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Washington Voices

In nature, everything is connected

Sat., Jan. 28, 2012

The predictions were dire.

La Niña’s hatching an evil winter plan. Snow would be abundant; weather horrendous. Batten down the hatches and settle in for a long winter’s nap, came the ominous warnings.

Although snow is in the forecast yet again, thus far Spokane’s winter has been extremely mild. Sure we’ve had some ice, cold and a skiff of snow and I know the winter months still stretch before us, but the dire predictions made in October 2011 haven’t panned out despite Dopplers and modules and meteorologists insisting we’d be waist deep in snow from mid-November through May. Is La Niña a fickle lady? Or are there other weather disturbances at work?

According to a recent Spokesman-Review article, several weather disturbances can cause La Niña’s panties to bunch but the one specific disturbance that has the old girl in a tailspin is positive arctic oscillation. Yeah, I know. Where do they come up with these names?

Positive arctic oscillation or not, the cold and snow have descended upon those snow bird destinations while the tropics are settling in wintry parts of the country. Droughts in the wettest, snow in the driest and so much snow has fallen in the Alaska tundra, SOS signals have been sent out. Who could’ve predicted?

The reasons behind odd weather patterns are numerous but La Niña and her sidekick, positive arctic oscillation, aren’t the root causes. I’m no alarmist but one would have to have their head stuck pretty far down in the sand not to see the effects of global warming, what it can, will and has already contributed by way of weather patterns and environmental impact on Mother Earth and those who depend on her for sustenance – including humans.

A recent letter to the Opinion section of The Spokesman-Review rebutted the concept of global warming. The writer, in colorful verbiage, pooh-poohed the environmental menace as merely a money depleting scheme hatched by progressives – well, that was the gist of it anyway. The ambiguously worded letter required a dictionary, thesaurus and vivid imagination to decipher its message.

It doesn’t take a scientific or environmental degree to understand the concept of cause and effect. One need only walk a few steps on the earth’s soil, look behind and notice the footprint marking your path then compound that one footprint with trillions, along with cars, airplanes, trash, smokestacks, landfills, sewage waste, etc. and the reason behind Mother Nature’s anger at being fooled with is quite clear … that is, until her nemeses – development, money and, the crème de la crème, politics – steps in.

Groucho Marx had a perfect saying that should be pinned on every politician’s lapel, “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”

In 2007, I interviewed two Washington state wildlife biologists, Howard Ferguson and Steve Zender, for an article on the delisting of the bald eagle. In 1967, the bird was placed on the endangered species list due to habitat invasion, hunters and DDT, a pesticide sprayed throughout the United States until its ban in 1972. It took 40 years before threshold recovery of the bald eagle was achieved.

At one point, I asked what effect, if any, would the bald eagle’s extinction have had on the environment and wildlife? They looked at me as if I popped a couple of rivets.

“Bald eagles are only a small portion of the diverse wildlife. The web of life is so complex,” Zender said.

“We have to realize that they are all important. Everything’s connected,” Ferguson added.

A few words but ones that still haunt me today.

Voices correspondent Sandra Babcock can be reached by email at Previous columns are available at

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