From South of Left Field: Weather or Not by Jimmie Galbreath


A lifelong love of science in all forms can cause problems. As a child, it fascinated me and sadly resulted in a great deal of bullying from the other students in the rural schools I attended through junior high school. What strikes me as ridiculous and a bit confusing is that while traveling along that path I also got the idea that America as a whole respected science.

At 14 I was given a job working at Uncle Eugene’s Texaco station in Port Gibson, MS. Between time spent pumping gas, washing windshields and checking oil I began trying to total up how much gas I pumped in a day. That was the price of boredom I guess. Little did I realize the trap I was walking into.

As time progressed, my totals weren’t enough. I wondered how much the station pumped in a day or week, followed by how much was pumped in all of Port Gibson, then how much in the state? As the years rolled by into college, those questions led me to wonder how much crude oil was being produced (I was studying Petroleum Engineering toward the end), how many cubic miles was removed and on and on. Why revisit this repeatedly over the years? The driving question was how much were we doing and how big the impact because of it. I was curious.

There were other things I noticed during this same span of years. It seemed the weather was changing. As a child winter had plenty of cold days and a dusting of snow was not too uncommon. The start of school required flannel shirts with long pants. Slowly as the years rolled by, it seemed that flannel wasn’t necessary for the start of school and I still recall the profound sense of shock as first Thanksgiving then later Christmas rolled by with short sleeve weather. The first frosts came later and later over the years and snow became less frequent. Being a contrary child who from birth loved cold weather, rain, snow and fog I noticed this. Everyone else seemed fine without it.

It was geology (part of the Petroleum Engineering curriculum) that began to connect these two threads for me. Much to my surprise many of the theories of changing climate were born long ago. The earliest theory of people changing local environment is attributed to Theophrastus, a pupil of Aristotle! Weather plays a big part in forming geology, and my personal side interest in weather went there too. Having bored the reader to tears, it is time to cut to the chase and declare two firmly held beliefs. The climate is changing and we humans are driving it. The more years of interest and reading the pros and cons, the more it scares the bejesus out of me.

It is no wonder so many folks want to turn away from accepting this. What sold me on all this was the combination of personal experience and hard science. The hard part to arriving at a place like this is the internal struggle that is created. An awareness that rears its head nearly every time I drive my car or take out the trash and pokes at me saying ‘look what you are causing.’ It is so much easier to say the science is wrong or I can’t change the whole world.

So how do I handle this? First off, ‘I’ am not all that. Neither are you. If I dropped dead today the science says the changes would not stop so ‘I’ alone cannot stop it nor am I causing this. What I am doing is contributing and that I can change to reduce my impact. Being aware and caring causes me to make small changes. Living with awareness is the same as sharing awareness through actions and occasional words. Like so many unpopular endeavors climate change may be best shown in this way to those with closed attitudes toward the science.

In my new home in Maryland when I get a chance to talk to those with life long experience here I often hear similar observations. The fall and spring is warmer and shorter than decades ago. These changes span the globe and can be seen in photographs, graphs, and satellite pictures.

Does it really matter if we believe in human driven climate change? Well, the science, the weather, and the earth itself don’t care what we think about it. Opinion does not change the inevitable march of nature and there will be a reckoning for the changes we are making. There are measurable changes on land, sea and in the air whose ultimate consequences we can only guess. Every time I listen to the remake of ‘The Sound of Silence’ by Disturbed this entire issue comes to mind.

Jimmie Galbreath is a retired Engineer originally from a small family owned dairy farm in Jefferson County, MS. He earned a B.S in Petroleum Engineering from MS State University, accumulating 20 years Nuclear experience at Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Station and Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Station. Along the way, he worked as a roustabout on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, served three years active service as a Quartermaster Officer in the US Army, Supervised brick kilns first in MS than in Atlanta GA and whatever else it took to skin the cat. He now lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

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