Column: A Moral Tale for Groundhog Day

By Jody Benson
Los Alamos

Saturday, Feb. 2, demarcates the point in the calendar halfway between the winter solstice and spring equinox.

In simpler times, (prior to anthropogenic green-house gases causing climate change with the resulting unpredictability of atmospheric conditions) on this day—Groundhog Day—it would be up to the groundhog to partner with his shadow to determine the weather for the next six weeks.

Here in New Mexico, as many of you already know, we do not have groundhogs. Rather we have gophers. Los Alamos’s own rodent celebrity, the glow-in-the-dark gopher, Gus, will see his shadow.

Actually, he always sees his shadow, so just because he turns around and goes back into his hole, it doesn’t mean winter will come. After all, since he glows in the dark, his shadow is always with him, and not just a shadow, but a complete x ray.

The fact that Gus is in his hole doesn’t mean six more weeks of winter – he’s simply still busy burrowing through your lawn and garden, and ripping up your tree roots.

Besides, while wimpy Phil lives in a heated groundhog resort on Gobbler’s Knob, Gus lives beneath the radioactive-waste-filled barrels at TA-54 and eats the linings.

Unlike Phil, Gus is a Rodent’s rodent. Gus is NOT afraid of his shadow. He ain’t afraid of nothin’. After all, he’s a walking bomb.

In simpler times, Punxsutawney Phil and his ilk could offer a prognostication on what we could plan for in the next six weeks. In the 21st century, however, weather is not predictable—neither groundhog nor gopher can guide us.

With climate change, unless we as individuals do something about greenhouse gasses, the sea level will continue to rise, thus inundating coastal-population areas and sending all life-forms fleeing to the hills (and hey, you think housing prices in Los Alamos are high now!), the West will continue to burn, wars in the Mideast and North Africa will never end, and the polar bear will be yet another extinct species existing only as Beanie Baby replicas of its former magnificence.

The moral of the story (or, as we in Los Alamos would say: the conclusions from the analysis of these data)? Turn off your lights and down your heat, unplug your electronics, take the Atomic City Transit instead of your car to the ski hill, and enjoy the snow.

According to Gus, it’s probably the last time the ski hill will be open this year.

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