An elegy for what we'll miss

Opinion: Columns

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By John Hubbuch

My good friend and editor Ken Trainor wrote a column last month, "Will WJ make it to 40?" [Viewpoints, Feb. 5] I'm not sure if the paper will still be around in six years, but I am sure we would miss it if it were gone. Where else will this community get objective, detailed reporting about local government, politics, schools, business and sports?
 But Ken's column got me thinking about other things we'll miss when they're gone. Heraclitus, my favorite pre-Socratic philosopher, reminds us that change is the inevitable constant of our lives, but that doesn't mean we won't mourn what is lost.
 I get it that cultural preferences change and that all the old white guys who shaped Western culture for 500 years must give way to a more diverse canon. So I suppose our children and grandchildren must read Toni Morrison instead of Charles Dickens in high school English classes, but they will miss the villainy of Uriah Heep, the sweet commitment of Little Dorritt, and the resilience of Nicholas Nickelby. I suspect, in the not too distant future, opera and symphony will be limited and confined to the very largest of our cities and will be for the enjoyment only of the very wealthy. Locally, the Hemingway Museum and Birth Home will be missed.
 But what we will miss most is our natural world. Around the planet, species are dying everywhere. At least half the turtles, a third of the amphibians, a quarter of the mammals and an eighth of the birds on this fragile orb face the risk of extinction in the near future. We will miss the islands of Mauritius and Jamaica. We will miss glaciers. We will miss the flight of the butterflies to Mexico. We will miss the Great Barrier Reef. The list of the missed will grow.
 Closer to home in the Midwest, global warming will result in a diminution — or elimination — of our seasonal experience. The crisp fall days of sweaters, fire pits and apple picking will be replaced by summer in November because July will just be too hot to do anything outdoors. See Phoenix. We can take our kids to see butterflies at the zoo if the zoo can import a batch. Catching lightning bugs on a summer eve will be a fond memory. There will be less skiing and fewer White Christmases. Our days will be different than they ever were before. Our world will be turned upside down.
 The great Zadie Smith, in her essay "Elegy for a Country's Seasons," wrote: "Sing an elegy for the washed away. For the cycles of life, for the saltwater marshes, the houses, the humans — whole islands of humans. Going, going gone!"

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