Monday, October 31, 2011

Don Giovanni in a Blizzard of Snow

The newspapers are full of stories about the power outages following the snowstorm - power outages that are the result, mostly, of breaking branches and falling trees.  We will all be told that so many fell because the leaves were still on the trees - certainly, there is some truth in that.  But look at the pictures, with an excerpt from today's issue of the Star Ledger, followed by my comment:
Trees have interiors that are rotted and weakened.  When so many fell during Irene, the winds were blamed - even though it wasn't that windy by the time the storm reached the East Coast.
"Cindy Spilker, who was in line for wood at Paul’s, said the tree fall around her home 'looked like a war zone.'
'We’re surrounded by the enormous trees, and the branches breaking sounded like shotgun cracks through the night. It was very frightening,' she said.
In the light of day, there was no power. No heat. No hot water."
This tree in Massachusetts has no roots remaining to anchor it to the ground.  Trees damaged by ozone allocate energy to repairing leaves, and less carbohydrates to their root system, making them more likely to fall over.
My comment to the article:  Yes, we have had some wild weather - you can thank climate change for that.  But the reason branches are breaking and trees are falling, even in times of no wind or snow, is that they are dying from air pollution.

People can't see tropospheric ozone, which results when reactive nitrogen precursors are released whenever we burn fuel - so they like to forget that the background level in the atmosphere is inexorably rising...even though ozone causes cancer, emphysema, asthma, allergies, heart disease, Alzheimer's and diabetes - all epidemics.

Trees and plants absorb ozone, just like people - and plant life is even more sensitive to its caustic effects.  Ozone damages foliage and enters vegetation through the stomates, causing internal injury that allows insects, fungus and disease to invade.  The long-term effect, following cumulative exposure season after season, is that trees are dying at a rapidly accelerating rate.

We need to conserve and switch to clean sources of energy on an emergency basis before the terrestrial ecosystem, like coral reefs in the acidifying oceans, collapses.

video and a radio interview on this topic here:  Complacent, Oblivious and In Denial.
Many of the trees that fell either had, in fact, already lost their leaves, or were conifers evolved to withstand heavier snows.
Because of the storm, I was stranded in New York, Saturday after the opera, when the NJ Transit train we had planned to take home was canceled. Too many dead trees fell on the tracks.
The climactic finale of Don Giovanni was, literally and spectacularly, hellaciously INCENDIARY! Offered the chance to repent his life of reckless, destructively gluttonous and selfish consumption, our defiant hero obstinately refused - and preferred instead to be engulfed by the flames from below.
It was brilliant stagecraft, and served to remind me that the human race, in general, would rather continue the path of bravado and hubris, indulging in our rapacious gobbling of resources, than to seriously consider conservation as an alternative allowing survival for future generations.  It is this endearing characteristic that makes Don Giovanni an enduring icon, an unapologetic representative of the human foibles of greed and short-sightedness, which locks us to what will inevitably result in an ignominious fate for our splendid, simultaneously joyful and repugnant, species.
Here's a version of the scene:

Bonus Video from the Star Ledger, notice what the man says about the big old maple that fell, about 30 seconds in:  "The Whole Tree Was Rotted."  Keep in mind, maples should live for three or four centuries - it wasn't rotted because of age, there are only a handful of trees that old in New Jersey because they were almost all cut down when the Europeans arrived.


  1. hi Gail, thank you for answering my precedent message. It really warmed my heart. By reading the commentaries after the Star Ledger article, and after thousands of other articles, I am sure nothing will change in humans behavior on a significant scale and that we are headed for a disaster of epic proportions very very soon. In fact, it is already happening. Still looking at the 3 storey high maple trees dying fast through the six windows of my apartment in Montreal (and sometimes going out to get my dose of tropospheric ozone an see more trees dying all over the city).


  2. Don't know, but this might make you feel a little better?

    Your snow will meander across the Atlantic and give those of us in the West of Scotland even more rain. Who knew it could be even wetter than 'normal'?


  3. Very odd... Any New England tree older than a few years is well used to snow and ice...and strong.

    This is really out of the ordinary. The trees have been radically weakened.

  4. Hi Gail, Great post, as usual! Interesting comments about Don G.
    Our problems coming home to roost.

    We're seeing the same tree impacts in MA: trees with no roots keeling over; millions of branches snapped off while sporting fully GREEN leaves, war zone-like scenes.

    We need our leader, President Obama, to address the American people about the opportunities and threats associated with AGW, NOW!

  5. Very robust chemtrail website.


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