Monday, February 21, 2005

The other European anger

While on our trip to London and Northern Ireland a few weeks ago, Larry and I took a stroll into St. James Park to see its famous assemblage of water fowl. The park's centrally located and set in a breathtaking part of London, near Buckingham Palace, government buildings and 10 Downing Street. Shocking to me as a native of that part of the world was the sight of foliage and flowers as I entered the place--I'm talking roses the size of fists, not daffodils and snowdrops, which one expects to see in late January in Europe. I couldn't understand why.

Nor was Mother Nature done with me yet. On crossing over to Northern Ireland which is colder than London on account its farther North, I saw the gorse (called 'win bushes' in Ireland) was almost in full bloom. (For those of you who don't know what gorse is, I'll explain: In Ireland and the Scottish highlands, there's a kind of prickly shrub which grows in bogland and other soils of poor aridity. It grows in huge circular clusters--if permitted--and produces a blaze of small, gorgeous yellow flowers during the flowering season.) What was truly astonishing was that these flowers were out because I've known them all my life to bloom only in late April or May.

Of course, after my family and friends grew used to us being back in Ireland and the catching-up and anticipated bitch-fest about Iraq was dispensed with, they began to grill--moi in particular because I'm the Irishman--about America's other 'idiocy'(their choice of adjective, not mine). By that they meant the United States' attitude toward global warming. The European climate is changing, they're trying hard to halt(never mind reverse) the trend toward warming, and their question was, 'Why was the United States acting at best indifferent toward the crisis?' (Apparently, if water levels continue to rise, Londoners will see parts of their city under water in about 10 years.)

I did not agree with President Bush when he refused to ratify the Kyoto Agreement a few years ago, in fact was appalled by the seeming arrogance of his administration in this regard. However, in response to my friends anxiety (if not anger, actually) at our indifference to the issue from this side of the pond, I would normally have acted like a lawyer who didn't wish to be drawn and politely sidestepped the issue by muttering something to the effect, "I'm not an expert on global warming, and there are American experts who challenge whether global warming is taking place."

But this polite shrinking away from the issue by me and countless others is no longer tenable, I believe. Now, even the old farmers in Ireland who have abundant insight and experience of nature's ways are saying things are not right; my father, a man I regard as level-headed and wise, a man not given to expressing strong opinions in these matters, is also saying things are 'definitely not right.' What I witnessed in St. James' Park and on the Northern Irish bogland was a wake-up call, a roar that nature is reacting to man's tampering. Global warming is upon us. Europe is leading this issue and all wise Americans must follow her example in this instance.

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