The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

Rounding Second

Posted by | August 21, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/29381982@N08/12043928655

The following was published in the Biddeford-Saco Journal Tribune Sunday edition, 8/21/2016, and Making It At Home's 8/24/2016 issue.

August 21st is my 38th birthday. The odometer keeping track of my trips around the Sun just rolled over 22.2 billion miles. There’s still plenty of tread on the tires. I am beginning to notice a few twinges of maturity, though. Joint pains, hair loss, reflexive stubbornness, the irrepressible need to give advice – the signs of creeping codgerdom.

Where I once found adults among Olympians, NFL players, and movie stars, I now see… a bunch of kids. The numbers back me up. Based on 2014 Census data, I am now officially in the older half of the U.S. population. Staring at the graph, I can’t help but think that it’s all downhill from here.

Which is a silly thought, because so far life’s been pretty good. There’s no reason to think that things will get worse. “Many people tell me” that the second halves of their lives were more fulfilling and rich than the first; there’s research out there that backs that up.

Looking back through history, I can’t name another era into which I’d rather have been born. Certainly the 20th Century had its horrors, but I think the achievements of our “naked ape” species in the last 100 years far outweigh them. Empirically (in both senses of the word), has America ever been any greater than now? Sure, we’ve got problems, but as one Internet billboard recently proclaimed: “things aren’t coming undone - they’re just getting uncovered.” And that’s the first step in addressing them.

Truth be told, the only thing that really concerns me about the second half of my life is climate change. I’m someone who trusts scientists, and what they’re saying doesn’t bode well for my golden years, or my children’s and grandchildren’s lives either. Every update of the predictions for temperature, rainfall, flooding, sea level rise, ocean acidification, and species disruption seems more urgent than previously projected. I’m beginning to think that my next 38 years are going to be more eventful than my first 38.

According to a recent visiting lecturer to the Wells Reserve at Laudholm, we’re overdue for a major hurricane to hit Maine. When one does, our coastal communities from Kittery to Portland will look like Louisiana this week. Lobsters are slowly moving north into deeper and international waters. Our forests are under siege from all manner of invasive pests.

It’s also getting weirder out there. It can rain two inches in the middle of a drought. The pond hockey season is shrinking; the ranges of Lyme disease and Zika virus are expanding. Anthrax and nuclear waste are thawing out of the Siberian tundra and Greenland glaciers. It was recently hot enough in upstate New York for horse poop to spontaneously combust.

Well, at least the ocean’s gotten warm enough up here to swim in comfortably for hours on end.

I’ve heard about all these changes because the coastal science and education organization I work for studies and cares about such things. (Well, maybe not the horse poop so much.) The Wells Reserve also has a birthday coming up: we’re turning 30 on August 31st. I can proudly say that we’re not even half done with our existence, of course. There’s no time or place we’d rather be working in either. To many more!

 

Nik Charov is president of Laudholm Trust, the nonprofit partner of the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve in Wells, Maine. His occasional column, “Between Two Worlds,” ventures forth from the intersection of art and science, past and present, innocence and senescence. More at wellsreserve.org/twoworlds.

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