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Mon, Jul 28, 2014 08:39 PM
Issue of July 23, 2014
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The danger of drought


Community conversations


September 26, 2012 | 09:24 AM

More and more I realize that the drought of this summer was indeed traumatizing. It affected our agriculture and, thus, our food prices. It caused watering bans in the cities and loss of work for those in landscaping services. Trees were turning brown in mid-summer, and garden shops were facing high water bills coupled with loss of sales. The grass in Indiana looked like the sands of the Sahara Desert and crunched with each step. And, as you know, it was hot, hot, hot.

I thought that I would have been more philosophical about the whole dry thing. I generally like a good challenge. I tried to declare what I called "snow days" when the dry heat hit 100 degrees this summer. A blizzard gets me all excited about holing up with hot vegetable soup and provides a good excuse for not traipsing about on errands. It didn't allay my discomfort as I looked out the windows and saw my garden withering under the sun. I painfully raced out each evening to water my plants while observing the guidelines for responsible water usage that were constantly being announced. It was depressing, and I felt none of the exhilaration of staying cozily inside during a snow storm.

I have always been aware that I have a strong affinity for the lush green foliage of Southern Indiana. Every time I drive back into the forested hills, I feel the comfort of coming home. It is amusing to me to read travel brochures speaking of "jungles" to be visited in other countries. I used to expect amazing tangles of vegetation in these destinations. Now, I know that many of such places are skimpy in their flora compared to the woods of Southern Indiana. Our annual average rainfall of about 45 inches keeps our hills green. It was saddening to watch big, old, wonderful trees brown up with the reduction in water.

Every day, when I walk outside, I am reminded of the wonders of creation. How can we really comprehend the miracle of an unfolding blossom? How can it be that a tiny acorn can grow up to become a huge oak tree? One of the biggest delights of an old barn is the giant logs that show us what the forests were like in years gone by. Their growth rings give a true picture of the climate conditions of each year. This year, 2012, will probably leave a ring in our tree trunks that show little growth due to the lack of rain.

There have been other years when the sun bore down and the rain refused to come. We know this is not the first time we have had a drought. We know that at times it rained so much that folks looked to see if their neighbors were building an ark like Noah did in the Bible. Over millions of years, the weather has wavered between ice-age temperatures and blistering heat. Inside an archaeological dig in Southern Indiana are fossils and bones that tell us that at one time the warm weather-loving animal named the armadillo lived along the Ohio River. Other findings in the same cave give indications that at another time, in the prehistoric period, the ground was deeply frozen for a long time.

We hear a lot about "climate change" these days. There is great debate about its cause. Our horrendous storms around the world in the recent years give rise to speculation of disturbances in our environment. We study, discuss and speculate as to the cause of changes that we are now experiencing. There are a lot of diverse opinions. But we do know that our climate is not as it was a few years ago and that we have identified some of the man-made causes: depletion of the ozone layer, over-cutting of our forests, pollution of land, air and waters, and on and on. I think we are meant to be stewards of the earth and the heavens and not pillagers for our own gain. We must try to reduce our consumption and quit fouling the environment.

There is a sad and sentimental tone to the description of something as "the last rose of summer." I love gardening and felt helpless as I watched the drought consume my flowers and vegetables. Now that it is a bit cooler and the rains have returned, the once distressed plants are starting to perk up and bloom. It is amazing to me what a boost this has been to my spirit. I certainly hope that I never experience the "last rose of the universe."

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Corydon Democrat, 301 N. Capitol Ave., Corydon, IN 47112 1-812-738-2211 email