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Holinger: Even in 2013, people scoff at reliable scientific data

Published: Friday, Aug. 16, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

The afternoon sun baked my wife, Tia, and me as we stood on top of the great dune at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Below us, stretching to the western horizon, Lake Michigan spread like an aquamarine desert.

The guidebook told us we couldn’t see Wisconsin because of the earth’s curvature. Yup, except for the Flat Earth Society, science has convinced most people that we ride a spherical planet.

Even in this new millennium, however, folks scoff at reliable scientific data. Global warming-deniers take an umbrella if a climatologist predicts rain, but ignore the fact that global warming is likely being caused by humans, at least according to 97 percent of studies taking a stance on whether global warming is manmade.

Climate change affects all parts of the globe, resulting in extreme and repeated heat waves, fires, droughts, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes that we no longer can blame solely on Mother Nature.

Catastrophic events, however, are not nature’s alone – human error and psychopathologies create their share. In Canada, a railroad worker fails to brake several oil cars properly. A deranged shooter scours a cineplex or school. And who’s to say when a dirty bomb, eluding the likes of Jack Bauer from “24,” might explode?

Serendipitously, Tia pointed out in the current Better Homes and Gardens, “September is National Preparedness Month, which means it’s time to plan for the worst, hope for the best, and stock up on essentials – like batteries and chocolate.”

Inspired by these call to arms, I contacted Don Bryant, director of the Kane County Office of Emergency Management. To prepare for horrific events, “The first thing everyone should have,” he counseled, “is a family emergency plan for what to do if separated, and where to meet. The second most important thing to have is a preparedness kit.”

“Like canned food and water?”

“Enough food and water for three days for each member of the family,” Bryant explained, adding other important items to the list, such as prescription medicines and contact information for relatives, friends and emergency services.

Bryant suggested visiting www.kcoem.org, “full of links to FEMA, Red Cross and others,” so I did. Selecting FEMA’s Ready.gov site, I clicked on “Build a Kit” and then “Basic Disaster Supplies Kit” and found lots of items we didn’t even have in the house.

“Be aware a threat exists,” Bryant answered when questioned about how best to face catastrophic conditions. I guess that means taking shelter in your basement or an interior room when hearing a tornado siren, instead of ooh-ing and aah-ing the approaching storm through a large plate glass window.

In an episode of “TED Talks,” Vicki Arroyo, a professor and executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center, echoes Speaker Tip O’Neil’s “All politics is local,” by urging, “ ... look to our homes, our communities, our vulnerabilities and our exposures to risk ... to find ways not to just survive, but to thrive.”

Or keep telling ourselves the earth is flat, and that nothing bad ever will happen here.

• Rick Holinger has lived in the Tri-Cities area since 1979. He teaches high school in Aurora, and his poetry, fiction, essays and book reviews have appeared in more than a hundred national literary journals. He founded and facilitates the St. Charles Writers Group, and earned his Ph.D. in Creative Writing at UIC. Contact him at editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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