Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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Charles Owens

June 6, 2012

Snakes, zombies and global warming regional strongholds: Fact or fiction?

As an avid fan of all things science fiction, I have been puzzled by a few headlines as of late that have seemingly blurred the lines between fact and fiction.

While scanning the Associated Press wire Monday morning for stories to be uploaded to our website, I came across one story in particular that really caught my attention. It detailed a new report that basically reinforced what I’ve been saying for years — that the beautiful mountains of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia serve as sort of a buffer zone protecting us from natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes and other calamities. But this particular story was a little different. It said the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia would also be resilient to drought, rising temperatures, and other threats associated with climate change, more commonly known as global warning.

But we aren’t alone, according to the report. The Clinch Mountain in neighboring Southwest Virginia is also immune to the threat of climate change, as well as other pockets of the Commonwealth throughout the eastern part of the state.

So basically — if the sky is, in fact, falling as the Obama administration would lead us to believe and as the ancient Mayans predicted so many years ago — the best place to seek shelter is apparently right here in the coalfields of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia.

But when you stop and think about it, that doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Because we still mine coal right here in southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia, and isn’t coal, and other fossil fuels, the real reason that global doom is upon us? So shouldn’t our water and air already be toxic instead of safe from the looming effects of climate change?

The AP report identified our region as a “stronghold,” or an area that could provide habitat to a variety of plants and animals under the extreme climate changes that many scientists say are now looming. These so-called strongholds in the coalfields of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia would also provide sources of clean drinking water and other resources critical for human survival, the report added.

Wow. That’s a pretty strong statement. Do the authors of this particular report know something that we should be told about? Has burning coal, and other fossil fuels, already sealed our doom? Did the ancient Mayans foresee the folly of our ways so many years ago?

The study in question came from the Nature Conservancy. Michael Lipford, the executive director of the conservancy’s Virginia chapter, told the AP that the so-called stronghold regions of the nation will be “critical to all life as the threats to climate change continue to grow.” He added that the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia, and the Clinch Mountain in Southwest Virginia, could serve as a breeding ground and seed bank for many plant and animal species that otherwise may not be able to find a suitable habitat due to the threat of climate change. I guess that is comforting to know. But I’ll still keep my emergency disaster preparedness kit on standby just in case.

As many of our long-time readers know, I have somewhat of a middle-of-the-road opinion about global warming. I don’t dispute it, but I would love to see a few more facts from someone in a position of authority explaining why the sky is suddenly falling now. As many folks have correctly argued, our planet historically has gone through periods of warming and cooling. At the moment, it would appear we are going through a warming period. But just not warm enough to get our temperatures at night about 50 degrees (even though it is June!), and not warm enough to get that stubborn little thermometer at the Mercer County Airport to climb above 89 degrees. But I digress. Back to the report in question.

The alarming findings of looming climate change from the Nature Conservancy came only days after a week of somewhat unusual headlines across the nation and region that have included so-called zombie attacks and a fatal snake bite at a religious service. It’s enough to make a person feel like they have suddenly slipped into the Twilight Zone.

I mean look what happens. I take a well-deserved week off from work, and people start eating each other. No it isn’t funny. Those were tragic headlines. But how else do you describe the so-called cannibalistic zombie attacks? And it is the national media that has labeled these events as zombie attacks.

Snakes. Zombies. Global warming. So-called regional strongholds that will allow for a continuation of human and plant life as climate change tightens its boiling noose around our planet. It all sounds like a bad Syfy Channel Saturday night movie. But it isn’t. I’m talking about real headlines that have appeared in our newspaper over the past couple of days. Fact or fiction? Apparently it is up to you to decide for yourself.

I’m still sitting on the fence at the moment as it relates to climate change. But I’m pretty sure we can safely classify “The Walking Dead”  as fiction only.

Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s assistant managing editor. Contact him at

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