The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

Who will clean up after us?

Great Blue Heron and Canada Geese like the river, but parts are becoming risky for life.I watched a movie Tuesday night, along with more than 100 of my closest friends, many of whom I’d never previously met. It was about global warming, and about a preacher and his daughter and their disagreement over whether our home planet really is getting dangerously warmer.

Disagreement seemed a little mild a word. The preacher sent his daughter off to college, and when she came home having learned the temperature was rising, he cut off her tuition payments. Now that is standing up for one’s beliefs.

The story traveled to Greenland, among other places, to see the effect of warming on the island nation – about the size of Texas and 80 percent-and-shrinking covered in ice. Several large oil companies have obtained licenses from Greenland to explore for oil off the coast. Now the ice is melting, and breaking off into the ocean, exposing darker water and land, absorbing more heat, melting more ice … it’s a cycle I watched demonstrated as a kid in snow country.

We had a half-mile driveway and in the spring the snow would be packed into hard banks from plowing. As the sun moved higher, the ruts from our vehicles dug deeper, exposing the dirt road below. But the water would remain trapped in the ruts, unable to escape through the iced snowbanks. So we would chop holes in the ice, making little rivulets for the water to move off the driveway.

I noticed – though at the tender age of 14 and never having heard of Global Warming, I didn’t realize the significance – as the water drained, it cut the channels deeper. But where mud had splashed on the snow and ice, the running water also cut the channels wider.

I later learned the mud had darkened the snow, which absorbed more sun-heat, which melted the ice and snow, which exposed more mud to be splashed, to absorb more sun-heat, to melt more ice and snow. Which was a mixed blessing to a kid who lived next to a lake in the north woods. Soon the two-acre garden plot would be ready for plowing, meaning the ice would leave the lake and the water would become warm enough for skinny dipping after a day of picking rocks and weeds from the two-acre family garden.

But in Greenland, as Stahl noted, it’s the same cycle on a larger scale. The scientific evidence is in: burning carbon-based fuels is weaving a blanket over the home globe, sealing in heat the way a down sleeping bag wraps a winter mountain climber. The warmth melts the ice and snow, exposing dark blue water where there once was white ice and snow. The ice melts, exposing more dark land and water … and the receding ice allows more exploration for the aforementioned carbon-based fuel … and the planet gets warmer.

Here in the Susquehanna River Valley, according to Andy Gavin, Deputy Executive Director of the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, “It’s gonna get warmer, it’s gonna get wetter, and you’re gonna have a lot more intense storms and short duration intense droughts.”

The SRBC has authority over water usage along the Susq, and needs to keep track of the quantity and quality of water flowing along the river course. According to Gavin, data indicates much more intense change over the past two decades.

Humans have made this happen, and it’s up to humans to do something about it. Waiting for God to clean it up is a bit like mom and dad cleaning up the kids toys after they’ve strewn them around the house and yard.

Yup. Didn’t happen in my house, either.


  1. David mills

    May 8, 2018 at 11:51

    I love your story here John!

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