Icarus’ wings and global warming things
Before there was MacGyver, a television character who seemingly could build almost anything with spare parts just lying around, there was Daedalus. He was one of those toga-wearing, bearded Greek dudes who found himself imprisoned, along with his son, Icarus, in a tower on the island of Crete. He was kept there to prevent his telling the public the secret of the Labyrinth, a really big word for a giant maze. If you use the word labyrinth with your friends, they will either think you are really smart or a dork who plays Dungeons & Dragons.
To ensure that Daedalus never escaped, even if he somehow was able to slip past his guards and out of the tower, war ships patrolled the waters around the island. The only way he could have been more trapped is if he had been waiting for the guy to install his cable sometime between 10 and 4.
Old Daedalus was a pretty smart fellow! Living in a tower, he observed the birds soaring around him. One thing you are going to get in a tower is a surplus of feathers. He starts collecting them. Even though it takes a long time, he finally has enough feathers. Using wax, he crafts a set of feathered wings for his son and himself. They are going to fly right over the heads of their guards and far above the warships to freedom!
Now, being a good father, like most dads are, I am sure that he told his son to jump off the tower first. That, after all is what sons are for. It worked! Still, Icarus was a young man. Young people have not changed that much over the centuries. When dear old dad starts telling a kid something, after awhile, dad gets tuned out because what does he know? Adults have always looked at kids and wondered what is the world coming to? We are trusting the future of the world to these bozos?
When you are a teenager you think everyone should listen to you. As you age, you are thankful, that for the most part, nobody did.
Daedalus tells his son to remember the wings are fragile and to simply fly to the mainland. Icarus discovers, like a sports car or a young woman your parents would not approve of, wings are fun things! He begins to soar higher and higher into the heavens. Well, the sun is a pretty hot thing, hotter than a hot cheese pizza that burns the roof of your mouth. The wax holding Icarus’s wings together softens, melts, and, before his father can do anything, he falls from the sky to his death.
Today, all Icarus would have to do for his wings to melt is just walk outside. I don’t know if you have noticed, but it is pretty hot out there. It seems like we have already had two months of August and we haven’t even used up all the fireworks from the 4th of July. We missed the whole spring thing and went right to standing in front of the open refrigerator door for an extra second or two because it feels so good. The grass is brown. Cobwebs are starting to cover lawnmowers. Rivers and streams are so dry, you expect the fish to be holding signs saying, “Will work for water.”
The story of Icarus is a moral regarding hubris, haughtiness and arrogance. We don’t need a story of wings of wax to learn this lesson. We just have to check our rain gauge and thermometer. Now, one drought doesn’t prove anything other than how unpleasant sweaty, clingy underwear is. We have had droughts before, and it will rain again. Given my luck, it is probably raining as you read this.
Still, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to notice a pattern. Droughts are more frequent. Our ice caps are melting. Sea levels are rising. Once in a century floods are now popping up every decade or so. Hurricanes are more severe. Our military, not exactly a bunch of tree hugging hippies, are developing response plans for wars due to climate change. Welcome to a world created out of our hubris!
Just because you have eaten French fries and French toast, and maybe done a little French kissing a time or two doesn’t mean your opinion of a French translation matters. If we have learned anything from the Internet over the last year-and-a-half, it is that science is not a populist endeavor. In fact most of us struggle to understand even basic scientific terms or even how it works.
Yet, too many of us think we know more than the experts in the fields of science, even more than scientists who have spent their whole lives studying. If the tale of Daedalus and Icarus were rewritten today, it would end the same way for the boy. Yet, you and I are Daedalus. It would be our hubris that caused him to fall from the sky. I hope I am wrong about that. Only we, through hard work, can alter that ending.