Michaels: Contemplating the ‘new normal’

This warmer, smokier planet is making for a real bummer summer

When it comes to grey skies, Okanaganites aren’t wusses.

We spend the vast majority of winter snug under a blanket of mist that wipes out all traces of light from the skies above.

Some head to the mountains for a blue-sky reprieve. But for those of us who don’t find joy in snow the only choice is to grin and bear it, keeping in mind it isn’t really too oppressive a payment when the valley’s glorious summers are taken into consideration.

Hot days punctuated by lake dips and lackadaisical beach visits mean everything.

The food and wine is great. The outdoor experience is unparalleled. That is the lure of Okanagan life.

Or that used to be the case.

In recent years we’ve come to expect dark clouds of smoke rolling into the valley, choking out all signs of sun and filling mouths with the taste of ash. The remnants of forests have to be wiped from one’s face every night, lest they leave an imprint on pillow cases.

It’s wretched. The sky simply shouldn’t taste like a bad barbecue. The sight of sun shouldn’t be a novelty. The mountains, be they ever-so-brown should be seen in their full glory, not hidden under a veil of soot.

It’s enough to test the most murk-resilient woman’s will to stay put.

A lot of that decision is hinged on the idea that next year won’t be the same, but these conditions are increasingly being referred to as the deceivingly banal sounding “new normal.”

If scientists are to be trusted, these smoky days may be just the tip of the melting iceberg.

Global warming helped fuel the hottest year on record in 2016, with greenhouse gas concentrations reaching a new high, according to a report released Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Bloomberg is reporting the document that was prepared by almost 500 scientists from around the world, indicates there were more major tropical cyclones than usual, longer droughts and less snow cover.

I’m no climate scientist, but I think this might mean there we will more sooty skies ahead for our valley.

So what now? If the die is cast, and we’re on an increasingly warming planet, how do we adapt? What can we do to ensure that the lives we’ve all built in this valley are still tolerable?

South of the border the conversation is still around whether or not there is a thing called global warming, but up here our governments have taken a different tack.

They acknowledge change is afoot, so now I’d like to start hearing more about how that will play out in their policy making.

And I want to hear it soon. This “new normal” isn’t keeping me in vitamin D, and I’m getting more cranky as the days wear on.

I’d rather look to the future with some hope than stare at the skies above like Chicken Little and wonder what’s next.

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