The news came in 2-4″ of snow is predicted this weekend for Wisconsin. In case you’re geographically challenged, or live in a country far away (and there are many who read this blog who do) that’s the state just north of Illinois, where I live.
I like Wisconsin because it’s a great place to run and ride. There are hills, for one thing. Lots of beautiful hills from Madison west to Prairie du Chien. We’ve been riding our bikes up and down those hills a lot these past ten years. Running too.
But I swear that part of Wisconsin has its own weather system. For that matter, the whole state seems to be run by a band of angry Weather Witches who stir up local brews to unleash on the populace. Perhaps it is some sort of karmic vexation for vanquishing the native Americans who once owned and loved the state. But for whatever reason, one has to respect Wisconsin weather, because it will not respect you.
I have huddled inside tents at Necedah National Wildlife refuge while the rains pummeled the earth. I have run the first 10K of a half marathon with a mild wind at our backs only to turn around into a gathering gale that threatens to strip the clothes right off your body.
Of course, these personalized weather events are only my active imagination at work. The weather is unpredictable everywhere in the world. It just seems personal when it interferes with your favorite activities.
You might recall the scene in the movie The Truman Show in which Truman (played by Jim Carrey) is mulling his life on a beach when rain starts falling on his head. Sometimes weather feels like that.
But the whole point of the Truman Show is that reality is often not what it seems. This is especially true with a created reality. But as Truman grows to realize something is amiss in his world, he also becomes suspicious about its source. While he revels in his seeming control of the rain from above, it also starts his mind to working. His innocence begins to evaporate. He develops a cynical view of the world around him. If even the weather is cranked by some greater hand, what else in the world is not right?
Those of us who run and ride should know better than to think of the weather as some personal affront to our efforts. The randomness of weather is one of the complexities we all face in training and races. Earlier this year during the Batavia duathlon, the skies opened up and all of us competitors were forced to race our bikes through rainy conditions that were dangerous if you did not pay attention to your turns and your wheels in deep furrows of water washing down hills.
Everyone in the race was forced to deal with bad weather. Some of us got back to the transition to find our shoes filled with puddles. But it made it all interesting. And fun, to be sure. Our best stories often come from weathering adversity.
Yet all these localized weather events pale in comparison to what’s really going on in the world. We’re all just basically Truman characters in a play with rules and controls much bigger than the weather in Illinois or Wisconsin. See, the entire climate of the earth is impacted by human activities. It’s almost like the Truman show in reverse. Because you really can imagine the atmosphere on earth as a dome of sorts. It captures and holds all sorts of gasses, and these in turn capture heat and light and radiant energy. For a century the human race has been hyper-driving this process in a grand experiment. It’s like we’re challenging the world’s climate to dare to smack us down.
And sure enough, it’s happening. Climate scientists have tried to explain this in a variety of ways, but there are quite a few pseudo-Truman-like characters in this world who would prefer to go back to that little world where everything is predictable and controllable.
And yet 97% of the world’s climate scientists have looked at the data a hundred different ways and come to the same conclusion. The earth’s climate is changing as a direct result of human activity. It’s called anthropogenic warming. We’ve turned the world upside down and inside out.
Yes, we’ve all heard claims that global warming is a giant hoax designed to fund the salaries of scientists and coerce nations to operate under a one-world government. We’ve also heard the oil-or-coal-industry-funded “science” that conveniently says what they want it to say, that greenhouse gasses could not possibly alter the earth’s warming and cooling systems. But if you’re looking for people trying to control the narrative, always follow the money to the source of the identified problem, because that’s where the most powerful interests lie. Pun intended.
Still, some people do still view climate only in terms of localized events. They see snow on the ground in their particular vicinity and boldly claim, “Look, the world is getting colder, not warmer!” One nitwit, Sen. Jim Inhofe, balled up a snowball and preached in a bald-faced manner that a handful of snow was proof the earth’s climate was not changing.
A friend of mine recently sent me an email about this phenomenon of un-Truman-like forceful stupidity.
“We — Americans — have the attention spans of gnats. Short memories are both our greatest national advantage and curse. On one hand, we can shake off previous setbacks and plow forward, while on the other, we keep reliving history because we so quickly forget it. How the micro and macro of a condition is at odds with itself.
The polar vortex will visit the midwest again early this year, plunge into the south, race to the east coast.
It’s cold, say the scientifically challenged. Therefore, how can this be global warming?
Because nature abhors a vacuum, idiots.
The Pacific is superheated. Much warmer than usual (and full of radiation, but that’s not part of this argument). The Pacific current races from the equator past Mexico, California, the Pacific Northwest, hits the arctic and the warm water is cooled, plunges to the bottom of the seabed. It’s a heat pump and cooling station all at once.
But because the Pacific is so warm, by the time it reaches Canadian and Alaskan borders, it’s pushing much warmer than normal air along. The warm high pressure pushes the cold low pressure in the middle of the continent out of its way. The only place for the dense, cold air to go is south, ergo, polar vortex.
It’s because of increased heat we’re cold.
Try explaining it to any climate denier. They stick their head outside and call it a personal scientific study. “Nope, it’s cold. Global warming is a lie.”
The issue of global warming is a tremendous symbol for human arrogance in the fact of facts. We tend to do the same thing with economic patterns as well. Economists keep predicting another economic crash because the factors that contribute to a balanced economy such as middle-class wealth keep draining away. The Economic Vortex keeps building and building. We can see the signs, but the biggest banks keep growing, and that heats up the risk factors that too much money is concentrated in one sector of the markets. We’re told those banks are “too big to fail.” Yet they can, and they likely will again.
These are cause and effect issues we’re talking about here. It’s not about rain falling on the head of Truman or you and me. It’s not about whether it’s cold in your part of the country when it’s winter. It’s about whether temperatures all around the world keep surging. They may ebb now and then, but when the trend is consistently upward, we should at least pay attention to factors that may be causing that to happen.
The world is supposedly a big place. The earth’s climate is supposedly too big to fail just because human beings drive cars and cows fart. It’s easy to be cynical toward such illustrations of risk. It makes some people feel smart and sophisticated to brag that because they’re not scientists, they know better than scientists what we should do politically about global climate change.
But if you had a coach who told you, “You don’t need to train for that next event. The training you did last time will hold you over,” would you listen? Or do you comprehend that while the training we did forms a baseline, it does not last forever. But the things we did yesterday can teach us about tomorrow, but they are not necessarily sufficient guarantees of future performance. That means we must all be prepared to learn from the past yet make preparations for the future, if we expect to have one.
It’s like that with our changing climate, and with our perpetually changing economy. The parallels are spooky, and earnest. Here’s hoping those of you who read this are not just mouth-breathers about these issues. Take a deep breath, and take a long look at how the world really works. You should know intuitively from being an athlete that what you put into the world is what you get out of it. Think about that long and hard during your next workout. And vote accordingly for those who do not deny reality, or expect you to do so for their personal benefit in terms of the power, authority and wealth it affords them in the short term.
They are the bad coaches in this world. And there are plenty of them.