I took a January swim, brief as it was, in Oceanside last week. A storm was on its way. In the final light of day, the ocean reflected a flinty blue light that seemed charged, a slightly unnatural hue that said the weather was changing and summoning energy.
But the water itself was easy to get into.
Normally, this time a year, it takes an act of will to get in the ocean, a tensing up before the plunge under the first big wave in a frigid sea. I then pop up out of the water and, waist deep, run in place to keep the blood moving. The chilly air seems quite pleasant compared to the cold, cold sea.
But this year, the water has been pretty warm all winter long. As it was last year.
It is not normal.
On our webpage at CNS, we played the news that 2015 was the earth's hottest year on record at the top of the page, but we did not lead with it. The New York Times, on the other hand, gave the story a dominant position, two columns at the top right of the front page.
The print version of the paper had a straight-forward leading paragraph that announced the record, noted it was back-to-back with last year's then-record, and shifted into the present volatile, extreme weather around the globe.
But the online version of the Times, which aims for the younger, more transitory and more pumped-up audience, led with the implications for the current primary race. It said that it would be more difficult for the Republican candidates to deny global warming, given the back-to-back records.
I doubted it.
I have an otherwise intelligent friend who persists in saying global warming is a hoax. I say the scientific evidence is clearly and overwhelmingly to the contrary. It does not matter, he does not believe it.
It is not worth discussing further. It is a matter of conviction.
While the course of this political season should have taken away any capacity for shock, the denial of the threat to mother earth herself continued to prompt amazement and hopelessness.
But on the right by far the more entertaining of the contests the denial of climate change seems to have faded from the speechifying of late. And as the first of the primary contests came down to the wire, the flash-point issues of the past years, healthcare and environmental regulation, more or less disappeared.
Instead the emotion-loaded issues of immigration, jobs going abroad and foreign terrorists were dominant, with Donald Trump, against all predictions, acting as a 500-pound magnet bending all argument in his direction.
But underneath the awe-inspiring hurly burly professional wrestling in a political arena I hear the earth's condition as a murmured complaint, a gentle admonition, but one that, if we continue to ignore it, will turn into devastatating wrath.
And the complaint can be heard all around. Drought followed by deluge. Winter hurricane followed by record blizzard. It can be heard even in a little story in the Times about logging elephants in Malaysia unemployed because the forest is disappearing.
That long wave of the earth's condition cycles underneath the much shorter wave of human conflict. And it too does not bode well for the human condition.
While religious conflict goes back as long as religion, the current fighting in the Middle East seems to be spreading like a virus that has no vaccine. In the last ten to twenty years, the hot spots, the zones of steady and seemingly intractable conflicts, have spread wider and wider through the Middle East.
And most recently, they have started to push their knock-on effects into Europe.
The unending flotilla of migrants and refugees streaming out of the Middle East and towards Europe will wind up reversing the union of open borders, as each country starts to literally and figuratively do what Sweden has done, put up a guarded fence on the major bridge from Denmark, the single road over which the great majority of immigrants have come.
And the agony of the Middle East will continue.
But, as the earth is damaged in a long wave cycle and humanity damages itself in a short wave cycle, the current political season serves to distract us from darker thoughts on a more fundamental and, for many, fatal malaise.