Last year was a good year for global warming--from a PR perspective.
There was An Inconvenient Truth, this TIME cover here and that Newsweek cover there. Blowhards like Neil Cavuto railed against Happy Feet for what they shrilly decried as "far left" propaganda. There was also, unfortunately, the discovery that "a giant ice shelf the size of 11,000 football fields has snapped free from Canada's Arctic."
But the general notion of global warming, disputed for the past decade by pundits, lobbyists and those whose paychecks depended on it--but not by scientists--suddenly shifted dramatically. Maybe it was Katrina, or the weird temperatures or even just a moment of political serendipity, but as we head into cherry blossoms in January, I'd like to call your attention to the fact that the conversation is moving into the heartland in a very real way: namely that the early repercussions of global warming are beginning to hit home for the "red blooded" American outdoorsmen (and women) who lift up their rifles and fishing rods to freedom--and they are beginning to see the handwriting on the wall.
A man battles to free his ice fishing lodge from the jaws of the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American People."
We've all seen pictures of retreating glaciers, melting ice sheets and stranded polar bears, but The New York Times reports on something that may just hit a little closer to home. The ol' fishing hole--or lack thereof, due to warmer winter temperatures the last few years.
Unseasonably warm weather in recent winters has Buffalo, a frequent target of jibes about snow and cold, bucking its Arctic reputation. But without freezing temperatures, there has been no ice fishing, sending a chill through those whose livelihoods depend on it.
The result has been low sales for the bait shops, suppliers and manufacturers who depend on the ice fisherman, and has led to the cancellation of ice fishing competitions that brought in money and visitors. A tournament in Michigan was canceled this January, and the New York Trap Attack, canceled last year, looked unlikely to proceed. The weather is simply too warm for the ice to stay frozen, and in some cases, it never froze at all.
"We have never felt two years back to back with bad ice," said Mike Smith, the Trap Attack tournament director. "Nobody has ever remembered an entire ice belt with that poor of ice."
While the volvo-driving, latte-drinking, sushi-eating liberal set paid their $10.75 to see Al Gore on the big screen and recognized Katrina as the handwriting on the wall, even more reluctant Americans are slowly awakening to the ripple effects beginning to make themselves felt. And all the sports and activities we love to enjoy outdoors (and that some redstaters love to shove in our faces) will be the very thing that illustrates the issue of global warming to a number of people who have seen it thus far as a liberal pet issue. As weather irregularities begin to hit people in their pocket books, the issue we are facing will become infinitely more discernable. And those who have resisted the issue politically will eventually have to come to grips with it personally: the hunters, fishermen, farmers and outdoorsmen who recreate and live in areas where facing climate change firsthand will have a profound impact.
And it is not just a few, isolated areas that will be affected. In the case of ice fishing, the shifting of temperatures will affect a number of states, including several traditionally red areas:
Smith described the traditional southern boundary of the ice belt —a region suitable for ice fishing — as running from the East Coast along the northern Pennsylvania state line and continuing west to Montana, taking in parts of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Iowa. But in recent years the line has run roughly through the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, eliminating two-thirds of the states in the territory.
And this is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. While many hunters and fishermen pride themselves on being stewards of the environment (including more than a few Kossacks) there are a number of their neighbors who are in for a rather rude awakening. It is hard to predict the many ways in which global warming will be felt, or what the ultimate costs will be, but expect the consequences to continue to manifest themselves in areas where political resistance to the idea has been high. It will no longer be quite so cute to snicker about how wonderful it will be to have rain in the desert and Florida winters in Montana.
Because this is where the debate will take place. Ownership of the stasis has already moved from the lobbying firms and the think tanks to the people and the popular culture; and now it is moving into the heartland, which, with our democratic majority may lay the ground work for serious redress.
But we are not there yet. While the story of how temperature changes are affecting ice fishing is an important indication of where changes in voter attitudes on environmental issues are likely to shift, this is no electoral quick fix.
A numbing thought no one seemed ready to concede was the possibility that the lack of ice fishing could be part of a larger, more permanent pattern of global warming.
"We hope Al Gore is wrong," Vick said.
But Al Gore is right, of course, and it will be short order until denizens of even the reddest areas of the country wake up to that Inconvenient Truth.