Earth. Our Home. A home that has been changing - and will continue to do so regardless of our opinions on the matter. But this year, we've got a reminder that for all Earth's indifference to us, we can still alter our surroundings. 2012 was the warmest year on record in the United States. At least, since we've been keeping track of these kinds of things. And while 2013 may not be even warmer, heck, the variations in climatic patterns could (although highly unlikely) give us a colder than normal year. But don't take one year's worth of observations as the final and definitive proof of global warming.
Take it as yet another - albeit dramatic - road sign on the route we as a culture seem to be determined to travel. Think of it as one of those yellow highway markers that give you a last warning before the lane ends. If you like driving within marked lanes (or on pavement at all), you best merge now, before you find yourself in the ditch. I used the road metaphor on purpose, since our constant demand for fossil fuels is contributing to the atmosphere's ability to retain heat. But rather than musing on our current predicament, I'm going to share a picture from my trip to Scotland:
This settlement is about 5,000 years old, being inhabited between about 3200 – 2500 BCE. Although I'm not really comfortable with this "BCE" (Before Common Era) title any more than I am with "BC." Because whose "common era" is it anyway? But these Neolithic inhabitants didn't pick this site because of it's ocean view. 5,000 years ago when they were here there was a marshy wetland and lake where there is ocean right now. The coast was many, many meters away. They were, after all, just a few millenia out of the last glacial maximum and as melting glacial ice continued to drain into the oceans, ocean levels have since raised by another 2-5 meters (give or take).
And thanks to a strong storm in 1850, the shifting dunes revealed this long-buried structure, giving us a rare glimpse into the homes and habits of an ancient culture. Climate changes - whether we want it to or not. We're faced with a particularly unique issue today, since the atmospheric conditions that foster warmer surface temperatures are largely of our own making. But as a species, we've dealt with dramatic shifts in climate before. Whether we're forced into a
"new" neolithic era is largely up to us.