Todays subject is- again– weather and climate change. No, you are not allowed to yawn and go back to sleep. There were four days in February that I actually got my bike out and roadwith the same amount of clothing on that I would choose on a sunny fall day with temps in the 50s and60s. Last week Scott MacLeay and I went skiing at Mt. Sunapee and in the seven days between our last visit the ski area lost two feet of snow. That is, two feet of snow melted. In the middle of February. If it hasn’t got your attention yet I am here to tell you; the- boots-on–the-ground folks who earn their living by working outside- be theytruckers, farmers, masons, or sanitary workers- whomever doing whatever outside will pointedly tell you that the weather we have experienced the last two winters is not normal by any stretch of the imagination.
I, through some wicked twist of fate, frequently turn out to be the Old Guy in the room. With that title comes the requisite limp, squint, stutter, pocketful of Advil, and a strong need to nap when seated in a warm room. But it does give me a perspective on this climate change thing. Anne and I are coming up to our 43rd year of ownership of Edgewater Farm. I knew the guy pretty well that grew up here on this farm and sold it to us. His name was Stan Colby, and he passed away about 20 years ago. Having spent 80 years on the planet, he noted climate change to me years ago. And that was long before Al Gore, purported Snowflake Supreme, former senator, vice president and advocate for action on climate change, was a household name.
Those of us who grew up in rural New England in the 60s remember that a cold spell meant week long periods of winter where temps rarely got into the double digits. Everybody woretights or long underwear to grammar school. Rubber boots for 3 months straight. I had as many pairs of flannel lined jeans in my bureau drawer as “summer jeans”, and frostbite was a regularly occurring affliction. These periods of cold weren’t relegated to just the dark days of January, but could occur anytime between Thanksgiving and mid- March. We all grew up in my hometown as a person who either snowshoed or skied(yeah, I lived before the invention of the computer and snowmobile..). Those of us that were inclined to be predominantly interested in skiing learned on the back lawn, woods or in the fields, because there was always complete snow-cover for at least three months of the year, frequently four. There were ski areas and little hills with rope tows all over New England. In the mid 1960s none of them had snow making. By the 1980s climate change was getting pretty real, and the overwhelming majority of ski areas were making significant investments to provide snow for their skiing surfaces. Many went out of business not being able to sustain income against the added costs to the production of snow. I worked at such an area for 13 winters as a ski patroller. Climate change became a pretty tangible concept.
In the summer, we see evidence of climate change here as well. I think the overwhelming evidence is not temperature change but weather patterns changes and the violence of summer storms. There is also migration and arrival of new plant and animal populations. (Whoever saw a possum or a cardinal living in the Upper Valley 15 years ago? Noticeablythere has been documented extremes that we see in and the violence of the summer storm. Thunderstorms of my youth on what was essentially a hill farm in southern New Hampshire were frequent, and they had their own level of violence and intensity. They carried the same level of surprise that they do today, a fact confirmed by the amount of my dad’s animal feed hay that was reduced to low quality mulch hay after those visiting storms. But it wasn’t until I moved to the relative protection of the Connecticut River Valley that the intensity became noticeably more violent. Thirty five years ago an accompanying hail event with a summer storm was a topic for discussion. It would have had the neighbors making the telephone lines buzz. Every storm now carries the potential of hail and we have lost strawberries, pumpkins, greens, squash at one time or another due to hail damage. Some 10 years agoI was at Dave Pierson’s farm in Bradford, Vt after a nasty storm with hail passed through. That storm took a couple of windshields out of cars and ruined all the plastic covering on his greenhouses. You can only imagine what his crops looked like. His watermelons looked like they had been shot close range with buckshot. These are not historically normal events, but once in a lifetime events that now seem to be occurring many times within our own lifetime.
So now most all of us red and blue staters can recognize and admit that there is a change in the weather. There is still a contingent of folks that maintain that climate change is being overstated, that it’s not our fault, that it is a machination of Chinese, that it is a natural part of evolution, or that it is God’s will. . This “sweep it under the rug” attitude seems to be voiced by a lot of people who wear ties. I never cared much for ties, even my own. As a regular JoeAmerican of limited intellect, I would like to see more of these Tie People come around to my belief that something is going on with our environment and our climate. We should accept that it’s measureable, and that maybe we should be looking into what we can do about it for the sake of future generations, if it’s not too late already. I think when chunks of Greenland the size of Sullivan County start start falling off into the sea and the space shots of the arctic go from being white to turning brown, then it is a natural phenomenon that is worth noting, and to consider what, if anything, there is we can do about it.
Current policy makers, including our POTUSwould like us to believe that we are threatened by Islamic Terrorists and illegal immigrants. It is hard from my sheltered corner of the world to understand how that can be so. I see climate change as perhaps the paramount threat to all our existence. This affects everyone including myself, the Mexicans, Asians, Christians as well as the Islamic terrorists. Extreme weather events here and elsewhere will definitelycompound the problems of producingfood worldwide, as it has for the farmers of the Upper Valley. And we are, as a species, a lot better at producing humans than we are food. So I feel money spent on aiding climatologists and funding NASA’s satellite climatology program is money better spent than building a wall that any self-respecting Mexican will find a way toscale, swim around, fly over or burrow under.