06 April 2007

A Poisson d'Avril and climate change

It seems that April Fool’s arrived a bit late in much of the Maritimes this week with the presentation of some obnoxious weather the last day or so. It was a reminder to us not to get too excited; this IS April, TS Eliot’s cruelest month, and we’re not going to see any lilacs breeding out of the dead land any time soon.

In fact, this afternoon as I watched SNOWBALLS fall out of the sky, hitting the rhododendron and the ground and my office windows with impressive splats, I fancied I could also hear the robins complaining, drawing their little scarves closer around their throats and rebuckling their galoshes… “We came back here for THIS?” Probably any worms they were expecting to dine on had turned into wormsicles.

Those brave green shoots of bulbs, poking their heads up out of the ground, are in suspended animation, although the snowdrops look unperturbed by this most recent change in the weather.

Ironically, during this week of cold and now damp weather, I find myself with a pile of books on climate change to read over the weekend, for an omnibus review I’m due to write for Earth Day. They’re a diverse lot:

Wild Weather: The Truth Behind Global Warming by Dr. Reese Halter
The Rough Guide to Climate Change by Robert Henson
The Ten Minute Activist; Easy ways to take back the planet by the Mission Collective
Hell and High Water and what we should do by Joseph Romm


I’ve also been reading Elizabeth Kolbert’s brilliant and disturbing Field Notes from a Catastrophe, which will get a standalone review. It reminds me, as I’ve observed elsewhere, of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, because it’s not a comfortable read. I suspect none of the above volumes will be easy or comforting reading, but I’ll tag Kolbert’s as one that I hope will do for climate change what Carson’s book did to shift complacency about pesticides. I read Silent Spring while still a teenager, and that fashioned my outlook on gardening forever--even though I then went off to Agricultural College and clashed with professors and agronomists who thought Big Chemical would be the saviour of farming. Guess they were wrong, maybe. Guess more of them are realizing that, slowly but surely.

Let me stress, I am not a scientist. I have some science background, and I don’t flinch from multisyllabic words or concepts--so long as they don’t have to do with physics or calculus, that is…a story for another day. But I am a gardener, and an observer of nature, and we are seeing things that indicate we humans ARE messing up this island Earth bigtime. What boggles my mind is the utter complacency of most of us. Every day or two there’s another letter to the editor, claiming climate change science and modeling and prognostications are all fearmongering. Uh huh. The skeptics said the same thing about Rachel Carson’s work; just as there’s a faction out there that insists smoking won’t hurt people. Of course, there’s also a flat-earth society, isn’t there?

One of my favourite passages in Kolbert’s book relates when she went to visit a climate specialist. On his office door, he had a sticker, designed to be pasted—illicitly, mind you—on SUVs. “I’m changing the climate! Ask me how!” Wouldn’t I LOVE to get a few hundred of those, and festoon them around town on some of the yuppy-mama Hummers, etc? Tee hee.

Being dogmatic isn’t my style. Preaching at people isn’t my style either. I’m no perfect gardener in any of my practices, but I do my part, and hope that will help encourage others to do the same. My aim is to (usually) gently exhort people to support their local nurseries, and practice organic gardening as much as possible. There are some people who aren’t going to change their ways, of course. The old guy who has to have his feednweed for his perfect sterile lawn, the purist who must douse her roses in seventeen chemicals to make them look perfect…they’re set on their path and nothing any of us say will change their outlooks.

I worry about those people, though, because they’re often the same ones who figure climate change is all a conspiracy by some do-good greens. That a few jobs from a gypsum mine are more important than a threatened watershed and extirpated endangered plants. That that squinty eyed man in Ottawa is doing a great job, even though he lies and cheats and is a powerhungry control freak.

Maybe tending an organic garden and ‘lawn’, planting more trees and native plants, and encouraging wildlife—including beneficial insects—isn’t much more than a finger in the dyke holding back climate catastrophe. Maybe writing letters to government officials asking them to rethink asinine ideas like letting a multinational company burn tires for power or pillage our natural resources for a pittance isn’t going to change a lot. But it’s better than sitting here doing nothing at all to stem such actions. I’ll keep on keeping on. And THAT is no April Fool’s joke.

1 comment:

  1. Good and thoughtful post ... I need to do more reading about climate change. I'll be interested to read what you have to say about these books.

    It is easy to be complacent and think that our efforts to live more frugally and pay more attention to what we consume won't amount to much. But every little bit does help ... gentle persuasion in the gardening sphere seems to work.

    I don't know how many times helpful neighbours used to come over and tell me that I could save a lot of time and effort if I just sprayed all the critters rather than picking them off and putting them in a bowl of soapy water. My efforts to explain that I found it quite soothing to pick bugs off plants mostly went unnoticed, but I like to think that the odd person was influenced.

    It sounds as if you have a busy weekend planned ... I hope you find the hidden seed packets and give your cats some extra pats from me!!

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