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Weathering the Moment

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Remember last summer? The unrelieved intensity of day-after-day sweltering heat? The grinding sweat-soaked afternoons, the groaning all-night air conditioners? Oh well, that's just Memphis is how we consoled ourselves. Then came a painfully abbreviated fall, followed by the winter that would not stop. We may have lost count. What was it? Four full snows? Or five?

And with spring came not your proverbial March winds and April showers but full-time winds, thunderstorms, and tornadoes — none of it conforming to the expected time frames made cutesy and tolerable by vintage Tin Pan Alley lyrics and all of it recurring with abnormal frequency. How often these days do we turn on, say, Survivor, to find instead one of our all-too-familiar TV weather analysts standing vigil over menacing Doppler screens and warning us, for real, that our own survival has become an issue?

It takes a real talent for denial to imagine that none of this means anything — that it's all just part of a natural cycle, that "nature" will take care of itself. Or, if not, that with the proper coaxing and/or show of deference God will take care of us. Apropos that latter hope, we are reminded of the good sense, both religious and secular, of the old saying: The Lord helps those who help themselves.

And we would say that, indeed, He already has by allowing for scientific discovery after scientific discovery, demonstration after demonstration, fair warning after fair warning that there is something ominous but perhaps correctable called climate change. The trouble is that all of that advance information goes for naught if we ignore it, pretend it isn't there, or argue that it isn't what it seems to be.

A great deal of media attention has been devoted of late to a bill that, by fits and starts but inexorably, has made its way through the Tennessee legislature — the so-called creationist bill, HB 368, with its deceptive insistence on an open-mindedness toward certain subjects. The devil is definitely in the details on this one. The subject of evolution, specifically mentioned in the text of the bill, has drawn most of such public and editorial concern as has been expressed. But the fact is that other subjects are also singled out for special state-sponsored skepticism: the "chemical origins" of life, human cloning, and — what a surprise — climate change.

In one sense, as more than one observer has noted, the bill merely supports "critical" thinking, which, pursued in a pure and honest sense, is a good thing. In another sense, it relegates these relatively cosmic matters to the same limbo where more mundane issues of state go to be warehoused when they are shunted off to this or that committee for "study."

Climate change is on TV now, more or less full time. It's something to do something about, not just think about, as we sit with kith and kin, huddled and hunkered down, in the bathrooms or such other windowless spaces as we can find in our all-too-vulnerable households.

The issue goes beyond silly legislation. We've already studied it, and it's a matter of life and death. Really.

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