I never considered talking about the weather substantive conversation until this year.  As the Texas drought has drawn on, I find myself deeply affected by its signs–the patches of dirt and pale grass that were once my lawn, the decreasing shade in our neighborhood as the live oaks drop leaves and limbs, the cracks in earth and stone that are beginning to give our Gulf Coast ecosystem the feel of a desert.

A few weeks ago, Richard Parker wrote an article in The New York Times entitled, “As Texas Dries Out, Life Falters and Fades.”  In the space of a page, he detailed the suffering caused by excessively high summer temperatures coupled with a year-long lack of rain.  Ranchers, hunters, and boaters are all telling stories about how they have never seen anything quite like this.  Parker went on to detail Texas’ tendency for “megadroughts, events that can last 30, even 40 years.”  I am not an alarmist, but I was fascinated to read that scientists studying tree rings have documented severe droughts spread throughout Texas’ natural history; in geologic time, we may be due for another, though no one can say for sure.

Whether this is just a bad summer or the beginning of a cycle of drought, I find myself considering the question of how to respond.  Sara has actually led the thinking in our family, and, as one dry week has tumbled into the next, she has encouraged us in a number of ways.  We are now more conscious of our water consumption and have sought to diminish it in certain ways (e.g. having one laundry day per week, taking one shower or perhaps forgoing one, and saving excess water to pour at the base of our trees).  We are becoming much more aware of our power usage, knowing the grid is taxed, and we have been trying to conserve (e.g. raising the thermostat a few degrees, unplugging unused electronics, hanging clothes to dry).  We have also been carpooling a bit more and even taking bikes and walking in the heat.  I mention these things not as a form of shameless self-promotion, but rather as a few earnest attempts to lower my impact on an ecosystem that seems especially fragile this summer.

On the drive to school today, I heard Ian’s voice from the back seat.  “I’m sorry,” he said.  “Sorry about what?” I asked.  “I’m sorry about the animals because it’s so hot.  Can we take them some ice?”

Part of my own commitment to living as a religious naturalist includes relating to the whole as ethically as I am able.  Ian’s question raises the idea of what we might practically do to respond.  Perhaps this week we can share some good ideas.  What are you doing to respond to the record heat and drought?  What might we all do to help out?

With aloha,

J

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