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Winter (and other thoughts)

Living in a more rural area certainly has it’s advantages. Winter walks can be beautiful. This is a scene found within walking distance of my home in the town of Bridgewater.

We had our first small storm of this winter a couple of days ago. This morning, it’s -14 degrees Celsius or -28ºC with the wind chill. In two days time, it is predicted to be +12ºC. Taking the wind chill into consideration, that’s a swing of 40ºC in just over two days (73ºF).

Years ago, scientists talked about Global Warming. My father, who felt the cold more and more as he got older, used to snort with derision about “global warming” on a day such as this one. But there have been two decades of additional research and evidence since he passed away, and a change in the common language from global warming to “climate change”. Despite the evidence, there continue to be skeptics and deniers of the most important aspect of all of this – that human activity is a major contributor, and that we need to address this as a priority.

Despite his jests about global warming, my father (and his generation) certainly knew about another ecological disaster aided by human activity – the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s. When drought conditions arrived in the great plains, it was the farming techniques that allowed millions of tons of topsoil to be blown away in storms called Black Blizzards. The economic crash of the Great Depression made things worse as farmers plowed more and more land in a desperate response to the falling prices of their wheat. By the end of 1934, the topsoil of 100 million acres had been blown away. In the winter of 1934/35 red snow fell on New England. Roughly 1/3 of prairie farmers left their homes to seek migrant work in California and elsewhere.

When the black blizzards eventually reached Washington DC, the U.S. Congress finally passed the Soil Conservation Act and established the Soil Conservation Service under the department of agriculture. All too often it takes a major disaster to prompt governments to act. With climate change, at least many governments have, at long last, agreed to act. Whether it’s enough, or quickly enough, only time will tell. Ultimately, it’s up to each of us to be informed, and to do our part. It won’t be easy, but I don’t like to imagine the alternative.

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