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We are being told that the current flooding in the Midwest is unprecedented – but I wonder. In his book, “The End of Nature,” Bill McKibben muses that our view of life has been based on the concept that nature is eternal, beautiful and varied, changing slowly if at all. We have tried to understand the extent of its variability by compiling record temperature, rainfall, droughts, storms, etc. But now, with the human introduction of carbon dioxide and the like into the atmosphere, we have finally changed our world so that nothing can ever again be totally natural. All meteorological records are probably less an indication of nature’s variability than of human-induced change. McKibben’s words sound ever louder in our ears: “By the end of nature, I do not mean the end of the world. The rain will still fall and the sun shine, though differently than before. When I say ‘nature’ I mean a certain set of human ideas about the world and our place in it. But the death of those ideas begins with concrete changes in the reality around us – changes that scientists can measure and enumerate. More and more frequently, these changes will clash with our perceptions, until, finally our sense of nature as eternal and separate is washed away, and we will see all too clearly what we have done ee
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