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November 6, 2008

Press Release: Bedford Bulletin

By John Barnhart

It always surprises me that Rick Howell is so concerned about global
warming. Last week, in his Liberal Agenda he listed this as one of the
serious challenges we face.

Mr. Howell is a good evolutionist who believes he's a monkey's uncle,
many times removed, of course. I've noticed, from some summertime
editions of his column, that his reading goes beyond English translations of
the works of Karl Marx and Fredrich Engles. Therefore, I think its safe to
assume that he's read, at the very least, articles in general interest
newspapers and magazines, some things about paleontology and geology.

The things that he's read should tell him that the earth's climate has
changed many times and human activity had nothing to do with these.

Go back 20,000 years, for example, and much of North America was
covered by continental glaciers. They came as far south as what today are
the northern tier of states in the U. S. Big hairy elephants roamed Virginia.
Mastodon skeletal remains have been found in various places at sundry
times in the Commonwealth. Thomas Jefferson, aware of these, wondered
if the Lewis and Clark expedition might find some still living during their
exploration of the newly acquired Louisiana Territory.

Humans had nothing to do with the global warming that melted the
glaciers. Some think that they may have had a hand in the demise of the big
hairy elephants and other Ice Age megafauna, we may have eaten them
faster than they could reproduce, but the climate change was totally natural.

Go back 100 million years or so and just about everything was different.
The mountains would have been different. Virtually all the animals
roaming about no longer exist. Large areas of the middle of the continent
were covered by a sea and the climate was quite different.

That is all long gone and humans had nothing to do with that climate
change. We hadn't been invented yet.

Go back far enough and there would have been nothing in this area that any
of us would even remotely recognize. Does Mr. Howell remember the
stromatolite found in the Boxley Quarry last summer? Stromatolites are
formed by mats of blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria. These
microbes have chlorophyll and produce oxygen via as a byproduct of
photosynthesis. They also secrete carbonate minerals which, mixed with
any sediment that gets mixed up with the bacterial mat, form layers of
stone. Living stromatolites are not common today. They are only found in
places that creatures that would eat them find inhospitable. This includes
tidal flats and highly saline environments.

Paleontologists and geologists from the Virginia Museum of Natural
History say that the area where the quarry is was a tidal flat 500 million
years ago when that stromatolite was growing. The shore would have been
to the west. Deep ocean water, not mountains, would have been to the east.
They also said that the tidal flat could have been 10 miles wide. Tides
would have been pretty dramatic because the moon was much, much closer
to the earth then. Even the night sky would have been unlike anything we
see today,with an enormous moon rising over the eastern horizon.

A true believer in evolution, like Mr. Howell, shouldn't be concerned about
climate change. From his evolutionary point of view, the climate has
changed in the past and will change in the future. Seriously thinking that
we can prevent that from happening is just hubris.

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