We’ve had seventy-plus-degree weather since early March. It’s been glorious—day after day of stunningly beautiful weather. Every flowering tree that was ever planted in Boulder has been blooming for weeks. Flowers are so thick the air is heavy with their scent, redolent as a tropical night. Right now the scent of lilac wafts into my room, and outside my window, next to the lilac bush, the first newly fledged house finch youngsters are chasing down their parents and squawking incessantly for food.
There’s only one problem: this isn’t spring in Colorado. Or, it’s not supposed to be.
This is spring on steroids—global-warming steroids.
Most of us don’t know what to do with it. Our instinct is to enjoy the sunshine, the balmy temperatures. All this unseasonable warmth felt wonderful, especially when we were sick to death of snow! Plus we’re enjoying the early return of our favorite migrating birds. And of course the stunningly beautiful flowers.
But we know this spring is too warm. Way too warm. We know in our hearts, in a place deeper than words, that we belong on that CO2 row of orange dots drawn up by 350.org. We’re Orange Dot Number 4: All-Time High-Temperature Records. We worry—silently to ourselves, usually not aloud—that we’ll pay for this in July and August. What if the rains still haven’t come? What if the temperature just keeps going up?
A friend I was talking to this week summed it up: “I finally decided to enjoy it. I mean, yes, spring is a month early, but the weather is so beautiful! It’s so beautiful I can’t complain about it. I mean, I can’t do a thing about it. So I’ll just enjoy it.”
She’s right about one thing. Spring is at least a month early this year in Colorado. This spring may be gorgeous, but it’s also extreme—the balmiest extreme weather you will ever experience. The NCAR-UCAR climate science team already back in March called it “the gentlest round of extreme weather ever to grace the United States.” High-temperature records are being set across the eastern two-thirds of the country. In the first 22 days of March alone, 6,477 daily record highs were tied or broken. Day after day new high-temp records were set. One town in South Dakota recorded 90-plus degrees before the first day of spring. In my town daily average temperatures in March were 11 degrees above normal, those in April, 7 above normal.
But this friend is wrong about something else: there are things she can do besides enjoy the weather. No, she can’t change the weather, at least not by herself and not overnight. But together, all of us are changing the weather. We’re changing it right now, every day, and it will take all of us working together to change it back to the place where life as we know it can be sustained over the long haul.
What do we have to do? End fossil fuel use.
Here are three things you can do right now to help end fossil fuel use:
1. Connect the dots. Tomorrow, May 5, is Climate Action Day organized by Bill McKibben and friends at 350.org. This year’s theme is Connecting the Dots between extreme weather and climate change. Take a picture of yourself next to some evidence of extreme weather. If you like, hold up an image of a huge dot too. You can download printable dots here (though I took a plain old period and blew it up). 350 will connect the dots on a map spanning the globe.
Here I am beside the already-bloomed-out lilac bush—a lilac that in normal years doesn’t start blooming until mid-May but this year began in March and is now, on May 4, finishing up. As soon as I complete this post, I’ll be submitting my photo to climatedots.org.
2. Oppose fossil fuel extraction and shipping in your home area. One group of Canadian citizens on May 5 is planning to stop trains carrying coal from proceeding to British Columbia ports to be shipped abroad and burned in other countries. They wrote a letter to Warren Buffet, owner of the railroad, to tell him why and how they plan to do it. The letter is posted on the website of climate scientist James Hansen and at Climate Progress.
In my town opposing fossil fuel extraction means organizing to oppose fracking. I wrote elsewhere about how people in my town are doing that. “Contact Me” (link in sidebar) if you want to join in working for the rights of people and nature.
3. Install solar panels on your roof. If you are a homeowner, and especially if you own a house under the sweet Colorado sun, you can lower or perhaps end one building’s dependence on fossil fuels. If you are only a short-term owner, your one-time decision about solar power will reduce fossil fuel use for decades, and through a leasing program, the units can be installed at little or no up-front cost. In normal times homeowners must weigh economic costs and benefits, but I’m afraid we are not in normal times. The situation is dire and urgent: we must reduce fossil fuel use by all means possible. Now.
If you are a renter, make a case for solar to your property owners, or, if you are in Colorado or a few other states, subscribe to a solar garden. You can get a utilities credit on your bill as if the solar panels were installed on your own roof.
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We are in a climate crisis. Even if we stopped using fossil fuels tomorrow, the temperature of the Earth would keep rising for close to a thousand years. It’s time to connect the dots. It’s going to take all of us.