Forest to desert scenario no longer variety comedy sketch material
Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner were a very popular comedy duo who worked the clubs and television variety shows over 50 years ago. In one of their sketches, Reiner interviews Brooks, a 2,000-year-old man who has been around since biblical times. Brooks reminisces about the good old days when he was still young and how he used to run around freely and play hide and go seek in the Sahara Forest. Reiner corrects him with “You mean the Sahara Desert,” to which Brooks replies, “NOW it’s a desert.”
As we chug along towards the end of July 2023 and watch each scorching day become a Xerox photocopy of the day before, we must be starting to suspect that we are living out the punchline of the aforementioned joke. Aren’t we supposed to be the human inhabitants of a rainforest? Isn’t the joke supposed to be how June should be called “June-uary” on account of the fact that the sun rarely makes an appearance during that month and gumboots are usually the way we make our footwear fashion statements?
Let’s face it; we’re in the midst of a severe drought. If I was less sensitive to the feelings of other mammals, I would say that it’s drier than a camel’s fart out there. It doesn’t really matter whether we have totally bought into the climate change disaster scenario and believe that it’s already too late to take any kind of reparative action, or whether we deny the whole planet warming theory and view it all as a government conspiracy to control the population, in the end we are all going to be riding in the same lifeboat. The only question will be whether we will still have any oars or paddles left to allow us to move in any particular direction.
Fire, of course, is the biggest fear. Even as the writer of a supposedly mildly entertaining humour column, it’s hard to treat the subject of wildfires lightly. A look around the province, the country and the globe in general demonstrates the havoc and destruction caused by these infernos, which are at least partially the result of our lack of rain. If it wasn’t for the devastation resulting from floods, landslides and mudslides, we could almost rejoice at the thought of reliving the times of Noah’s ark when the rain came down for 40 days and 40 nights. I can almost imagine the rainwater pounding down in those 18.9-litre blue-tinged plastic bottles and bouncing along as they hit the ground.
Brooks and Reiner may not have been too far off the mark with their 2,000-year-old man sketch. Perhaps an enormous green Sahara oasis did exist way back then. Research has shown that natural phenomena known as the Milankovitch cycles affect changes in the earth’s orbit every 40,000-100,000 years and result in a planetary wobble, which causes the tilt of its axis to get all confused to the point that it doesn’t know which way it’s supposed to point. (I know about this because my wobble has quite often caused my personal axis to be thrown out of kilter.) It’s quite possible that these drastic alterations in weather patterns and the resulting rainfall may be the reason why the 2,000-year-old man had a forest in which to play instead of the parched desert that exists today.
Meanwhile, the leaves of our tomato plants curl in a desperate attempt to conserve the evaporation of precious drops of water, as our spinach and chard crops grow bitter and bolt to seed mere seconds after they’ve popped up out of the ground. Those lovely ponds that we had dug to provide summer swimming holes as well as year-round water reservoirs have now been reduced to muddy wading pools.
It’s all turning topsy-turvy. Glaciers are melting and large chunks are breaking off to form icebergs floating as if their sole purpose was to chill an ocean of Scotch. Whales are beaching themselves for no apparent reason and confused great white sharks are migrating to our northern neighbourhood in search of more familiar sea water temperatures.
Pity the poor salmon, which are desperately scrambling to make reservations for assured loading this coming autumn upon those sorry-looking fish ladders presently poking out from dry streams and parched river beds. Will they not feel like stranded tourists who have had their travel plans dashed by yet another ferry sailing cancellation? Right now, a salmon’s chances of reaching its happy spawning grounds are about as likely as the odds of survival for an upside-down crab at low tide.
How dry can it still get? It seems like each passing day brings a new record for high temperatures and low water levels. Municipalities and regional districts are racing each other to enact more stringent rules and regulations restricting water usage for wasteful behaviours such as lawn sprinkling and Super Soaker wars.
The lack of rain here on the West Coast even accelerates the wear and tear on our public roads as potholes and washboards are left behind after the dust has been sucked up and blown away by those of us driving or cycling along. The deteriorating scene reminds us of “the Dirty Thirties,” when drought conditions during the Depression caused thousands upon thousands of acres of fertile farmland topsoil from the American Great Plains to be scooped up and blown away, leaving nothing but barren dirt behind.
Nobody asked me, but I think I’m ready for this endless summer to take a time out. I will gladly accept a few days without any beach time or a dip in the lake in exchange for a nice little downpour that would help to revive our shrivelling environment. It might just be a drop in the bucket, but I’m willing to do my part to turn back the clock to the days of the Sahara Forest.
After all, maybe it’s time we stop burying our heads in the sand and begin to realize that we can’t see the forest for the lack of trees.