What a Conspiracist and My First Graders Taught Me

Eric Robertson
Similar to the ones I saw. The white beyond the lines are dispersed trails.


















I have a friend who was recently visiting from the East Coast. He had just been in LA going to a Chemtrail conference.  According to Wikapedia (I realize not everyone thinks this source is the authority on things), Chemtrail is a conspiracy theory that holds that some trails left by aircraft are actually chemical or biological agents deliberately sprayed at high altitudes for purposes undisclosed to the general public in secret programs directed by government officials – a theory not accepted by the scientific community, which states that they are just normal contrails.

Contrails, short for condensation trails, are long, thin, artificial clouds that sometimes form behind aircraft, most often triggered by the water vapor in the exhaust of it’s engines.

Before my friend’s visit I had not given con or chemtrails much thought. If I had, it was probably to think that whatever they are, they aren’t good for our environment in much the same way that car exhaust isn’t.  That is still largely my opinion and I don’t put much faith in the chemtrail conspiracy. But without discounting it entirely, I’d like to tell you what happened this past Thursday to amplify my concerns.

Everyday I have calendar time in my first grade class. We go over the days of the week, the date, the number of days we’ve been in school and we record the weather by drawing in on our calendar.

In the Bay Area, it is common to have clouds in the morning and for those clouds to drift away or dissipate by the afternoon. Our calendar shows this occurrence more often than the opposite—a clear morning and clouds coming in later in the day.

However, 9:45 Thursday morning proved to be sunny with clear, blue skies. We record sunny days with a big orange or yellow sunball drawn with or without rays.

Fifteen minutes later we went out to recess and then when that ended by about 10:20, we were all lined up to go to our once a week computer class, which is also my precious once a week, 50-minute prep time.

The three first grade classes all line up like rays on the asphalt extending out from our big redwood tree. The other classes had gone into their rooms. Mine was the only one left outside. I was inside with the door open, making sure everyone who had brought a lunch had put it in our laundry basket, collecting some items for copying and getting the hand sanitizer to give to kids before lunch (since our public schools no longer support hand washing with drying towels or air dryers, soap or warm water).

Then I heard the kids screaming – Oh look look look. Excited oohs and aahs rose from the line. At first I thought, well that could be a seagull, or a piece of floating plastic—just about anything will excite first graders. But the excitement was sustained and became louder so finally, I thought, this is something I’ve got to see. I managed to grab everything I needed and raced outside shutting the door behind me. High in the sky there was a jet plane leaving a long trail extending south to north. Some of the kids were saying Ooh it’s a rocket. Others were saying no it’s a plane. I said, yes it’s a JET plane.  It was an amazing site indeed, one that most adults have seen thousands of times until it is no longer amazing.

We began walking to the main building where our computer lab is and as we were walking in another jet came high overhead, east of the last one but also going south to north. Seeing a second plane was amazing, but already perhaps, not so amazing as the first.

I dropped the kids off and did my copying and when I came back out side, there were now about four more contrails in the sky running, though perhaps not originating, south to north. Now, thinking back on the conspiracy theories of chemtrails my friend talked about, I was no longer non-plussed, but shocked and amazed. The original two lines were beginning to spread out while the other four were still tight. 

I have a reactionary side to myself and so I called my wife, Leah. I told her what I was seeing and asked her to go outside and look at the sky where she was. (At home, about 7 miles due south of my work.) She basically saw the same thing as me.

Then I started to rattle off about how all these planes were going in the same direction at almost the same time, blanketing the sky in what seemed to be a concerted effort. Being the more reasonable of the two, she said well, there are a lot of planes going places at this time in the morning. I argued that they were at a high altitude not taking off or landing in Oakland or San Francisco. Then my own logic got the best of me. Yes but they could be going to Portland or Seattle or Vancouver. They could have departed from San Diego or LA. How little I know about the skies and it’s traffic. Still I was amazed.

I walked outside and now the four additional contrails were spreading across the sky. What had been a clear day was now becoming cloudy. High thin clouds for sure, but blanketing the sky nonetheless.

After lunch I switched students with my partner teacher--I teach in a dual-language school and the students get Spanish half the day and English the other half, so I teach two classes of 28 and 26 students respectively. (Thanks for holding out on that class-size reduction California…NOT!)

Anyway, since I have two classes a day, we do calendar and weather twice a day. Now for the afternoon, we looked out the window and recorded the weather. Sunny had turned to partly cloudy. The blue sky was now filled with white brush strokes and areas of solid white.

I began to ponder the significance of this. Chemtrails be damned. Contrails are enough to worry about.

Back at my computer I turned to Wikapedia once more. It turns out that studies have shown that contrails trap outgoing earth radiation more than they reflect incoming sun radiation. The net overall effect of contrails is earth warming.

However, a study done on weather after the 3 days of planes being grounded after September 11, 2001 showed the largest recorded increase in the diurnal temperature range (DTR) in 30 years. That is a contradiction I  don’t understand. It seems like the temperature range would decrease without the planes.

            Without knowing more, I think it can be safely said that contrails are effecting our weather. They are turning sunny blue skies white.

            Newton’s law of motion (thanks again Wikapedia) states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Couldn’t this be put in terms of our environment? We don’t exist in our environment without changing it. But shouldn’t we choose to impact it as little as possible?

I wish our government would take this more seriously. Fracking, drilling, pipelines, industrial emissions, transportation, etc. There is a lot to get in order. It seems we are forever making excuses to put off facing the inevitable fact that we are poisoning the planet that sustains our life. To stop doing this we will have to change the way we do things which may include making sacrifices to our “lifestyle”.


Related items:


About Eric Robertson

Eric Robertson's picture

Some Information
Eric Robertson is the author of Whatever Comes of Not Knowing. Former longtime resident, journalist and organizer in the Tenderloin he now teaches first-grade and lives in a house with a yard. Robertson's stories draw on observations of life in the inner city and on his early years growing up in the South.