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whining about warmth

It's been startlingly warm here the last couple days. In my incredulous descriptions of the weather I've moved through "spring-like" to "summer-like"—what else could I say about a day like yesterday that saw us playing soccer and riding bikes in t-shirts?

Lijah out on the street in bike helmet and t-shirt

and proud of it!

Most people around here have been just delighted by the pleasant weather. The prevailing sentiment seems to be that it'd be fine—perfect!—if we had a snowless winter with the temperatures never dropping much below 50°F. While I did enjoy all the time we spent outside the first half of the week, I can't agree. If you ask me, winter is broken, and it's a big problem.

On one level the trouble is immediate. Lots of things in our ecosystem here depend on the temperature swings we're supposed to have over the year: bulbs, trees with dormancy periods, hibernating amphibians. Snow on the ground protects dormant plants (like my grass) and slowly replenishes ground water. And cold weather in the winter kills pathogens that could otherwise multiply and damage trees. Even when we do have cold snaps mixed in with warm temperatures it can cause trouble: enough warm days and flowering trees will start to bud. When it gets cold again the buds will die, and that means no apples in the fall.

And then there's the big picture. However we feel about our local climate personally, an ever-warmer planet is bad news for everyone in the long run. You've all heard about sea-level rises, local extinctions and crop failures caused by unusual weather patterns, and ever-stronger storms thanks to the energy all the warmth injects into the atmosphere. "Yes, but!" people tell me. "It's so nice right now!"

It may be that I'm a horrid curmudgeon (probably true). It may be that I secretly or not-so-secretly enjoy it when things are difficult (definitely true). But I would suggest that "nice" is what you make of it, and that there are many pleasant aspects of a bitter cold winter buried under feet of snow. And for people who really can't stand the cold, there are many places in the world—in the United States, even!—where really cold weather is rare or nonexistent. Massachusetts isn't supposed to be one of them, and to damn us all to climate disaster for the fleeting pleasure of a summer day in February is bad policy!

(Alright, I know what you're going to say: we don't have a direct personal input on climate change, so why not enjoy warm weather while it's here? Or more to the point, why not enjoy it without complaining up a storm like me? Because not complaining makes us not change anything. If we think that 57°F after 9:00pm on February 3rd is crazy, we might consider redoubling our own conservation efforts to do what we can to slow global warming. That, or write a whiny blog post about how everyone else is wrong. Every little bit helps!)

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