Gus, The Glow-In-The-Dark Gopher

Los Alamos

Thursday, February 2, demarcates the point in the calendar halfway between the winter solstice and spring equinox. In simpler times, (prior to anthropogenic green-house gases causing climate change with the resulting predictability of drought, fires, floods, and species extinction, but the rarely predictable weather) on this day—Groundhog Day—it would be up to the groundhog to partner with his shadow to determine the weather for the next six weeks.

Here in New Mexico, as many of you already know, we do not have groundhogs. Rather we have gophers. Bwazillions of gophers.  Los Alamos’s own rodent celebrity, the glow-in-the-dark gopher Gus, will see his shadow. How can we predict a shadow? He always sees his shadow, so just because he takes a look outside before going back into his hole, it doesn’t mean winter will stick around. After all, since he glows in the dark, his shadow is always with him, and not just a shadow, but a complete x ray. 

The fact that Gus is in his hole simply means he’s still busy burrowing through your lawn and garden and ripping up your tree roots. Besides, while wimpy Phil lives in a heated groundhog resort on Gobbler’s Knob, Gus lives beneath the radioactive-waste-filled barrels at TA-54 and eats the linings. Unlike Phil, Gus is a Rodent’s rodent. Gus is not afraid of his shadow. He ain’t afraid of nothin’. He’s a walking bomb. 

In simpler times, Punxsutawney Phil and his ilk could offer a prognostication by which we could plan for the next six weeks. In the 21st century, however, weather is not predictable—neither groundhog nor gopher can guide us.  With climate change, unless we as individuals do something about greenhouse gasses, the sea level will continue to rise, thus inundating coastal-population areas and sending all life-forms fleeing to the hills (and hey, you think housing prices in Los Alamos are high now! Wait until we have beach-front property), the West will continue to flood and burn, wars in Ukraine, the Mideast, and North Africa will never end, and the polar bear will be yet another extinct species.

The moral of the story (or, as we in Los Alamos would say: the conclusion from the analysis of these data) is: Gus knows what’s happening; we’re the ones who are clueless.  As our new (old) Congress works to yet again overturn all environmental safeguards including: The Clean Water Rule, Clean Power Plan, Endangered Species Act, the EPA’s pollution-control policies, food safety, water infrastructure and planning, toxic substances and safety—along with increasing fossil fuel extraction while defunding research on renewables, opening National Parks to private development and resource extraction, and ignoring the Climate Accord—we just sort of sit around and wait for a groundhog to tell us what to do.

Gus our Glow-in-the-dark Gopher knows what’s coming. He can’t stop it. Our species can. If we have the political will and self discipline to do take action. But if we don’t?  We can all celebrate Gopher Day.  At least they won’t go extinct.