Science and Aging

Deborah Venable



There is one unmistakable advantage to growing older.  You have collected more first-hand data on which to base hypotheses than the younger generation has managed to accumulate. 


The scientific method requires us to postulate theories, (hypothesize), based on data collected and then set about to try to prove those theories wrong.  After all, contrary to what elitist educators tell children these days, theories cannot be proven – they can only be proven wrong!  That is why they are called, “theories” and not, “facts.”


As our fearless leader wings his way to Copenhagen this week to continue his agenda of disparaging America’s contributions to the modern world as the best role model for economic success via labeling his own country as greedy and thoughtless, and perhaps signing away the last vestiges of individual liberty to a world court of elitist, eco-fascists, I thought it was high time to apply a little real science to the subject they will all be discussing.  Wow!  That’s a mouthful, but none-the-less true.


The subject goes by many misnomers.  Climate Change, Global Warming, Catastrophic Climate Armageddon – you get the picture.  We’re all supposed to keep track of our carbon footprints, turn them into sellable, buyable, tradable, and taxable commodities so that we can feel good about ourselves and save the planet in the process.  If we refuse to do this, we will be considered greedy, stupid fools who are not good stewards of the world we live in.  We should be treated like the slaves we will become if these folks have their way.


Here’s the theory:  the earth was doing just fine until man showed up and started messing everything up.  It really got bad when we discovered and started using energy sources to advance our lifestyles through actions that dumped carbon waste into the atmosphere at unprecedented amounts in the last couple of centuries, a.k.a. the “industrial revolution.”


The “unprecedented amounts” part bothers me, because I’m sure that Rome burning thing pretty much polluted much of that little corner of the world a long time ago. 


I also have to wonder what man was using to measure the carbon footprints back in the cave man days, but, then, the dinosaurs turning to oil thing hadn’t been that well thought out at that time I’m sure.  At least incandescent light bulbs weren’t being used then, so the earth was probably still quite healthy – even with all the smoke from fires.  I wonder, though, were there night shifts back then?  And if there were, did evil capitalists insist that “industrial caves” be as well-lit 24 hours a day? 


Okay, all that aside, I have some theories to postulate based on observations acquired throughout my ever-extending time on the planet. 


I grew up well south of the Mason-Dixon Line in a gentler temperate zone than, say, most of the big, east coast cities up north.  It was hot in the summer and cold in the winter.  It snowed every winter, several times deep enough that my bootless feet had to be clad in plastic bags or galoshes for me to make the trek to school without having cold wet feet all day after I got there.  I would have to repeat the process when it was time to walk back home because the snow would still be on the ground in most cases.  Shoveling the sidewalks was a duty that usually fell to my brother – and it took him awhile.  We looked forward to each and every snow because it meant two things – my father didn’t have to work, (since he was a structural ironworker) and my mom would make us that all-time favorite, snow cream, as a special treat.  (However, the schools seemed to always stay open no matter what.)  Snow days?  What’s that??


At the tender age of eighteen, I married and moved with my sailor husband to Great Lakes, Illinois.  I found out real quick that I hadn’t a clue about what winter was really all about!  I got sick of snow cream long before Christmas!  They actually plowed the roads up there and by spring thaw you could see the remnants of the first snow, (now quite black) because it had been around all winter!  Snow boots were a necessary item of wardrobe – and they’d better be at least knee high or you’d suffer frostbite from the snow that would find its way to your toes from the top down.  Double digit, below zero, temperatures were commonplace – sometimes for days at a time! 


Where it had been fun to crunch at the thin sheet of ice that would form at the edges of the Tennessee River where I grew up, people actually skated on lakes and ponds in Great Lakes!  I had experienced a few novel White Christmases in childhood, but they were no big deal up north!  Snowmobiles were the preferred method of getting around in many places.  I’d never even seen one down south!


So I postulated the theory that some places just get colder than others in the winter.  Hmmmm, imagine that!


Summer came to Great Lakes and I was able to postulate another theory.  No matter how cold the winter, the summer more than made up for it.  It was hot, sticky and quite miserable! 


Then we moved west to San Diego, California.  I discovered the desert for the first time.  Rain was such an oddity that people literally had no idea how to drive in it!  Windshield wipers would be almost useless because they would have dry rotted since the last time they were needed!  Radio stations would warn folks to slow down because the streets were slick from accumulated “dry” oil deposits being re-lubricated by the rain.  Duh!  I had a new theory to postulate.  It doesn’t rain as much in some places as it does in others, (with the sub-theory that folks ought to get out of their familiar environments once-in-awhile so they could experience these differences first hand!)


With our next duty assignment back to Great Lakes, I had an opportunity to further explore the first theory for the next three years.  Colder in the winter – yep, you bet!  Miserable in the summer, with the extra added misery of one of the rainiest seasons I’d ever experienced.  We couldn’t even harvest half our gardens because they rotted in the fields from the overabundance of rain!  Hmmmmm, climate change, for me, was an ongoing experience.


When my husband finally exchanged his uniform for civies, we headed to another big climate change – Phoenix, Arizona.  There, we discovered such quaint colloquialisms as “snowbirds” and “Monsoon season” in the desert.  Snowbirds are those fortunate older folks who are lucky enough to maintain their ideal environments by seasonally changing their residences - north in the summer and desert in the winter.  No snow, no real cold, no fry an egg on the sidewalk, dehydrating one hundred and something degree days that make you force liquids to keep from turning into a baked prune!  It’s easy to pick out the snowbirds in the winter in Phoenix.  They’ll be the ones in shorts and t shirts when it’s 30º outside!  Monsoon season, we discovered, is what separates the folks who have only “swamp coolers” on their houses from the ones smart enough to have invested in air conditioners!  Swamp coolers will keep a house in Phoenix fairly comfortable in single and low double digit humidity, but when it climbs into the twenties and beyond – forget it!  Oh, and I also learned that thunder and lightening “storms” are not necessarily accompanied by rain.  However, flash floods are a real thing in the desert – and when it DOES finally rain, they can be deadly!  Also, please, folks, replace those dry rotted windshield wiper blades BEFORE the rains hit! 


After sixteen years in the environs of Arizona, which included some beautiful getaways to the mountains where seasons DO change more, we decided we’d had enough of the extreme summer temperatures, so we moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in California.  If there is a more perfect place to live most comfortably, I don’t know where it is.  But that’s just me.  Ah, for the smell of wineries in the early morning! 


After thirteen years there, it was only the political climate that drove us away.


In the end, it was my husband’s decision to return to the place of my roots.  He had grown up in the northeast and didn’t wish to repeat the winters up there, so Alabama it was!  We discovered changing seasons once again, but fewer climatic extremes than we’d had elsewhere.  Another interesting note, every year has been different.  Some years wet, some years drier – some hotter, colder, more snow, less snow.  Ask the farmers and old timers for predictions if you want any kind of accuracy!  I’ve seen it snow in May and not rain for a whole month in the summer.  Oh, and snow days have been added to the schools’ schedules.  What’s with that??


I know this is turning into quite a tome, so here are a few more theories:


Based on my own personal data collected, I could say that the “coldest winters on record” were those four years I spent in Great Lakes, Illinois.  The “hottest summers on record were those sixteen years I spent in Phoenix, Arizona.  The overall “mildest winters and summers on record” were the thirteen years I spent in northern California.  The most diverse “change” patterns on record were the, so far, the 25 years I lived in Alabama.


If I really want to manipulate the data I could say that the “coldest” weather I have ever felt was a day in San Francisco in the summertime!  (This is loosely based on a comment from the movie, “48 Hours”.)  That day I left the East Bay, where I lived, clad only in summer attire, and experienced first hand what Nick Nolte meant with that line when I arrived at Fisherman’s Wharf!


So, I’ve postulated my theories and have yet to disprove ANY of them.  I am sure there are some reputable scientists out there that will contact me any day now to do a paper for peer review so that other reputable scientists can pick it apart and attempt to “prove” that I don’t know what I’m talking about.  I would then have to question their methods of data collection, any “tricks” they might employ, or any “manipulations” they might use to discount my own data collection.  Hmmmm, but really – what’s with all those snow days, people??


When Copenhagen gets ready to clean up after all those heads of state that have assembled to save the planet, I hope they can get a good price on all those carbon credits being spent.  Blowhards, after all, are some of the most polluting people on the planet!


To my fellow humans all over the world – stop being so arrogant and ignorant!  Scientists especially – stop trying to substitute theories for facts!  We, who have lived for a while, know that it is not the climate you are trying to control!  If you want to revert back to slave holding, that’s going to be a hard sell!  We, in America, outlawed that a long time ago.  By the way – THAT is a fact!



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