Harvey: Our Very Own Giant Rabbit

Posted on August 30, 2017

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Back in 1950, a popular film titled “Harvey” hit the theaters. Jimmy Stewart starred as a wealthy alcoholic man who starts having visions of a giant rabbit named Harvey.  Stewart, named Elwood P. Dowd, lives with his sister Veta and her daughter.  Needless to say, Veta worries that Elwood has gone insane. In the process of trying to have him committed, Veta admits that she occasionally sees Harvey, herself. Even the therapist assigned to help Elwood begins to have his own unwanted relationship with Harvey.

Skipping over a lot of the story line, Life in the Boomer Lane will get to the punchline: Harvey isn’t imagined at all.  He is a Pooka, a mischievous spirit in animal form, invisible to most, who has been sent to shake things up among a group of self-satisfied, clueless-about-relationship people. Harvey, an unreal being, through mayhem, enables the film’s characters to acknowledge what they hadn’t believed possible and to thus transform their lives.

We’ve just had our very own Harvey. This one, still raging, has been as difficult for people to comprehend as it was for the characters in the film to acknowledge the existence of a six-foot, three-inch tall rabbit. Like the character in the film, we believe that our Harvey came out of nowhere, an unreal, freak-of-nature-storm that comes along  only once-in-a-lifetime.

It is far too early to analyze what happened. We are still trying to save lives. But eventually, the questions will be raised. And some will ask if this particular storm might have been more than a random, albeit terrifying, event. Others will see a pattern here in the superstorms that have wreaked havoc within the last 10-15 years.

Scientists have already weighed in. Their conclusion is that Harvey the Hurricane would have been a terrible hurricane all on its own. But, within the context of climate change, it became a horrific one.  Skipping over a lot of scientific terms, LBL will repeat what you probably learned in high school: a hotter atmosphere holds more moisture. Even a one percent increase in warmth means a lot more rain.

The waters of the Gulf of Mexico are about 1.5 degrees warmer than they were from 1980-2010. One point five degrees may not sound like a lot, but it increases the intensity of the storm.  Roger Harribin, environmental analyst with bbc.com says “Environmental lawyers are questioning whether events like Harvey should still be referred to as ‘Acts of God’ or ‘Natural Disasters’ as they are made worse by emissions from fossil fuels.”   This is a pretty significant statement.  Like Harvey the Rabbit, this storm is very real and its intensity is of our own doing.

Like the characters in the film Harvey, it’s easier, at least at first, to deny that what we are seeing is real. It’s so much easier to chalk this up to weather being random, unpredictable, and fleeting. Most of us will continue to obsessively follow the Harvey drama on TV and on our cells.  We will cry when we see the elderly and the very young being rescued from flooded homes by heroes who left their own dry homes to help others. We will make donations, and, as the devastation continues, we will make even more.  We will shake our heads in fear and disbelief.

But, eventually, we will move on.  Our own lives will call us back to whatever it is we were doing before Harvey hit. After awhile, Harvey will become one of those terrible events like Sandy and Katrina that we are glad is over. We will leave those impacted by the hurricane to attempt to rebuild their lives from nothing. We will forget that many of those impacted by Katrina have still not done so, even 12 years later.

But, while we attend to our normal lives, the climate will continue to do what it has been doing.  And Harvey, or another version of Harvey, will be waiting. Another storm will occur, one that will harness the extra power given to it, compliments of climate change.  It will seem to come out of nowhere, it will rage, and it will impact most heavily on those who are the most vulnerable.

Harvey the Rabbit brought a message to the characters in the film, one that they thankfully heeded. Harvey the Hurricane is speaking to us now.

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Posted in: weather