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A Night in New York

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It hailed last night.

After an unseasonably balmy summer like day in New York City, the skies darkened. Lightning illuminated the streets and then the heavens opened up in yet another downpour. I ducked into the foyer of my building just in time to miss the heaviest part of the rainfall, and as I scurried into my apartment I heard a sound I'd never heard before.

It was a loud, tinny, clinking sound. I looked up. And right above my head I heard chunks of ice hitting the skylight. At first I didn't know what it was, as silly as that may sound. Then I realized what I was seeing and I couldn't believe it. As I ran up the stairs to the second floor of my apartment to take a look out onto the roof garden, the sound escalated. Even though I knew the glass was thick, I couldn't help but wonder if one of these cubes would chip or crack the skylight.

There is no question at all anymore that the weather is changing. Our planet is warming due to pollution from human activities. And a warming climate increases the likelihood of extreme weather.

We can choose to believe the scientists when they confirm this very thing, and warn us about the pending ramifications that climate change will bring upon our society and upon our planet. Or we can choose to deny the facts, or snicker at these warnings. Either way it doesn't really matter anymore what we believe.

All we need to do is look out the window. We can see the changes happening right in front of us.

All across this country over the past couple of years, there have been countless stories of flash floods, droughts, severe storms, record breaking heat and wildfires. Right here in New York City, just within the last couple of weeks we've had a tornado that ripped through parts of New York and Brooklyn; sudden and intense storms that eerily and immediately blackened the sky, turning 23rd street into a river; and now hail.

Would we still have bad weather if there was no climate change? Yes. But climate change makes extreme weather likely to happen more often. And in the future, we can expect it to get worse.

A friend joked with me last night as I spoke with him while the hail was coming down. He asked if I had read the Book of Revelation recently. We both chuckled at his comment, yet there was a part of me that felt doomed. Not because I believe the hand of God is punishing us for our sins, but because Mother Nature is doing so...

...blasting off mountaintops to scrape the coal from within; drilling deeper and deeper into our oceans, threatening and destroying our most vital and primal resource... water; digging three to four mile pits to get to the thick granular oil, draining the Athabasca River to process this oil, and then dumping the used contaminated water into massive unlined "ponds"... all in the most environmentally destructive project called the Alberta Tar Sands...

It seems to me like Mother Nature's mercy and forgiveness have run dry, as we ceaselessly abuse Her and take Her for granted in order for us to continue our addiction to using fossil fuels. I've gotta say, I don't blame her. Not one bit.

Gloria Reuben is a nationally known environmental activist and a special
advisor to The Alliance for Climate Protection.

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