It amazes me there’s any debate over the existence of climate change — which should rightly be called climate collapse. So much evidence points to the inevitable conclusion that our world is being changed for the worst and doing so at an alarming rate.
So Here’s the Problem
Let me give a short list of examples:
- The polar ice caps are melting.
- Forest fires are becoming increasingly common and increasingly dangerous.
- Birds are migrating at increasingly erratic intervals.
- Cold-dependent species are being forced to higher altitudes and becoming smaller in size.
- Plants are blooming earlier and losing their leaves later.
- Parasitic organisms that thrive in warm climates are expanding their range into previously uninhabitable territory.
In short, our planet is being eviscerated in front of our very eyes, and yet corporate media and the political establishment continue to engage in the highly refined art of calculated stupidity. Even the newly elected American president refuses to acknowledge the reality of climate collapse and the devastating effect it’s already having on millions of people globally.
For my part, I’ve witnessed this firsthand. In previous stories I’ve mentioned how I’ve been noticing the earlier arrival of warm temperatures, the earlier emergence of hibernating animals, the earlier growth of plants and trees.
It’s Not Just an Exception
This year is no exception. On the contrary, it’s been a bigger verification than any year previously. Despite the shortlived snowstorm we had in mid-January and occasional bursts of cold in general, daytime temperatures in North Carolina have lately been hovering in the 50-70° F range.
This is unreal. In the months of January and February historical highs for the state of North Carolina have been in the range of 30-40° F. Any temperature exceeding 50° F at this time of year is a veritable heatwave. Yet temperatures have exceeded 70° F on at least three separate occasions thus far in 2017, even though this is supposed to be winter.
I’m seeing plants blooming now which aren’t supposed to be blooming until March at the earliest. I’ve taken a few photos over the past few weeks to give examples of the unseasonable conditions. And though I’ve tried to make the photos as appealing as possible, the fact remains that warm temperatures at this time of year promote the growth of parasites that can harm or kill plants in the coming year. Additionally the stress which plants endure by virtue of violently fluctuating temperatures can be damaging or fatal with repeated incidents.
Catalog of Early Spring Plants
More than a week before the first day of February I was taking an evening walk across the railroad tracks to the north of where I live, following the local highway. Passing a law firm, I noticed a shot of yellow to my left between the sidewalk and the road.
At first I thought I was seeing things; dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) don’t start blooming in this region until March at the earliest. Yet there at my feet was the first blooming dandelion of the season, a full six weeks early.
On another walk during the same week, I made my way past the local elementary school to the corner of a street leading into one of the first residential districts north of the railroad tracks. I was rounding the corner when I noticed a burst of red to my right.
Stopping to inspect, I once again found it hard to believe my eyes. There in front of me at waist-level was new growth on a swamp magnolia (Magnolia virginiana). New growth is rare on these trees before early April. Yet there it was, a full ten weeks early.
On the same walk I continued toward the local fire station and passed an abandoned house with an uncultivated yard that’s been allowed to grow haphazardly. There are plants of every size and shape, some wild and some domesticated, who’ve taken up residence at this spot. It’s a kind of urban wilderness sanctuary without the usual tending of a garden.
By this time I was beginning to expect the unexpected and was less surprised when I saw a cluster of purple blossoms staring up at me. Leaning down to the ground, I found a purple deadnettle (Lamium purpureum) with fresh flowers and verdant stems. Once again the appearance was a solid six weeks early.
During the same week I decided to check my garden for any unusual growth in my herbs. The rosemary hasn’t gone into dormancy for the entirety of winter, which it normally does for at least two months. The sage and fennel didn’t go into dormancy until December, and with the growth of other plants in the area I expected they would be putting forth their first stems.
True to form, my expectation was confirmed when I looked at my sage (Salvia officinalis) and saw the first new leaves of the season. Sage doesn’t generally start growing until the end of March in this region, so this was a full eight weeks early.
On the same day I decided to check my backyard for any early vegetal risers. It took a little bit of searching, but before long I’d spotted some bird’s-eye speedwell (Veronica persica) between the black walnut tree and my compost pile.
Stooping to the ground, I took several photos. Despite my happiness at how well the photos turned out, I couldn’t escape the fact that bird’s-eye speedwell normally doesn’t bloom until late February at the earliest, making this appearance a full four weeks early.
Yet the Stupidity Goes On…
Despite all of this, there are still people who engage in calculated stupidity by claiming that all of this climate collapse is merely an aspect of nature, a cycle of temperature fluctuation that has nothing to do with human activity. Either it’s el niño or la niña or a little ice age or a warm spell. Of course this is insane, but it doesn’t stop people from believing it and from using this calculated stupidity as an excuse to do nothing.
The fact is that industry has collectively eviscerated the planet. And it’s done so in at least three distinct ways:
- by clear-cutting forests, thereby removing the bioregulatory cooling provided by their internal repositories of water and carbon,
- by burning fossil fuels in refineries, automobiles, and power plants, thereby increasing the capacity of the atmosphere to retain heat,
- by degrading the atmosphere with a host of aerosol compounds that are dangerous to human health and the environment.
It’s the equivalent of turning off your air conditioner in the middle of summer, starting a bonfire in your living room, adding a few layers of fiberglass to the insulation in your house, and then pretending everything is fine. In short, it’s complete insanity.
Of course there’s still a chance temperatures will drop before winter officially ends. If that happens, corporate media and the political establishment will hail it as further confirmation that everything is normal and nothing should be done and we can all go home and zone out in front of our phones. Of course that’s what most people in our increasingly dissociated culture do anyway.
And that’s precisely what we need to stop doing, because the fact remains that nothing of a sufficient magnitude is being done to stop the slow-motion cataclysm of climate collapse. No one in a position of power is willing to risk that power to pursue a course of action that will be beneficial to people but detrimental to profits.
That’s Why It’s Up to Us
The fact is that if we want to stop this planet from being turned into an uninhabitable wasteland with oceans of acid and continents of plastic, we have to do something.
We have to hold our leaders accountable. We have to demand decisive action. We have to get out on the streets, stop the pipelines, end corporate personhood, defund polluters, and establish that people and the planet matter more than profits. We have to rebuild communities, reestablish alliances, regrow local food networks, support local businesses, foster landbased ethical practices, and make sustainability a way of life. We have to do whatever it takes to stop this cataclysm before it’s too late.
Because if we don’t, then no one will.