Editorial: Notes on the state of Rappahannock’s future

“There’s no Planet B.” The catchy phrase is often heard from environmentalists in their war of words with climate-change deniers. That notion is turned on its head for the conceptual premise of the new movie “Interstellar,” this holiday season’s blockbuster:

As Earth becomes uninhabitable, a physicist, played by Michael Caine, is working on a plan to transport mankind to a new planetary home through a time/space wormhole. But first a NASA pilot, played by Matthew McConaughey, must rocket through the wormhole and across the galaxy to scout out which planet could best serve as mankind’s new home.

In some curious ways, Rappahannock County seems like a miniature Planet B — an oasis, a refuge from rising, plastic-polluted, acidified seas and collapsing ecosystems, not to mention the political turmoil and dysfunction bred from uncertainty about the future. But Rappahannockers should beware of becoming too complacent, according to a new book published last month by the University of Virginia Press.

It’s called “Virginia Climate Fever: How Global Warming Will Transform Our Cities, Shorelines, and Forests.” The author is Stephen Nash, who teaches journalism and environmental science at the University of Richmond. “This is the most important book about the commonwealth’s environment since Thomas Jefferson’s ‘Notes on the State of Virginia,’” says one reviewer. What Rappahannock County can look forward to, according to the book:

An influx of “immigrants” from Tidewater Virginia seeking higher ground — making current concerns about illegal immigration seem minor by comparison. Given the statewide trend line of a 4.6-degree temperature rise per century, summers here will feel more like Alabama or Mississippi, but without the ameliorating effect of coastal breezes. Rappahannock will become fertile ground for infectious diseases, like dengue fever and chikungunya. Our forests and farms will become increasingly susceptible to invasive pests.

For more information, go online to virginiaclimatefever.com. Happy New Year!

Walter Nicklin