116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
We took a little vacation time last week. But as a columnist, I’m always on duty.
So I scored an interview with the Gulf of Mexico.
I walked down to the edge of the water, gentle surf splashing over my bare feet. A fever of stingrays glided by close to shore. I told the gulf I had some questions.
“I generally don’t trust the mainland media,” she said.
But I’ve done multiple interviews with the Cedar River, which runs into the Mississippi and on down to the gulf. You’re like second cousins. You can trust me.
“Anyone willing to admit they talk to bodies of water must be telling the truth,” she said.
A family nearby packed up quickly and moved further down the beach, for some reason.
I wanted to ask you about the “Midwest water hose,” a phrase coined in a recent study by University of Iowa researchers explaining how gulf moisture fuels increasingly heavy rainfall events in Iowa, including flooding that occurred in 2019.
But this year, large parts of Iowa are experiencing persistent drought conditions. It seems like we either flood or bake.
Any chance you could turn the hose back on and maybe set it on a nice, predictable “medium?” How about washing us on the gentle cycle?
“Sorry, no,” the gulf said between wave crashes. “Climate change has turned up the heat in the atmosphere and my waters. When the Midwest hose turns on, it’s often set on deluge, epic or biblical. And my water’s getting dumped on the upper Midwest in heavier amounts. I’m visiting Iowa so much folks are wondering whether I’m running for president. Convey my apologies to the Cedar.
“Thunderstorm clusters,” she rumbled.
“Hold on, Mr. tacky Hawaiian shirt. Don’t blame me for your derecho. I catch enough hell for all the hurricanes.”
Got it. But what about our drought?
“Also, with climate change, droughts likely will be more frequent and potentially more intense. Again, there’s nothing I can do but sit here and steam,” she said.
“Why don’t your elected leaders do something?” the gulf asked.
Well, there is a climate bill in Congress. But it’s being stopped by a powerful filibuster.
It’s a Senate procedural … OK, never mind. I was hoping you’d be more help than Congress.
“Why should I help?” the gulf spit.
“Every year, Iowa sends a tidal wave of nitrates and phosphorus from cropland down the Mississippi and into my waters. It spawns an enormous dead zone, depriving aquatic life of oxygen. I hear a lot of big promises about cleaning up water, but nothing ever changes. As far as I’m concerned, you can all go sandbag yourselves.
“So are Iowa leaders doing anything about that?” the gulf asked.
Um, well … does repeatedly saying, “We all want clean water” count?
With that, the gulf swelled in anger. Waves rose and crashed around me. Lightning streaked across the sky. The little umbrella blew out of my drink. My straw hat sailed out to sea.
“Thanks for your time,” I yelled, while running for higher ground.
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