‘It Sure as Hell Feels Like the End Times Are Getting in a Few Dress Rehearsals Right Now’

Golfers in Oregon play against the backdrop of raging wildfires.
Golfers in Oregon play against the backdrop of raging wildfires.

by Henry Fountain

Vicious hurricanes all in a row, one having swamped Houston and another about to buzz through Florida after ripping up the Caribbean.

Wildfires bursting out all over the West after a season of scorching hot temperatures and years of dryness.

And late Thursday night, off the coast of Mexico, a monster of an earthquake.

You could be forgiven for thinking apocalyptic thoughts, like the science fiction writer John Scalzi who, surveying the charred and flooded and shaken landscape, declared that this “sure as hell feels like the End Times are getting in a few dress rehearsals right about now.”

Or the street corner preacher in Harlem overheard earlier this week ranting about Harvey, Irma and Kim Jong Un, in no particular order.

Or the tens of thousands who retweeted this image of golfers playing against a raging inferno of a wildfire in Oregon.

nd just last month darkness descended on the land as the moon erased the sun. Everyone thought the eclipse was awesome, but now we’re not so sure — for all the recent ruin seems deeply, darkly not coincidental.

If you thought that, you would be wrong, of course. As any scientist will tell you, nature doesn’t work that way.

Spates of hurricanes, even major ones, are common in late summer and early fall, the height of hurricane season. Especially destructive hurricanes are not unknown either, and climate change may be making more of them. Irma, in size and strength, is near the top of the charts, but not yet off them and its fury can be explained by scientific principles.

Wildfires have been happening out West for millenniums, though humans have made things worse. Climate change plays a role here, too, plus our desire to live next to nature, not to mention decades of firefighting policies that have made large fires more likely.

And earthquakes — they happen all the time, and the numbers of quakes, from weak to powerful, is unwavering when averaged over time. There is roughly one “great” quake, of magnitude 8 or higher, per year. Mexico was the unlucky winner this time.

But still.

Clearly for a lot of people, science is not enough when the stakes seem so high.

“For so many years, talking about the weather was talking about nothing,” said Terry Tempest Williams, the author and naturalist who is currently a writer in residence at Harvard Divinity School. “Now it really is our survival.”

But how we talk about it is reflective of our worldview – and has been for a long time, said Christiana Zenner Peppard, an associate professor of theology, science and ethics at Fordham University.

“With unexpected cataclysmic weather events, people across time and space have always looked for explanations,” she said.

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SOURCE: The New York Times