By Tom Lamia
As I write, in mid-October, I am feeling moderately pleased at having finished the bulk of my annual fall list of chores. The boat has been returned to its winter quarters in Newcastle, ten miles up the Damariscotta River. The son and grandson of its builder will look after it while the temperatures drop, the snow falls and the ice forms. It’s a wooden boat, built at the boat yard where it now is in 1940 and acquired by us in the mid-1980s. It is modest in its proportions (20 feet), and appearance. Its name (“Scuffy”) came from my children. Despite its age and hard use, the Scuffy carries its humble and tenacious name with pride.
Now, you might wonder why this whimsical tale of an old boat has been given space in your favorite community newspaper and, perhaps, what this boat has to do with “Indian Summer”? As I write the temperature outside is 80 degrees. Fall colors have made the landscape iridescent and the United Nations has just released a report on the environment that tells of a near term (2040) disaster for the earth and its creatures. Regrettably, our president, our Environmental Protection Agency and a curiously large group of Republican legislators, are having none of this fretting over an impending end of the earth. They say they don’t believe the science behind the UN report. They say there is no crisis because they do not see it when they look out the window. This has the sound and feel of what was said of tobacco’s health effects not so many years ago. In both cases it is an Indian Summer effect; enjoying the moment, while knowing that it will not last.
The significant difference between the ill effects of tobacco and carbon buildup in the atmosphere is scale. Environmental damage affects everyone on the planet. One cannot choose to live elsewhere. Global warming portends global disaster. There will be no escape from its effects. Technical proposals to stop or reverse the current trend seem dramatically impracticable and insufficient; none, to my knowledge, are in the pilot project stage. This, after Congress passed a suite of environmental legislation and President Nixon established the EPA to manage environmental threats almost fifty years ago. Now the President and the EPA are aggressively moving to dismantle this protection for our environment and, by withdrawing from the Paris Accords, for the environment of this planet Earth.
It is Indian Summer in the Republican Party. Denying or ignoring global warming and its certain effects is embracing an illusion that will not last. Moreover, Republican climate skeptics know that it will not last; they are simply enjoying now the financial support they get from the makers, sellers and users of carbon-based products that, if not aggressively controlled, will cause future disaster. The rejection of global warming as a global threat is wishful thinking, an illusion, not real.
Maintaining our planet is akin to maintaining the Scuffy. The Scuffy is real. Like our planet, it is a useful and lovely creation that took training and experience to build and requires more of it every year. Paul Bryant, the current Bryant running Riverside Boat Company in a family line since the 1700s, knows that maintenance of a wooden boat is essential to its continued existence. Paul’s father, Creston, built the Scuffy nearly eighty years ago. He and his son, Nat, and a few others at Riverside Boat, tell me what is needed, I approve and it is done between November and June. I trust their judgment and their skills because they are experts. Theirs is an old-fashioned technology and an old-fashioned work ethic; the proof of their effectiveness lies in the longevity of their business. Our planet needs expert management if it is to last as long. Right now it is not getting it.