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On November tomatoes, droughts and climate change

By Dan Pool
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    I had a great homegrown tomato sandwich last week. It was actually from my brother’s plant. I still had plenty of cherry tomatoes on mine in early November but no sandwich tomatoes.
    It doesn’t take a climatologist to know something is just not right with this scenario of garden produce in November, though the abnormality is quite tasty on bread with some mayonnaise.
    The constant smoke from forest fires is also highly unusual in this area and very disconcerting. One person said it reminded him of time spent living in the West where big forest fires are the norm.
    Again and again people make comments like “never seen weather like this before, or driest I can ever remember.”         According to one AP story in late October, this is officially the driest 60 day period on record for north Georgia and parts of Alabama. You can add another 15 -20 days at least to that streak, as no rain is expected in the long range forecast.
    We’re not supposed to have garden vegetables this late in the year and we are supposed to have rain every once in a while. Sounds sort of like the climate is changing.
    Every time we mention climate change, people will retort that we are some chicken-little worrywarts or that we are duped by crazy scientists – just like those guys from NASA playing a big joke on us all.
    Of course, this dry-warm fall may not be in any way related to greenhouse emissions and we recognize that climate change is a long term trend and doesn’t deserve credit for us providing fresh Big Boys from the backyard this year. But these are the types of changes that are projected over the long term. It’s not just polar bears who are affected.
    Much less hypothetically speaking, the drought is real. Unfortunately, the response has been thus far: Let’s hope it rains before any serious consequences occur -- afterall back in 2007’s big drought it finally rained so no harm done.
    But still with things like drought and climate change, efforts to address the problems early (even if it turns out to be unwarranted) are much less draconian that what people may be forced to undertake if we wait and worst case scenarios become reality. Haralson County has already had to go to neighboring areas to buy water as their river source is too low to pump any longer.
    From all appearances neither the city of Jasper, Pickens County nor the state of Georgia have proposed any type of serious water restrictions, nor have we seen any great efforts to promote conservation of the water we have.
    Even though there is not an immediate problem, putting a few easy-to-meet restrictions like landscape watering, car washing, outdoor water use in place, would be a prudent policy. Not to mention, redoubling every effort to fix any leaking water line anywhere in north Georgia.
    Water saved now or not lost with leaks  may stave off unpleasant situations if this drought persists. And the thing about droughts is there is no way to know if we are near the end or just getting started in a prolonged dry spell.
    While we have never seen a multiple-year drought in Georgia’s modern history, around the planet there are plenty of records showing it does happen. Let’s hope our leaders are looking ahead and preparing just in case. And we feel the same with climate change, if we can take a few smaller measures now to soften impact (if they occur) later, then we are all better off down the road.
    Consider prudent environmental/water use policies to be like home owner’s insurance. You may go a lifetime and never use it, but if you need it, it’s too late to start shopping for policies.