Frank DeFilippo: Omens of Apocalypse All Around Us

Flooding on the Clara Barton Parkway in Montgomery County last month. Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service photo

Quick! Grab a life jacket.

The Greenland ice sheet is so overheated that it melted 197 million gallons of water into the oceans. Alaska is becoming as hot as Miami so even the polar bears are confused as to the difference between ice and land. And the Northeast, from New Jersey up, is experiencing the most rapid warming trend in the nation. Warming waters have nearly collapsed New England’s lobster industry. Soon it’ll be June in January.

Kiss Harborplace goodbye and say so long to Fells Point, Canton and Middle River. Ocean City’s a goner and so, too, is Crisfield. The Annapolis harbor is often a backwash of floodwater from rising tides. Kent Island will be underwater as will the hundreds of miles of shoreline that stretch along Maryland’s inland waterways. The ponies on Assateague Island will have to sink or swim. In fact, the entire East Coast could become one water-logged bog of sunken history like a modern lost Atlantis.

This year was America’s hottest on record. So, too, did Europe broil under a blazing sun that sent temperatures to record highs in nations where air conditioning is usually unheard of. Record highs were recorded in five countries, along with a number of deaths that were attributed to the blistering heat.

But President Trump doesn’t believe in climate change. Nor does he deny it. He pulled America out of the Paris Climate Agreement. He’s trying to roll back mileage standards. He wants to re-stoke coal furnaces. He believes wind energy causes problems. He was reportedly interested in buying Greenland (huh?), the world’s largest island (Denmark rejected the offer). And he’s shredded nearly every scientific study that forecasts environmental gloom and eventual doom.

Frank A. DeFilippo

Maybe he’ll notice if, one day, he’s up to his knees in swamp water on his Bedminster, N.J., golf course where he weekends and summers, or if Mar-a-Lago sinks to the Florida ocean bottom like those stone castles in goldfish tanks. (According to a Washington Post climate change analysis, parts of Florida are among the nation’s new hot spots, which include the Northeast, west coast and a length of states along the northern border.)

Tangier Island is disappearing into the Chesapeake Bay, as are its companion barrier islands, Smith and Deal. A while back, Tangier Island received national attention when its mayor appealed to the White House for help before the island is swallowed into the deep. Trump told the mayor “not to worry about sea level rise.”

Fires, attributed to climate change, have consumed the entire California town of Paradise – for anyone who appreciates irony – as well as destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres of prime coastal forestland. Trump scolded officials that the conflagrations could have been avoided if the underbrush were properly thinned.

Floods from rising sea levels have ravaged the Midwest and wiped out entire seasonal crops, especially along the Mississippi River, which has experienced unprecedented backups and overflows. New Orleans is one great flood basin.

Closer to home, sheets of rain drilled down so fast and furious recently that Fells Point, in Baltimore, flooded out because its sewer lines could not accommodate the downpour of five inches in two hours. Even in temperate Maryland, storms and storm winds have become so violent that trees are now routinely ripped out by their roots and cause untold thousands in property damage.

And if anyone needs a reminder, recall a few years ago when Maryland’s inland waters experienced a mild surge, kind of a Tsunami tease. Baltimore’s trashy harbor water covered Pratt Street, people were wading in hip boots through Fells Point’s flooded cobblestone streets, and the snug Annapolis harbor area was knee-deep in water. Middle River was washed away and residents are probably still trying to collect flood insurance. Their policies didn’t cover acts of God and nature and, possibly in futuristic cases, man.

Omens of apocalypse are all around us: Rising sea levels; ice melts; extreme fluxions in weather; half the hottest years on record have occurred since 1998; tropical cyclones moving north; drought; wildfires; an increase in pollen; the disappearance of honey bees; the West Antarctic ice sheet is disappearing – much of it attributed to trapped heat in the atmosphere caused by fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas and oil.

Yet it’s anticipated that the next great gold-rush for resources will occur in the arctic regions where ice walls are rapidly disappearing and making way for exploration for even more of the very causes that are disturbing the planet’s balance and possibly the next great extinction. Genuses are rapidly disappearing, and the species may be next. Russia is already attempting to plant its flag and stake its claim under the melting arctic ice.

Maryland is about two-thirds land, give or take a few acres, and one-third water – 9,707 square miles of land and 2,699 square miles of water. The state also has 4,360 miles of coastline, with 31 percent experiencing some erosion, mainly because of rising sea levels attributed to global warming and its lethal companion, ice melting.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources estimates that 69 percent of Maryland’s coast is currently eroding at a rate of 0.58 percent a year, with 48 miles of shoreline experiencing erosion at rates greater than eight feet a year.

And here’s the cropper: The 16 coastal counties on the Chesapeake Bay watershed are experiencing a sea level rise at twice the rate of the global rise and the sea level rise could double the erosion rate in Ocean City over the next 40 years.

The Environmental Protection Agency projects that Ocean City will erode 85-153 feet by 2025 if no action is taken, with a doomsday forecast of erosion loss of 216-273 feet. In Dorchester County, halfway down the Eastern Shore, 54 percent of the shoreline is eroding.

Hey, Mr. President. Still don’t believe in climate change? Fully 580 acres of Maryland shoreline are lost each year due to erosion caused by rising waters. Smith Island is receding so rapidly that many of its remaining residents are retreating to the mainland. And Holland Island, in the Chesapeake Bay, has disappeared, taking the last house with it to the murky bottom.

All totaled, 376 miles of Chesapeake Bay shoreline is eroding at more than two feet a year. And the disappearing land takes with it habitats for all kinds of flora and fauna – marsh lands, crabs, oysters, clams, fish – as well as livelihoods. There isn’t enough riprap or sand plants to protect what man is intent on destroying. But what does Trump care? He wants to open federal lands to logging and mining and, in the process, threaten protected species.

Human beings are often the subject of their own mirth. The Keystone XL pipeline, still under review and court action after years of delay, is an example of humor (and money) at work. So, too, is fracking, favored by Trump but now banned in Maryland.

The sand tar oil that would slosh through the pipeline from Canada to Texas isn’t fit to use in America. It would be refined (another example of mirth) and shipped to China (if Trump’s trade war recedes) and other emerging countries to contaminate the atmosphere and send the airborne toxins back to its points of origin.

Ditto fracking, which poisons everything around it, including people. So much so that when Rex Tillerson, the former secretary of state, was CEO of Exxon, one of the most aggressive frackers among many, he fought in court to prevent fracking from occurring anywhere near his expansive Texas spread, according to reports at the time.

Yet despite filing cabinets of evidence, the public remains mildly ambivalent about human activity contributing to climate change. Most polls show that Americans are concerned about climate change and its effects but are unwilling to do much about it.

Polls show that Democrats express the most concern while Republicans show the least. The Green New Deal, for example, is a blueprint by progressive Democrats to reconcile environmental concerns with economic stability for a sustainable future. Essentially, it combines Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal economics with modern preventive approaches to avoid environmental calamity. It’s a noble attempt, at least.

Meanwhile, have a lovely finish to sweltering summer and enjoy the Ocean City beach before it disappears.

Frank A. DeFilippo
Frank A. DeFilippo is an award-winning political commentator who lives and writes in Baltimore. DeFilippo has been writing about the comic opera of politics for more than 50 years. He reported on the Maryland General Assembly for 10 years before joining the administration of former Gov. Marvin Mandel (D) as press secretary and speechwriter. Between times, he was a White House correspondent during the administration of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, and he has covered six national political conventions. DeFilippo is the author of Hooked, an alleged work of fiction, and an unpublished manuscript, Shiksa: The Rise and Fall of Marvin Mandel.

3 COMMENTS

  1. They may be disappearing, but Smith and Deal are not “barrier islands.”
    While they last, they’re just islands in Chesapeake Bay, and barriers to nothing.

  2. I have lived on MD for my entire 65 yrs. Clara Barton and Beach Drive have always flooded. May of the trees I see coming down are older trees aproaching the end of their lifespan or those quick growing, soft wood trees thar builders are allowed to plant.

  3. I do believe that rapid global warming is caused by unthinking human greed for cheap power and cheap goods. We have to cut way back on mindless consumption and stem global warming or suffer rapid changes that we can barely anticipate.

    For instance, I recycle like crazy. But now China is refusing our waste products. I tease my friends, who are also trying to treat our planet gently, that we will soon be needing all that trash anyway – to shore up and create more land as the waters rise. Landfill will become a growth industry. It quite seems like that actually will be needed in our future. After all, the Dutch built their land and maintain it despite being a bit below sea level! Take notes.

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