Spring Arrives Early, Stupidity Stays Late

by Mark Miles

It amazes me that there’s any debate whatsoever over the existence of climate change. So much evidence points to the inevitable conclusion that our world is changing for the worst and doing so at an alarmingly unanticipated rate. 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 earlier in winter and later in spring. Cold-dependent species are being forced to higher altitudes and are becoming smaller in size. Plants are blooming earlier and losing their leaves later. Parasitic organisms that thrive in warm climates are slowly but steadily expanding their range into previously uninhabitable territory. In short, the world is being radically and detrimentally altered 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 change and the devastating effect it’s already having on millions of people globally.

I’ve witnessed this change 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. 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 that threshold by 20° F on at least three separate occasions thus far in 2017.

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. 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.

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’d made my way past the highway and 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 could be no doubt that new growth was present and that 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 dead nettle (Lamium purpurea)–which is much more eloquently called “purple archangel”–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 from 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 become dormant 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 greeted with confirmation 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 birdseye speedwell (Veronica persica) between the black walnut tree and my compost pile. I stooped to the ground, in a position that was far more uncomfortable than I care to admit, and took several photos. Despite my happiness at how well the photos turned out, I couldn’t escape the fact that birdseye speedwell normally doesn’t bloom until late February at the earliest, making this appearance a full four weeks early.

All of this is fine and dandy, but there are still people who choose to engage in calculated stupidity by claiming that all of this climate change 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 insanity, 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 reengineered the planet by means of water, fire, and air. By clear-cutting forests and removing the bioregulatory cooling provided by their internal repositories of water, industry has gravely disrupted the natural means of cooling this planet. By burning fossil fuels in refineries, automobiles, and power plants, industry has added an appreciable input of heat to the atmosphere of this planet. And by adding greenhouse-gases to the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels, industry has increased the insulatory potential of the climate considerably. 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. It’s complete insanity.

Of course there’s still a significant chance that 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 ongoing slow-motion cataclysm of climate change. No one in a position of power is willing to risk that power for the prospect of pursuing a course of action that will be beneficial for people but detrimental to profits. And once again the planet will be the one to pay the price.

And that’s why it’s up to us. The fact of the matter 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 to stop this ongoing cataclysm before it reaches its conclusion in the extinction of our own species. We have to get out on the streets, stop the pipelines, end corporate personhood, defund polluters, and establish that people 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 something, anything, whatever it takes to stop this cataclysm before it’s too late. Because if we don’t, then no one will.


Howard, Brian Clark. “Mountain Goats Are Shrinking—A Lot—Because of Global Warming.” National Geographic. Accessed Feb. 3rd, 2017.

Mooney, Chris. “The huge crack in this Antarctic ice shelf just grew by another 6 miles.” The Washington Post. Accessed Feb. 3rd, 2017.

St. Paul Pioneer Press. “It’s a deadly parasite, and it’s spreading across lakes in the U.S.” The Denver Post. Accessed Feb. 3rd, 2017.

26 thoughts on “Spring Arrives Early, Stupidity Stays Late

  1. It is frustrating, isn’t it, to see and know things and yet be unable to persuade the (apparently) unpersuadable?

    On a sad note, the young girl mentioned in the article from the St. Paul Pioneer-Post was a friend of my older son. Before returning to Maryland, we lived in Minnesota for 11 years and in Stillwater for 7 of them. We were still there when Annie died and often played at Lily Lake. Annie was a truly wonderful little girl and her parents loving, giving people who were good friends. Her mother just left midwifery to become a counselor at the Children’s hospital in St. Paul to families facing losses like hers.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear about the loss your son’s friend. I was moved when I read about the little girl, but I had no idea there would be someone with any link to her who might respond.

      What’s really unforgivable about these kinds of tragedies is that they would be much less likely to occur if we didn’t live in a society where money–and the economy that generates it, which also contributes so heavily to climate change–matters more than people.

      Once again you have my deepest sympathies.

  2. It is great you are seeing and talking about witnessing these changes. So many are too busy to see these changes taking place in the seasons. Often we pause to ponder the early budding of a tree or plant and question ourselves if this is usual or unusual. Great job Mark.

  3. Man, it sounds like we need a cultural revolution of sorts, a global renaissance, the kind that gripped the human spirit about five decades ago, but on a greater scale. And you’re right; if WE don’t make significant moves on a personal and community level, no one else will.

    1. I couldn’t agree more strongly. I hear so much talk of our culture entering a new era. But if this is a new era, it makes the Dark Ages look appealing by comparison. Revolution becomes a more conceivable prospect with every passing day.

  4. I am an “older” lady and much appalled at what has come about on this planet since the days of my youth. It seems too many people are anesthetized by football, nascar, weekend beer parties, games consoles, faces stuck in their phones, both parents working to try to make ends meet, the list is endless – but the fact is so many do not see or just do not care what is happening. Does no one realize that the disappearance of more and more flora and fauna species as well as the continued plundering of the earth, pollution of our fresh and salt water will dictate mankind’s demise? It is disheartening that those representatives we “choose” ignore these things which should be summarily addressed at a national level. Wonderful article and photography. I am in VIrginia and out picking fresh blooming clover for my chickens – yes, in February.

  5. Wow. Firstly, thank you for reading my blog. And also, thank you for putting all this so well, so clearly, and once again, how many times?, so incontrovertibly. I like to think there is something we can do besides keeping a tiny carbon footprint individually. Your blog gives me a bit of hope! Thank you.

      1. So true. And yet we have to start somewhere, with the individual action that ultimately lends support to the whole. At least that is my HOPE. It’s the old, if EVERYONE did this, things would be x,y or z. And one strives for that x.y or z to be positive. Quite the endeavor.

  6. I find it incredibly disappointing to see the new US Administration going in the opposite direction to virtually the whole planet on this issue. Thanks for such a concise and informative post.

  7. Your posts are creative, heartfelt and interesting! We share a deep appreciation for nature. Thanks also for liking my blog!

  8. ” the highly refined art of calculated stupidity” what a phrase… like you I can’t go anywhere outdoors without seeing the changes that are dire warnings of what’s to come. This year I am spending the winter in New Mexico where I am unfamiliar with the habits of flora and fauna – I hate to say this this but it’s a relief not to know… even for a little while. Even so, temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s in February strikes a warning bell.

  9. The fire season has extended one month on each end here in Washington. May to October now. This year was the worst in the west, breaking records almost each year. Nice work. Deserves a follow. Thanks

  10. Thank you for this post Mark ! Your work is great and amazingly instructive. I hope many people read this !

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