated green oasis supports an astonishing array of imports and transplants. Every species imaginable. Predominantly upright and two-legged.
This morning screeching flocks of wild parrots follow their leader from block to block. Up from distant climates, they've naturalized and multiply, yeast like, in the oldest downtown park.
It's 8 AM and 93 degrees. I sit, watching the morning parade from my mother's stoop.
The neighborhood push pedal sno-cone fella just intersected with the third gift UPS or Fed-X delivery this week. Let's see what she got today. A fruit of the month box from Harry and David.
...The enclosed note says unseasonable weather in the growing region has damaged much of their Royal Velvet Plum crop. Instead they've sent us Exotic Honey Mangos. Look yummy. But what about those locally grown sno-cones? And, where's the snow come from?


  1. Giving this Comment thing a shot...I LOVE YOUR WRITING! It just gets more lovely with with each post.

    PS: people can choose "Anonymous" under Choose a profile and move forward with no further hassle.

  2. So profound...and I like the subtle little move of your last paragraph from an earlier post to this one, where it REALLY packs a punch.


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