Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Canaries in the coal mine

Despite a couple of cold blasts from Canada, we've had a very mild winter here in the mid-Atlantic region. I can count the number of times I wore my down-filled parka -- few enough that it won't need cleaning for next year -- and I haven't used my fireplace at all.

Christmas Eve found us at 70 degrees here in New Jersey, a most un-Christmas-like temperature. It's hard to burn the Yule log when you have to open the windows at the same time! I have often wondered about Christmas in Florida. I suppose our neighbors to the south have created their own warmer-weather traditions for that festive time of year.

We noticed daffodils coming up at church about two or three weeks ago, and tulips will not be far behind. And today we are approaching 80 degrees!  Aside from the problem of what to wear on these unusually warm days (do I tough it out with a light sweater, or go rooting through the closet like a pig looking for truffles -- in my case, a tee shirt?).

But the real problem is a bit more existential (assuming I don't sweat to death in my light sweater, which would be existential, but only for me). Bill McKibben, one of my favorite writers on climate change, wrote an article for the Boston Globe earlier this month, in which he mentioned that the three months just past (December 2015, and January-February 2016) were the warmest on record. Ever. You can read his article here.

So despite the fact that I have already started cleaning up my porch for the spring, a task I typically leave for April), and that I hear the seed catalogs calling my name, I think this early spring is not a good thing. As I write this, our neighbors in the southern states are receiving more than 14 inches of rain. This could be devastating for them.

And all this, I suspect from what I've read, is due to global warming. I truly feel that environmentalists like Bill McKibben are the canaries in the coal mine. We really need to listen.

Really. Listen.

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