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Archive for the ‘climate change’ Category

It’s hard to have a conversation today without the word “HOT” popping up within the first 60 seconds. In fact, as we enter our second day of over 100 degree heat here in North Carolina, I think HOT is the only thing that people are talking about. This is mostly because it’s so hot, I think our brains are kind of melting. I know mine is.

The heat saps our strength and we find ourselves making excuses to stay out of the sun and find indoor activities to do during the day. It  makes us appreciate things like air conditioning, ice cubes, and small breezes. It makes some of us grumpy. And while many of us acknowledge that the heat may have a little something to do with a thing we call global climate change, it is hard to change our habits at this time – especially if these habits involve keeping us cool. I am no exception.

Right now, my home A/C is running almost full time and if I do venture out into my car, I immediately turn the car’s A/C to “max’ and keep it there for the entire trip.  I may be an environmentalist, but I get hot too. I try to lessen the impact by keeping my home thermostat set at 77 degrees during the day, using my home’s ceiling fans to circulate the air and parking in the shade when I do happen to venture out in my car.  Little things, but they make me feel better.

It is during these times that I notice something about our culture.  When the going gets hot, all attempts at sustainability go out the window.  Store owners leave their doors wide open to invite shoppers into the cool air. Cars idle in parking lots as passengers keep cool while they wait for the shopper to emerge.  Air conditioning units blast cold air 24 hours a day to keep buildings at a comfortable (if not chilly) temperature to offset the heat that blasts at us outside. It’s as if, in our heat-tinged fog, we have forgotten that sometimes, conserving energy means not increasing our usage.

As our electric grids are pushed to the max to keep us cool and we idle our cars in long lines to purchase fuel, our emissions jump proportionately which, as you might suspect, increases the likelihood of global warming.  It’s a strange, cruel, inevitable global warming spiral.

There are many things we can do to stop the spiral, or at least slow it down. Top of the list is to harness the power of the sun and make the very thing that is heating up our environment be the first place we turn to cool it down.  But there are other things too.  Little things.  Like closing store doors and not letting the cool air escape.  Like turning off the car when running errands and parking in the shade.  Like turning up the thermostat – 76 degrees still feels great when it is 100 degrees outside.

It sure is hot out there. Unfortunately, if we keep going the way we are going, it will keep getting hotter.

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I love apple pie.  Actually, I love most pies – key lime, lemon meringue and a wonderful gem called chess pie here in the Carolinas.  My favorite pies, however, are fruit pies.  Apple, cherry, blueberry, strawberry.  I could go on and on, but I’m making myself hungry.

Last week, while sharing a slice of apple pie with a friend, I heard disturbing news that would make any fruit lover shudder.  Apparently the early spring that the entire Northeast has enjoyed is causing a shortage of …. apples.  And not just apples, but also cherries, blueberries and other fruit crops.  The reason for this shortage?  Well, fruit trees do not generally follow an internal calendar and instead rely on the warmth of the sun to determine when to sprout leaves and flowers that will eventually turn into the fruit that we all love.

Ordinarily, the natural ebb and flow of the seasons yield fruit crops that we all can enjoy.  But this year, spring came early.  The warmth in March caused fruit trees in orchards from Virginia to Michigan to stretch their limbs out and bloom early.  Which would have been wonderful for everyone except for the heavy frost that hit in April.  And killed the crops.  Literally.

Here’s one thing you don’t think of when you think of global climate change – apples.  Or cherries, or blueberries or even oranges.  We expect our fruit to follow the normal seasonal schedule and arrive in our grocery stores (or produce boxes!) on time and as yummy as ever.  But when nature does not follow the “normal” schedule, even the trees and plants become confused.  And unfortunately that means less tasty fruit for you and me. And even worse, less revenue for the fruit farmers.

I do not claim to be a climate change expert, but I do know that the rising amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere can (and do) cause disruptions to the natural rhythm of the seasons.  While the early spring encourages us to throw on our shorts and flip flops and enjoy the warm weather, it is easy to forget how the early warmth may be harming other parts of the ecosystem.  Other parts that we depend on for food, water and yes, even apples.

So what did I do after I learned the news about the shortage of apples?  I went home and mowed my lawn with my push mower powered entirely by carbon-free me – with a little help from that yummy apple pie.

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