Letter from Langdon: Dreaming of a Muddy Christmas

On this Midwestern farm, the hum of sump pumps is drowning out the jingle bells. It takes a lot of holiday spirit to find the bright spot in our extreme weather.

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No two ways about it, climate change is depressing. That’s the conclusion drawn by an Australian researcher who studied weather’s effect on farmer moods.

In his study of 22 participants, researcher Nevelle Ellis found that farmers had lost confidence in their ability to cope in the worst affected region of Australia, where weather has become drier and less predictable.

I know how they feel.

But thanks to the Christmas spirit, I still have hope.

For the last 20 years or so, weather has been a bummer for me. Some meteorologists say it’s all just part of the long-term cycle. A few particularly immovable politicians agree. Others, like a mere 90-plus percent of climatologists in the world say it’s changing beyond what any reasonable cycle might be. And there’s the small matter of Greenland and the polar ice caps melting into the sea, rising saltwater levels in Florida, flooded islands in the Pacific Ocean, and extreme weather events of increasing frequency around the world.

In my most recent lifetime, I’ve already seen several 500 year floods. Now we’re up to the 1,000-year varieties.

Small wonder I feel old.

I know–it’s controversial with some. But without jumping to conclusions, I’m forced to point out that at my place here outside of Langdon, Missouri, we’re finishing up one of the wettest years on record. A lot of crops across a central strip of the U.S. Cornbelt never got planted due to excessive rain this spring and summer. That includes my farm. Eventually rain slowed to a crawl. August was even a little dry. Then rain started picking up again, with autumn becoming wetter until Thanksgiving week, when it rained over 5 inches. Now, two weeks later, it has rained another 3 and local rivers are flooding just ahead of Christmas. The Missouri River at Brownville, Nebraska, (across the river from Langdon) is expected to crest at almost 40 feet — that’s 6 feet above flood stage.

It’s pretty bad when muck boots are daily attire and sump pump sounds in the basement drown out jingle bells in your head.

The author's dog,Claus the Christmas puppy, and his friends.
The author’s dog,Claus the Christmas puppy, and his friends.

I feel as though I just found a lump of climate-changing Wyoming coal in my stocking.

Some claim it’s only the El Niño effect. Either way, it’s still depressing. But from here it’s pretty hard to see where El Niño begins and climate change leaves off.

Anyway, however they got here, all these weather disasters make Scrooge look like a saint.

Climate-related humbugs aside, I won’t let it ruin my holiday even if white Christmas is turned a muddy shade of brown. I’ve seen every manner of Christmas on the farm. As of December 25, it’ll be 65 in a row. Snow, mud, warm, cold – other than a flood, whatever happens, it won’t be the first time.

(Famous last words?)

I’m more focused on trends, rather than ends, even though every good thing must. There’s still a chance for more.

At this point, the trends aren’t looking up. But there’s always hope we can improve things.

That is the true meaning of Christmas, because on that night when the Christ Child lay in a lowly manger, as angels sang hosannas on high, wise men came from the east and all was right with mankind.

Humanity was given one more try to make amends.

As legend has it, the weather was perfect.

Richard Oswald, president the Missouri Farmers Union, is a fifth-generation farmer from Langdon, Missouri. “Letter From Langdon” is a regular feature of The Daily Yonder.



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