We've all been complaining a lot lately (not unjustifiably) about this past winter's seemingly interminable succession of snow, rain, ice, snow, ice storms ... not to mention how it just dragged on and on ...
We've observed in the nearly 10 years we've gardened at this house, that our winters have gotten increasingly erratic and just downright weird. We'd get one really harsh, cold and snowy winter that killed perennials, then one with hardly any snow and the premature appearance of spring bulbs. And, last year, in December I was worrying that the daffodils would be trying to come up ... Last March we also had a precocious early spring warming that set everything in motion, then three weeks of sub-freezing, downright cold conditions. That's what zapped a great deal of last year's tulips, daffodils, fritillarias and other bulbs. And, as one who spent his formative years in Iowa (before my prodigal son phase), winters just aren't what I remember being the norm as I was growing up.
How anyone can deny the growing climate crisis we're experiencing is beyond this simple gardener's comprehension. The climate is changing, and by all indications, we're only seeing the initial effects on the local level at this point, probably because that is only what we know most intimately. As Al Gore demonstrated so dramatically in An Inconvenient Truth, the global effects are already ominously apparent. And alarming recent reports about break away parts of the Antarctic ice shelf (one the size of Manhattan!) only serve to bolster scientists' and Gore's arguments. A couple of years ago, when I was researching something for the blog, I found this link to the Arbor Day Foundation's animation of Hardiness Zone Changes since 1990 to 2006. It bears witness to what we've seen personally, here in our little corner of the world. Folks, this is real. It's happening now, and it will affect not only us, but those who come after us ... as if we didn't have enough trumped up reasons for war and conquest already, can catastrophic weather changes make it even worse? I fear the educated answer must be yes.
How Dare We Be Optimistic?
This is the titular theme of Al Gore's recent presentation to the TED (Technology Entertainment Design) Foundation in March, 2008. As he showed in An Inconvenient Truth, Al is no mere prophet of doom, he's also an apostle of optimism who believes in the innate goodness of humans to recognize a problem and to seek its solution. Yes, he is sounding the alarm bells to try to wake people up, and though the task ahead of us is daunting, he offers a multitude of small ways to bring about positive change on a personal level. Whether it be changing all light bulbs to compact fluorescents (have you done that yet? You should ... you'll save money!) to adopting more carbon neutral practices in our daily lives, recent Nobel Prize winner Al Gore remains on the forefront of this crucial issue. You need to listen to him tell it like it is ... it's alternately alarming and inspiring, passionate and informative.
We're all going to have to change the way we think and live our everyday lives, no matter what . Whether we choose the optimistic path and work to effect positive changes to alleviate the problem or that of passive participant, it's ultimately up to us. I'm not as sure as Al is that we're up to the task, but I'm hopeful that were on the cusp of a sea change of political and generational change in our thinking.
Note on the video linked above: this talk lasts about 25-30 minutes, with a brief Q/A exchange at the end.