Fri, Mar

Profanity In Service of Environmental Survival, And the Big Show In Soccer


GELFAND’S WORLD - I have a colleague who is not only a distinguished scientist, he is also what I would refer to as a gentleman and a scholar. Thus my surprise when, in response to some recent news on global warming, his comment: "We are so fucked!"

Mind you he didn't shout or wail, and it was not humorous. It was more like a statement of fact.

And meant to sound that way.

The clear point is that things are now getting to the point where another couple of degrees added to the seawater temperature, -- combined with a chance pattern of transcontinental winds -- could make for a hurricane season which would put Katrina to shame.

There is one more future news item which fits the WASF banner. And we've been warning about it right here in CityWatch for a couple of years. Remember that Heat Dome that settled over Texas and hung out for most of a week, making for record high temperatures and killing a dozen people? We get them here too. Those of us in volunteer groups like CERT are beginning to think of those events as heat emergencies. We're just now starting to think about reacting to a heat emergency the way we would react to a major earthquake or a spreading fire in an area full of refineries.

One of the things we are now recognizing is that a heat emergency is a whole different thing, and it's not the same as reacting to an earthquake.

For one thing, the earthquake is a brief event that lasts as much as 90 seconds if it's The Big One. There is a lot of damage in those 90 seconds and a lot of post-earthquake building collapsing, but that's the cause and effect of it all. When it's not those 90 seconds, things are quiet.

Now think about a heat emergency. Unlike that earthquake, there is plenty of trauma and discomfort that contines on and on and on. It is a chronic condition, if you are willing to think of it that way, and it goes on until we die or the weather condition goes away, or we find an air conditioned building. And all this assumes that the electricity is still working or the building has its own generator. Notice that heat emergencies tend to stress out the power plants (because everybody turns on an air conditioner if they have one) and that can lead to brownouts and blackouts.

So we have one more thing to worry about, along with the next pandemic and the chronic effects of global warming. We might be able to do something about it if we were to pull together, not only as the United States but as all mankind. Otherwise, WASF.

But Now on the Bright Side

Once again its the Women's World Cup for the game of soccer. Technically, it's the FIFA Women's World Cup, but I see no point in celebrating that ultra-corrupt organization. Instead, let's celebrate the game.

International women's soccer started to catch hold by the 1990s. Since that time, there have been 8 Women's World Cups. Depending on which adverb you want to pull out of the drawer, you might use a term like "miraculously" to describe the overall United States record. The New York Yankees over the entire World Series era did not win half the world championships. The U.S. women have.

That's 4 World Cup titles in 8 competitions. There's even a loss along the way that could potentially have been a win given a break or two.

Two Straight

That's the other issue that the sporting press is banging on. The Americans have won the last two. No women's team has won three straight (no men's team either, but that is another matter) so the possibility that it could happen is the headline.

In interviews, the members of this year's team speak calmly about seeing this as an opportunity rather than a burden. But they also know that as defending champs and currently rated number 1 in the world, every other team is gunning for them and will bring its best game and best players.

The U.S. opens on television against Viet Nam on Friday evening. This ought to be little more than a warmup for the U.S. -- if they don't put away VN by 3 or 4 goals, then we (their rooters) will have something to worry about. The first real test is against the Netherlands next Wednesday.

Note: Sometimes these advance prognostications are wrong. The World Cup opened Wednesday night (technically Thursday in New Zealand what with that pesky International Date Line thing) showcasing New Zealand against Norway. By historic standards, this should have been easy for Norway, which has been a longtime contender. New Zealand, meanwhile, had never won even one World Cup game. Well guess what? New Zealand outran and somewhat outplayed Norway and held on for a 1-0 victory in front of its hometown fans

Maybe Viet Nam will bring its game and do something to keep the score close. Friday 6 PM PDT.

Just for fun, let's talk about pressure and stepping up and all those cliches. In the 2019 World Cup, the U.S. was defending champs and (just to make things a little more nervy), there was a bit of bad blood between the team leader and the person who was President of the United States at the time. Megan Rapinoe, when asked about whether she would accept an invitation to the White House if they won, replied that she wasn't going to the F'n White House. This gave the occupant of that august structure the opportunity to deliver his own cracks, but perhaps uniquely in his career, he held the harsh to a minimum.

So what did the U.S. team do? They swept the opening round, not only winning all 3 games, but holding the opposition to zero goals. In the playoff rounds, they beat the world's best, giving up a total of 3 goals in 4 games, including a shutout in the championship final.

Notice that the 2019 team relied on superb defense and enough offense to win the close games. And that's where this year's team might have a problem. They've had a couple of injuries, most significantly to one of the world's great defenders. There is also the issue that the team is split approximately equally between veterans and newcomers to World Cup play. What this means to me is that they are not yet truly tested, and time will tell whether they have what it takes, particularly on defense. Perhaps after the Netherlands game there will be more to talk about.

(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected].)