A question that may soon be answered for us, at least in the southeastern USA.
Now this may seem like a frivolous question (certainly not, you might argue, worthy of perverting Shakespeare), and in the grand scheme of things, yes, it is. But bear with me. And I know, also, that harping on climate change is like picking a scab. People get tired of hearing about it. But there is a lesson here about real people and real jobs, in the very real near future. Not just in Bangladesh and small island nations with the water creeping up on their homes. Here in Virginia.
Take an example. As a recovering workaholic, I have in the last few years warmed up to regular vacations. So this past long weekend, with the boy out of school Monday and Tuesday, we packed off to West Virginia for a couple of days of skiing. It was great fun and, given that I took up skiing a mere year ago in my mid-forties, I am thankful and relieved that no lives (or limbs) were lost.
But, I must say, the ambience was a bit of a disappointment. Everywhere you look — apart from the banked up lanes of fake snow on the slopes — the Appalachian vistas were brown and muddy. This is the middle of February in what passes for high altitudes in eastern North America, on the Presidents’ Day weekend that is traditionally the biggest ski time of the year (so I’m told). The first day out the temperatures were in the fifities. On one ride up the chair lift, I sat with a young guy from western North Carolina. He had been coming to this site (Winterplace, West Virginia) for seven years and told me that this was the worst he’d seen it. Now that is not a scientific survey, admittedly. But you gotta wonder: How much longer can this be kept up? How much longer can this industry survive?
You won’t be surprised to hear that my guess is: not very long.
Climate projections for this neck o’ the woods generally predict both warmer temperatures and less precipitation. I have to confess that, among the other reasons for taking my son skiiing last year, one was to leave him with this war story for his incredulous grandchildren: “When I was a lad, we went skiing in Virginia!” I strongly suspect that this will sound like a fantasy to them.
So enough already. We know the climate is changing. What’s to be done? This is a microcosm of the challenges we face in responding constructively to climate change. I ruminated about this in between hot chocolates and visions of my leg being twisted 180 degrees on a particularly terrifying downslope plunge. How will these already poverty-stricken communities adapt to a world where there is no longer enough snow to support the ski industry, and the only other major industry — coal — has packed its carpetbags and buggered off? Where the latter has not blasted the tops off the mountains and left them for dead, there might be hope of developing whitewater rafting, or trout fishing, or desperately needed nature camps for kids, or conceivably some sort of eco-tourism. But will that be enough? I’d be interested to hear ideas about this.