The Winter Without Snow

When I got home the other day from work, I went inside, peeled off the work clothes, put on some shorts and a T-shirt and wandered around outside.

Late February in Pittsburgh. That ‘Chinese hoax’ is feeling mighty mild if you ask me.

And it’s been like this all month.

It seems that for the last few years, every winter is warmer and with less snow. So far this year, we’ve had a little over five inches of the white stuff for the entire year and nothing approaching a significant snowfall.

But it’s not just Pittsburgh.

In Sweden, winter never arrived:

. . . the town of Växjö — almost 200 kilometres north of the southernmost tip of the Nordic country — for the first time since its records began in 1858 did not experience winter at all.

From al Jazeera on Feb. 4:

“Denmark has had its warmest January on record, with an average daytime high of 5.4 degrees Celsius (42 Fahrenheit). This eclipsed the previous record of exactly 5C (41F).

“In the past 30 years, January has become 1.6 degrees warmer — and this year, the country has had no snow and very few frosts.

“Similarly, Norway had its warmest January day on record with a high of 19C (66F) in the village of Sunndalsora on January 2 — a massive 25 degrees above average.

“Even the Scottish highlands recorded their hottest December day in 70 years. A weather phenomenon known as the Foehn effect caused temperatures to soar to 16.8C (62F) at 03:00 GMT in northern Scotland.

“Elsewhere, Moscow had its warmest December in 133 years, notching up its warmest day for that month in the process with a high of 5.6C (42F) on December 18. December’s weather was so mild that authorities were forced to bring in artificial snow for the festive period.”

Norway’s skiing industry is gasping for air. Ditto Austria, Switzerland and France.

It’s much the same all around the Northern Hemisphere. Meanwhile, the Southern Hemisphere, where it is summer, is broiling with record temps throughout.

Up here, trees are budding, flowers are poking up through the soil, and the backyard animals are confused. A plant in my koi pond has continued to thrive underwater during the winter.

Nobody talks much about it. The climate deniers don’t want to bring attention to it and the climate believers are too worried to try to convince them otherwise. A lot of people are pretending this isn’t happening and many people just seem to think this winter is a bit odd, but hey, why not enjoy it?

If one looks outside of America’s borders, it becomes clear many other parts of the world are on the precipice of disaster. In some areas, re-creations of Biblical plagues are underway.

Gradually, the pressure on the extraction of natural resources and the loss of arable land will push the world’s economies to the brink if the new Coronavirus doesn’t get us there first.

For those that do notice and understand why these things are happening, a new kind of anxiety is finding its way into the offices of therapists: eco- or climate anxiety. And the bad news is, the more you learn about what is happening to our world, the worse the anxiety gets. Perhaps the most comforting thing to me about it, is that I stand a fair chance of being dead before things really get bad.

But then I worry about my adult children.

And then there’s the reinforcing loop of inaction. Despite all we know, despite all the marches and speeches and demands, we are now and will continue to pump more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that we ever have before. In reality, governments and businesses aren’t doing a damn thing and, most likely, won’t.

Because profits.

Look, we got the world we asked for in many ways. For centuries we collectively befouled out planet without a care to long term effects. Only in the 1970s did it seem we learned enough to politely ask the power structure to do something about it. The power structure politely declined while pointing out that all the ‘stuff’ of modern life and rising living standards was predicated on energy extraction and the resulting after-effects of it’s uses.

So, we kicked the can down the road and hoped for technology to save us. Now there is no room to kick the can any longer and it’s likely too late anyway. People scream for solutions without understanding that some issues become intractable and there are no longer any solutions. Real life and the planet are not part of some movie script. Sometimes there are no happy endings. Sometimes we must eat the shit sandwich and it kills us.

So, while you enjoy the early spring with the daffodils in February, the balmy winters and the extended falls, give a thought to the seasons of your youth and remember them fondly, for they are gone forever.

So when one stops on the street to exclaim ‘lovely weather we’re having for this time of year,’ I find it hard to hear anything but a harbinger of doom.

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