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Winter Solstice, Weather, Apocalypse
December 21, 2019
by William P. Meyers

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Nearly a deluge

"Wintertime is coming, the windowpanes are filled with frost
I tried to tell the others, but I could not get across."
— Bob Dylan

It is raining as I write my Winter Solstice thoughts in Seattle, but yesterday was really, really rainy. Officially the rain total was 3.08 inches or 7.82 centimeters. My building complex sits astride a small stream, Little Brook. There is a large grate at the top of our property that can become blocked with leaves, sticks, and garbage. When blocked the stream takes an alternative path down our driveway. I went out and cleared the grate three times yesterday, and cleared it again this morning. But other streams formed spontaneously, pouring out of the uphill property and threatening to enter our neighbors homes.

The rains abated, but I got a call from my friend Muriel, who lives a few blocks away, also along the stream. There Little Brook had already gone over its banks and flooded people's yards. By then the level had gone down at my house, so I guessed if they just waited awhile it would soon be receding further downstream. Similar stories where told throughout the region. There were some small mud slides and people who had to be rescued from cars, but no one died.

The Winter Solstice did not hold much meaning for me as a child. I was in Florida, so the days were not so short, and I was focussed on Christmas, a day when there might be new toys, but my parents were also prone to fly into particularly dangerous rages. Today, here, sunrise was at 7:55 AM and sunset will be at 4:19 PM. So a bit more than 8 hours of day, with 16 hours of darkness. And overcast. So forgive me if some of my thoughts are dark.

A bit of rain here is nothing compared to what is going on in Australia, where the phrase long, hot summer is taking on new meaning. That is just one of the many places it has looked apocalyptic this year from fire, drought, or tropical storms.

This looks like a slow rolling apocalypse, brought about entirely by Sex. Yes Sex. Sex leads to children. And now we are approaching a world population of 8 billion, when the sustainable number is perhaps 1 billion. And almost no one, no one with power certainly, is pushing or enforcing a one-child policy. So I feel confident in my prediction that geologists of some later era, of whatever species has the wits to do geology, will call our times a die-off. Because humans are not content to destroy ourselves, we have to take as many species down the road to extinction with us as we can.

I am not saying there is absolutely no hope. Donald Trump has been impeached, and every major Democratic Party candidate at least pays lip service to stopping global warming.

There are several paths to the apocalypse, some better than others. A mass human die-off from disease would give us more times to put things on a sustainable basis, but the human emotional reaction could make things worse longer run. I do not think that scenario is likely. Medical scientists are quite good at taking steps to stop the spread of deadly diseases. Despite what you see in apocalyptic tv shows like iZombie.

War could lead to nuclear war, which would poison the entire planet. On the other hand my father was an Atomic Soldier, so I know that a properly equipped person can run across a crater just after an atomic blast and then live to be 90. A lot depends on how limited or general such a war would turn out to be.

The internet could go off. We are amazingly dependent on this thing, but my guess is either someone could get it turned back on, or people would learn to do things the old fashioned ways. Only those gamers who will not be able to order food will die off.

That leaves famine. I know quite a bit about modern agriculture and food distribution, as well as the history of famine. I lay my main bet on famine.

Grain and soybeans can be moved around the world in dry bulk ships, and container ships can carry vast quantities of almost anything else. Many countries already import much of their food this way. Crops fail, or more often partly fail, in regions when a growing season is too hot or cold, too wet or dry. But so far we have not seen simultaneous crop failures in multiple major grain growing regions. With global warming that scenario becomes more likely each year. When it happens, watch out. Most nations do not have one year's supply of food on hand at any given time. True, humans can really cut back and survive for quite a while. Fat Americans might take a year of near starvation just to get down to a healthy weight. Two years in a row of global crop failures is considerably less likely than a single, isolated event. But ten years ago who would have thought Australia would be burning this year? Or that Paradise California would have burned to the ground? Or that half the pigs in China would be culled because of disease?

I like life. I like being conscious. I like most of my fellow species. I do not want these scenarios to play out. But a bunch of Zombies elected Donald Trump to the President of the United States. At some point, it comes down to the zombies or me and my sapiens sub-species. For now I am just going to work to get Democrats elected in 2020. If that works, I want to hold their feet to the fire, demanding immediate action on climate change. Further, I want a one-child policy.

But I want to be clear. In the zombie apocalypse, I see no reason not to shoot zombies. Especially since they tend to be gun nuts, and so will be shooting at me.

Tomorrow the days will start to lengthen in the Northern Hemisphere. Hopefully in a couple of weeks, or certainly by my major annual festival, Groundhogs Day, I will be thinking cheerier thoughts.

Have a thoughtful solstice.

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