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the times they are a-changing

As a gardener, I often measure the success of the season in terms of harvest. There's nothing unusual about it. Abundance is the result of having a constant stream of beautiful days with sun and rain in perfect proportions.

This year, however, was so different from 2020, that I could not recognize my own backyard. What flourished last season, flopped epically this year. Plants I didn't know I had, popped up in the most surprising locations, and vegetables that had become a staple completely failed to produce.

It is obvious that I can only influence the performance of my garden up to a certain degree. The rest must be left to weather. However, local weather itself seems to be at the mercy of larger scale problems, and what reared its ugly head in my own backyard was none other than the specter of climate change.

I understand that climate is not the same thing as weather. I get that a freak storm is not a reason to overreact. Nevertheless, the snapshot that my garden provided was telling a scary tale of extremes: too cold, too much precipitation, not enough sunlight, wicked windstorms, alternating droughts...The sky above Vermont could not make up its mind up this year. We were served a sampler platter of all manner of destructive weather. Gone were the bright summer days the region tends to offer and, instead, we rode a roller coaster of highs and lows (both in temperature and mood) that I had not experienced before.

The landscape told the story better than anyone could: trees split in half own the middle, fallen branches blocking driveways, maple trees turning orange in late July, reeds failing to grow in dried up mud, silent creeks and fewer wildflowers. The darling lupins by the side of the freeway never made an appearance. The geese did not congregate by the artificial pond down the road. It was hard to tell with certainty if this was summer, autumn or some strange hybrid lacking the best qualities of either one of those seasons.

I wonder if you have noticed similar changes in your area. I know that the West Coast has dealt with unprecedented fires, the Southwest is running out of water, while the Midwest and the South have been battered by extreme heat and deadly storms. Nobody seems to be exempt.

Since knowledge is power (and there are things we all can do to mitigate the effects of climate change), I invite you to read this article. It explains in detail the direction in which we are moving, and the dreadful cost of inaction. Habitats will be lost, wildlife will be affected, but also crops and ultimately the livelihood and health of many people around the globe.

Be vigilant of the small changes around you. We can be complicit, or we can be the change we'd like to see in the world. Again, it's all about choice.


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