THE OPPENHEIMER REPORT (August 24, 2020)
Lately, the sky-is-falling-bad-news is virtually inescapable. It's not bad enough that we are in the midst of a life-threatening global pandemic, but we also see and hear it everyday; the planet is warming. Climate change is melting the polar ice caps. As sea levels rise, coastal communities across the planet will suffer. Wildfires are obliterating entire communities and ecosystems, floating islands of plastic waste the size of small cities are threatening ocean wildlife, coral reefs are disappearing, destroyed in large part by man's interference, overfishing destroying all sustainable life in the ocean, an ever-growing population of invasive, enormous Asian carp are jumping out of the water and attacking boaters, giant killer hornets are the black plague for our precious bee populations, infestations of disease-carrying ticks are on the rise, West Nile Virus-carrying mosquitoes are once again a threat to Muskoka, etc. To top it off, now I have to worry about toxic algae?!?
The other day, while I was swimming in our lake, I felt something weird and slimy on my legs. I looked down and saw what looked like a cloud of bright green algae, the likes of which I had never before seen on our lake. I've heard reports about the dangerous blue-green algae blooms, and of course, my mind immediately gravitated to the worst possible scenario: HAB (Hazardous Algae Bloom). I flew out of the water, ran to my cell phone, and immediately googled "poisonous algae blooms" to see if what I encountered in the water was a real threat. Apparently, it was not, but thinking the worst is how I am thinking these days. When I lived along the Lake Erie shoreline, there was algae all over the place, and I never worried about it. Sometimes it stunk, but it never crossed my mind that it was poisonous. Maybe I've been spending too much time indoors, and maybe that is driving me crazy. By the way, that is not a long drive. There have been a few reports of dangerous algae blooms on other lakes in this region, and that had me worried. Warmer water apparently facilitates its growth. I am now better educated about toxic algae blooms thanks to some edifying videos on YouTube. I know, ... I'm becoming Debbie Downer, that Rachel Dratch character from Saturday Night Live. I've been so bombarded by bad news, that I can't seem to relax anymore. This algae bloom threat is definitely a concern for us, because like many other waterfront residents up here, we draw our household water from our lake. The toxins from HAB algae cannot be boiled away, or filtered, or killed in any way to make lake water potable. I don't know, maybe we're all making this worse by the increased phosphates we pump into the water. It might be time for us to drill a well.
It is becoming an ever more popular opinion that all of this bad news is a long overdue wake-up call for humanity. I for one realize I have been ignoring my impact on the planet. I think about it every time I open some over-wrapped food item, or take our weekly load of garbage to the local dump. It is a sobering realization to watch our landfill grow exponentially higher and higher every year. The upside of all this bad news is that, in an effort to be more mindful of my impact on the environment, I have begun to notice and therefore appreciate nature more than ever before. On my personal Facebook page, today, I chose to post a cell phone photo of a wildflower found along our driveway. Lately, the simple things bring me the most joy.
As for the "new normal" and the circumstances in which we now find ourselves, I have one word: adaptation. Maybe I'll just wear a wetsuit with a mask and snorkel, all the time. If I swim, I won't have to worry about toxic algae, and if I go to the supermarket, I won't have to worry about any COVID-19 super-spreaders handling every piece of produce in the stores. I'll be covered from head to toe. Come to think of it, perhaps I should consider adding an oxygen tank for my supermarket outings. Then again, maybe I'll just use one whenever I'm out in public, anywhere. I hope you know I'm kidding ... sort of.
Written by Jamie Oppenheimer ©2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED