Boomer Opinion: The hoax is on us

Travel broadens the mind. Especially when lessons are there in our travels for all to see. That’s what Silver Spring, Maryland, communications specialist Larry Checco writes about in this Boomer Opinion piece. The hoax, he says, is on us.

In the 1940s and 50s, about the time we boomers were making our appearance on the planet, a glacier called Exit Glacier, just outside of Seward, Alaska, covered an entire valley in hundreds of feet, and mega tons of ice and snow. Today, Exit is melting a foot a day and receding back into the Harding Icefield from whence it came millennia ago.

Larry with wife, Laurie. Glaciers are melting at a rapid rate in Alaska

If you think that climate change is a hoax, then I suggest you visit Alaska. My wife Laurie and I did recently and were in awe of the variety of its wildlife, the grandeur and majesty of its mountains and landscapes, the diversity and friendliness of its indigenous and transplanted inhabitants. And we were greatly saddened by the dangers they all face.

Fact is, 2019 has been the driest and hottest year in Alaska’s recorded history. Anchorage, where half the state’s nearly 700,000 people reside, recorded a record-breaking 90 degrees this past July 4.

Being escorted through a fire zone.

Two-and-a-half times larger than Texas, Alaska encompasses three million lakes, 3,000 rivers, 1,800 islands, and 100,000 glaciers. You’ve got to experience it to believe it. And best to do it sooner rather than later.

It seems everything in Alaska is being affected by global warming— glaciers, vegetation, fisheries, wildlife, as well as native inhabitants who are fearful of losing their subsistence way of life, which they so cherish.

A grizzly, which most Alaskans call brown bears.

The heat and dryness accounted for more than 150 forest fires throughout the state during our two-week visit. One fire crossed the only road from Homer to Anchorage and forced our tour bus to follow an official pilot car through the smoke and small flame breakouts.

Alaska’s permafrost is thawing, which is buckling its roads (and Alaska doesn’t have many) and sinking some of its villages, making them uninhabitable.

Our tour of Denali was cut short because a rockslide the previous day took out some of the road.

Laurie with a sign offering good advice.

None of this put us in any real danger, but they were real-life demonstrations of the force and influence of Mother Nature. And maybe, just maybe, we humans have something to do with it.

We saw in the wild, and from the safety of our tour bus, plenty of brown (grizzly) and black bears, moose, elk, caribou, big-horned sheep and more, and were told by our guide that many of their migration patterns have changed because of the increase in temperature.

We did not get to Alaska’s Arctic Circle region, where polar bears struggle to survive, but we were informed that polar bear specialists almost unanimously insist that predicted declines in summer sea ice due to rising CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use are now the biggest threat to polar bears.

Yet our politicians recently voted to open Alaska’s remote Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and natural gas drilling, ending more than four decades of heated debate on the matter, and placing a large swath of Alaska’s pristine landscape at risk.

Larry in Homer, Alaska.

Some species live and learn, meaning they adapt to changing environments so as to live another day. Other species just live. I fear we homo sapiens fall into the latter category.

But there may be hope for us yet. Our trip to Alaska also exposed my wife and me to the wisdom of those who came before.

The following Ten Universal Values are from the Alaska Native Knowledge Network, which includes Aleuts, Athabascans, Cup’ik, Tlingits, and several other Alaskan native tribes. These principles are worth incorporating into our techno-driven, often mind-numbing lives:

  • Show respect to others: Each person has a special gift.
  • Share what you have: Giving makes you richer.
  • Know who you are: You are a reflection of your family.
  • Accept what life brings: You cannot control many things.
  • Have patience: Some things cannot be rushed.
  • Live carefully: What you do will come back to you.
  • Take care of others: You cannot live without them.
  • Honor your elders: They show you the way in life.
  • Pray for guidance: Many things are not known.
  • See connections: All things are related.

Even as aging boomers, it’s not too late to live like this.

9 Comments

    1. Thanks, Denver. As a species, we better come to our senses before it’s too late–if it’s not too late already.

  1. Hi Larry. As always, your knowledgeable insight gives us important perspective on a crucial matter. Thanks for sharing your latest experience and I pray it’s not too late. 😢

  2. Hey, Larry. You don’t have to go all the way to Alaska to see it. Here in Colorado we see longer summer temperatures with less snowpack. 30 years ago, I wouldn’t think of hiking in the high country before July but now many places are practically snow-free by the end of May. This does not bode well for the 5 major river basins that have their headwaters here. Mild winters have also led to a massive pine beetle infestation that has killed 800 million trees over 3 million acres and have left a conflagration just waiting to happen.
    We have sacrificed our long term values to the god of quarterly profits.

    1. Couldn’t agree with you more, Tony. And the pine beetle infestation extends here to the east, as well. It seems as a species we’re programmed to self destruct due to short-sightedness. Hope I’m wrong.
      “Rocky Mountain High in Colorado!”

    1. Yeah, I keep telling her she’s the luckiest woman in the world– and when she comes to that realization she’ll be a lot happier. But she seems happy enough. After nearly 45 years of being together we’ve had a pretty good run. And we travel well together. Stay well and in touch.

  3. Thanks Larry and Laurie,

    Wisely you include more pictures of Lauri then larry. So at least we know you have good taste and are going easy on the readers.

    But on a serious note, I don’t share your pessimism for the planet. Despite serious setbacks, notably the decision to withdraw from the Paris accords, human ingenuity and ultimately a sense of shared purpose seem to prevail.

    No doubt we are leaving a mess for our kids and grandkids, but this generation I believe is up to the task.

    We have the technology already to reduce and sequester carbon emissions. The next election will indicate whether we can muster the political will.

    Maybe there will still be a few glaciers for our great great grandkids to marvel at.

    I always enjoy my mornings at the boomer café. Rich

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