GALVESTON SEAWALL — We’ve been warned time and again, so we can’t go around yelling, “Why didn’t someone tell us?” To be fair most of us won’t be around to yell that or anything else, but our kids and grandkids will be around, all the while cursing us. Obviously we are discussing all this smelly seaweed piled up on the beach. No, we are talking about Galveston disappearing, Corpus Christi underwater and no more Gulf shrimp cocktails. True, we’ve all heard these sky-is-falling warnings from Nervous Nellys like scientists on the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change who recently repeated their warning that global warming is for real and is mostly caused by humans.
On the other hand, presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, whose home state is on the hit list, said, “By golly, if Republican voters believe human activity has nothing to do with climate change, who am I to disagree?” It’s called “leadership.” We prefer to believe Rush Limbaugh who says global warming is a hoax. He believes that because he lives in a mansion facing the Florida beach.
Yet now comes another group of “experts” with doctorates in climatology and oceanography who work for something called “NASA” or one of those diploma mills called “Rice,” and “the University of California” with newer, exact and startling facts hitting close to home. This latest hand-wringer claims the Antarctic’s melting is now “unstoppable.” All that ice will turn into water and has only one place to go: into the oceans. The rising sea levels, in turn, will cause the loss of coastal communities which is “inevitable.” Well, if this disaster is “unstoppable” and “inevitable,” in the immortal words of one-time Texas GOP gubernatorial candidate Claytie Williams, “If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.” (It cost him the election.)
According to stories in the liberal-leaning Houston Chronicle, (wink-wink, nudge-nudge), “Sea level implications are the most important,” said John Anderson, professor of oceanography at Rice University. “We’re already seeing an unprecedented sea level rise acceleration (in the Gulf). It has increased five-fold in the last 200 years.” Conservative predictions put a rise at 2 feet by the end of this century, and Anderson said that could potentially double as the ice sheets melt. If the increase doubles to 4 feet, much of today’s Galveston Island would be under water. This would cause certain problems for beach bums, the city’s Mardi Gras and the government’s flood insurance program. Insurance adjusters would have to use glass-bottom boats. With no more Galveston, where would we go to see the BP oil spills float by? We’ve already lost the Balinese Room; what will happen to Tilman Fertitta’s fajitas? With the estuaries destroyed by sea water, there go my Gulf shrimp cocktails and crab cakes. And isn’t the South Pole Santa’s summer home?
There is a C&W song about selling beach front property in Arizona. That is ridiculous, then again, maybe not, because no one knows just how far inland the Gulf will surge. It is not just Galveston Island that will be flooded. Parts of Corpus Christi, Houston and other places along the Gulf Coast will be hit. Port Waco has a ring, as does the San Antonio Cruise Terminal. Get worried when animals at the Dallas zoo start lining up two by two. Much of New Orleans is already under sea level. “Bartender, make that a Bourbon Street and branch.” Incidentally, do you think the taxpayers of, say, Des Moines ever get tired of bailing out, almost literally, New Orleans and Galveston? Just a thought.
However, to quote “The “Life of Brian,” always look at the bright side of life. Galvestonians won’t have to leave home to be buried at sea. Maybe we could sue Antarctica. How do you like your penguin, fried or sautéed? With pinot grigio or chardonnay? Only part of the western sector of Antarctica is collapsing into the sea. That leaves the east for later. Another plus: just as some people cannot differentiate between stalactite and stalagmite, they are always getting Arctic and Antarctic mixed up. In a few years they won’t have that problem. Advantage us: Five judges of the Texas Supreme Court overturned laws going back to the Spanish — it’s even in the Texas Constitution — and ruled that west Galveston beaches are not public. The judges were Nathan Hecht, Don Willett, Dale Wainwright, Paul W. Green and Phil Johnson. Eventually there won’t be any Galveston beaches to fence off.
Back here on the Galveston seawall, we must recall that this latest gloom-and-doom scenario is nothing new to the BOI (Born On the Island) folks. Everyone knows about the 1900 storm which killed either 5,000, 6,000 or 8,000 people — I’ve read them all. But there have been countless other hurricanes, tropical storms and spring breaks, each leaving behind its own chaos and debris. The latest disaster (but it’s still early in the week) was Ike, whose losses are still being felt, both in property and people. In the 1880 U.S. Census, Galveston had the largest population of any city in Texas. Today it is not even the largest city in Galveston County. League City is bigger. The island almost lost its largest single employer, UTMB (The University of Texas Medical Branch). The med school was so damaged by Ike that there was a proposal to move the giant facility to Austin. Today you see markers on walls, such as at Rudy & Paco restaurant and the Galveston Island Railroad Museum, showing how high the tide surged during Ike.
That NASA report says the Texas shoreline has moved landward nearly 100 miles in the last 20,000 years, and the Antarctic ice sheets will be gone in the next two centuries. That doesn’t give us much time. But who are you going to believe, a panel of climatic and oceanographic scientists or Rush Limbaugh? It doesn’t matter; I suspect at 300 pounds of blubber he’d float.
Ashby is underwater at email@example.com