Thursday, April 26, 2018
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The Tunica Times • P.O. Box 308/986 Magnolia Street, Tunica, MS 38676

Guest Column: Spring blooms spur optimism

My azaleas are already in full bloom. Last year, they didn’t bloom until mid-March.

I have a theory. Cold winters mean hot summers. Warm winters mean cool summers. It’s the law of averages, regression to the mean. The extremes balance out over the course of the year.

Last year, the winter was brutal and the summer was scorching. This winter was marvelously warm so the summer will be marvelously cool to balance it out. I’ll check back with you at the end of September.

Spring began in Mississippi on February 15 and ends May 15. It’s my favorite time of year. The weather is mild and life is blooming.

Our summer lasts four and a half months, from May 15 to September 30. Fall is two and a half months, from September 30 to December 15. Then we have two months of winter from December 15 until February 15.

Our summers are brutal. Combined with the humidity and our low elevation, perhaps the most brutal in the world. Thank the Lord for air conditioning!

Most people think it’s hotter at the equator. Not so! Even at sea level, cities on the equator have maximum average highs under 90 degrees. That’s because the days are never longer than 12 hours on the equator.

Mississippi summer days are more than 14 hours long. The longest day has 14 hours and 16 minutes of sunlight. That’s 60 percent sunlight over 24 hours compared to the winter when the ratio is reversed.

Another interesting weather fact: Days don’t grow steadily longer or shorter throughout the year. In fact, during the winter and summer, there is very little change in the amount of daylight – it is during the spring and fall that the amount of daylight changes rapidly.

When I was a kid, the great fear was nuclear annihilation. I remember in first grade having to participate in nuclear attack drills in which we kneeled under our desks and covered our necks with our hands. Talk about traumatizing children. I’ve never been the same.

Today the big fear is global warming. Not to minimize its importance, but I’ll take worrying about global warming over nuclear annihilation any day.

The latest news is that this past year was the hottest ever. What the media doesn’t explain is that there are several other years just as hot, if you consider the margin of statistical error. The devil is in the details.

I am concerned but not terrified about global warming. It bears careful watching and consideration, but it’s too soon to panic.

In fact, the world is making great strides in alternative energy. Including nuclear and hydro, renewable energy already supplies a third of the world’s total electricity, and that percent is increasing rapidly. We are rapidly moving away from coal to natural gas, which emits half the carbon dioxide as coal. This is real progress.

Natural gas is still cheaper than most renewables, but the price differential is not huge – maybe 30 percent or so. If global warming turns out to be a real threat, the world is in a position to rapidly phase out fossil fuels if need be.

Wind is now the least expensive form of energy, according to economic studies, followed by natural gas and thin film solar. By 2020, wind energy is predicted to supply 12 percent of our power. That’s great progress. Wind energy technology is still improving. Solar thin film is also inexpensive. One day, you may have solar roofing tiles that cut your power bill in half.

I remember a columnist named Charly Reese. He was a curmudgeon and predicted the collapse of humanity because we were running out of fossil fuels.

Boy, was he wrong. Turns out there’s more oil and gas in the ground than we ever imagined. We just didn’t know how to get it until fracking was invented. Now it looks like the supply is endless.

In the meantime, we have a huge list of fossil fuel alternatives. We are spoiled for choices. Who would have thought that nuclear energy would turn out to be obsolete compared to wind and solar?

A solar project in Sumrall near Hattiesburg is now underway. It covers 590 acres and will supply enough electricity to meet the needs of 8,000 homes. That’s a 15th of an acre per home. Using rooftop space to supplement utility-scale solar installations, that means it would only take 40,000 acres to create enough solar electricity to power every household in Mississippi. That’s one-thousandth of our land area.

That will never happen, of course, but it illustrates all the options we have. In addition, we have battery operated and hydrogen cars on standby if the oceans indeed started to rise.

There have been other worldwide catastrophes that have come and gone over my lifetime. In my teens, the ozone layer was going to disappear and roast us all with ultraviolet radiation. Didn’t happen.

Then overpopulation was going to cause mass starvation. As it turns out, farming productivity soared (maybe the extra carbon?) and obesity became a bigger problem in the Third World than starvation. Now China is predicting its population will soon start shrinking. Europe and the United States would be losing population if it weren’t for immigration.

It’s almost as if some powerful unseen force is magically keeping humanity from destroying itself. (You can read more about it in the most popular book ever published.)

When we think about the march of progress over the last 100 years, it’s almost unbelievable. And we’re just getting started!

What’s next? Get ready to surrender your driving privileges. On the positive side, 40,000 people a year will be saved from a violent death on the highways and your kids won’t have to take your car keys away when you get old.

It will start in about three or four years when the first fully functional driverless cars will emerge. It will take another five years to perfect the software. By then, a majority of Americans will give up manual driving to save thousands in lower insurance premiums.

Studies will show the few remaining manual drivers are causing all the accidents. Public sentiment will turn and human driving will only be tolerated in emergency situations. Remember, you read it here first!

I remember taking my children to Camp Ozark one summer. They were so excited. It was idyllic. I remember thinking, “One day every child in the world will be able to go to a camp like this.”

Global prosperity is coming. Robots and computers will do all the hard work. We will all live 1,000 times better than the kings of old. I may not live to see it, but I believe my children will.

There’s nothing like a beautiful spring day with the blossoms all blooming, to make you feel optimistic about life. That’s why spring is my favorite season. Enjoy!

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