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Sea Change

Global warming is real, but maybe Florida’s loss will be our gain.
A man welcoming people on boats from an Indiana beach due to sea change

Illustration by Ryan Snook

A COLLEGE PROFESSOR recently told me the world would end in a blazing inferno in 50 years because of global warming. He kept mentioning he was a college professor, as if that made his prediction more authoritative. Except he taught sports administration, so I didn’t take his fears as seriously as I might if he had taught, oh, say, climate science. I know climate change is real, but in 50 years, I’ll be 111, which is to say dead. So it’s hard to get worked up about it. Plus, I remember when I was a kid and was told an explosion in population would cause hundreds of millions of people to starve to death in the 1970s, except it didn’t, mostly because educational opportunities for women expanded and birth control became more accessible. It turns out women have fewer children when they have a say in reproduction. Who would have thought?

When I was a kid, a boy in our town named Donny got blamed for everything. Every TP’d tree, every soaped window, every stolen bicycle, every spraypainted sidewalk was laid at Donny’s feet. After “Good morning!” and “How are you?” the most common phrase in our town was “Damn that Donny.”

Climate change has become our Donny. Every drop of rain, every hot day, every flake of snow, every clap of thunder is blamed on climate change, whose consequences will affect everyone, albeit unevenly. Scientists predict ocean levels will rise 12 inches in the next 30 years, flooding most of Florida while Indiana will sit pretty, 699 feet above sea level. Of course, as the oceans rise, so will Lake Michigan, possibly washing away Michigan City, otherwise known as the Terre Haute of the North, but that’s a loss we can bear.

It’s hard to be against something that rids us of Florida, it being the most annoying state in the union. Not that Indiana doesn’t have it moments, what with the carnival of clowns that is our state legislature. But if climate change is as bad as sports administrators warn us, I predict other Americans will flock here in droves. With our ample supply of fresh water, our scarcity of wildfires, our absence of hurricanes and tsunamis, and our lack of calving icebergs, we are ideally situated to thrive in the decades ahead. Before long, Floridians will head north, hats in hand, begging us to take them in, which we will do because we are virtuous and kind and don’t hold grudges. Of course, I’ll be moving to Canada, because who wants to live among Floridians?

Given Indiana’s long association with odd weather, it’s almost as if God has been preparing Hoosiers for climate change all along. A little extra rain, what’s that to us? A dash of drought, we’ve been there before. Polar-like winters, no big deal. Sweltering summers, been there, done that. I’ve always believed Indiana had a grander destiny than other Americans thought possible, and now it turns out God had a special purpose for us, to be the new Eden from whence all life shall spring. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Florida.

There may be other migrants headed our way. South and Central Americans, displaced by droughts and floods, could move north to the United States and Canada. Some people get their knickers in a twist about that and march with tiki torches, chanting that they won’t be replaced. But the browning of America doesn’t bother me, at least not nearly as much as racism and xenophobia do. We white people will learn a little Spanish, our brothers and sisters to the south will learn a little English, our children will marry one another, and we’ll have the most brilliant and beautiful grand-children, some of whom will figure out the crisis of global warming and save the world. Problem solved. 

Philip Gulley is a Quaker pastor, author, and humorist. "Back Home Again" chronicles his views on life in Indiana.

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