Missing Winter and the LNG Pipeline

Someone stole our winter.

Look up at our mountain. You should see some white. This year, for the second January in a row, the forest floor around us is mostly bare. Our lakes are almost empty. Our snowshoes are in a closet. Something important is missing, like the snow pack that sustains agriculture in the Rogue Valley and the relatively predictable climate that has supported human civilization for the past 8,000 years or so.

Some say the liberal intellectual mafia is making this up and there is nothing to worry about. But people who actually measure things report that we have lived through 14 of the 15 warmest years on record since 2000, that the Arctic ice cap is melting and that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are now close to 400 parts per million, having increased from less than 320 since 1960.

There are lots of culprits in this picture, all of us to be honest. But I prefer to blame James Watt. In 1781, he patented a 10 horsepower steam engine that was quickly adapted to power railroads, factories, mining operations and the rest of the frenetic activity that we call the industrial revolution. Watt’s engine used coal to heat water. When coal burns, carbon that has been buried underground for millions of years is released into the atmosphere as a gas, carbon dioxide. Flash forward three centuries: no more winter in these parts.

With all due respect to my seven billion fellow humans: guys, it’s time to stop pumping more carbon into the sky. Which takes us to the Pacific Connector Pipeline. In short, a bunch of investors from Canada and Oklahoma are planning to spend $7.5 billion cutting a 95-foot swath across southwestern Oregon and burying a pipeline so they can sell liquefied natural gas from the high plains of North America to China.

There are many reasons to question the wisdom of this project. It will be ugly. It will mess up our rivers and wetlands. It could blow up and start big fires. Four hundred landowners will be forced to grant easements that will devalue their properties. Personally, I’m concerned about the future of civilization, plus my snowshoes are getting dusty.

If all of this seems a bit unreal to you, come take a look. In a few hours on the Green Springs, you can see bare ground where there should be three feet of snow, empty lakes, and plastic ribbons marking the pipeline right-of-way along Clover Creek Road. A short walk will take you into the Winema National Forest, where that 95-foot swath will slash through a magnificent old growth forest.

Come on, cheer up. Perhaps we can do something useful, like stopping this pipeline.