August 31, 2012



Summer into autumn

The best time of the year. Or the worst. Depending on your point of view.

If you are a normal citizen of the world ( and by normal I mean someone who thrives in nice weather rather than freezing cold or rain) then summer is probably the time you really look forward to. There's a reason most of the al fresco social events of the year take place in the summer - weddings, BBQ's, cricket games, country fares, agricultural shows etc. They are very much dependant on the weather.
But lately this hasn't really been the case. In one summer we have seen some of the extremes of weather that really make us question the concept of summer vs winter. In the US there has been a sustained heat wave over most of the Midwest. Crops have failed and record temperatures have been recorded. In the UK the summer has ranked as one of the worst on record. Temperatures have been low, and rainfall has been much, much higher, than normal with record rainfalls of as much as one moths rain in a single day. This has extend pretty much across May, June and July.

More recently there has been a report of record rainfall in Manila which as turned the city into a disaster area. News reports of people swimming down the main streets have appeared on the nightly bulletins.
As I sit here in my garden, under a parasol watching the sun set at the end of a scorching hot August day, I can't help but feel that this kind of weather is much more preferable to the cooler, wet weather we have been subjected to for the last two or three months. But at the same time I also know that the concept of seasons as we know them is starting to change - particularly in England. This year, for example, we had a march which was memorable for being one of the warmest on record. Everyone was taking this to be a sign of warm weather to come and a great summer. This was dashed when April came round and brought with it torrential rain and floods. This was followed by a wet May and a June that the weather forecasters actually wrote off as a summer month. The Queen's Diamond Jubilee weekend was almost a washout. July was fractionally better.

But since the start of the Olympics we have had what can only be described as a good summer. The weather has been warm and sunny and the amount of rain has been light and sporadic.
Naturally everyone is euphoric that summer has finally come and - providing this warm weather lasts until the start of September - we will go around patting ourselves on the back about what a good summer it finally turned out to be.

But then we have the winter to look forward to.

Traditionally the winter should be mild. Snow may fall, but shouldn't be too bad and shouldn't last too long. This isn't Buffalo, New York where the Lake Effect causes heavy snowfalls across great periods of the winter months. Nor is it Green Bay where the temperature will drop off the bottom of the thermometer and stop everything growing for weeks on end. This is England where a particularly heavy snowfall can result in history books being rewritten and people reminiscing about "The big fall of '47".

So, naturally, when we had some particularly bad winter weather over the last couple of years people started to wonder what is happening. Our summers are shorter and wetter, our winters are longer and colder. Is it the end of days?

So what does this mean? Are we in the midst of climate change? Is the end of the world nigh? Well yes and no.

I think that even those who are the most climate sceptical would concede that what is happening is not following a normal pattern. They would have to admit that there are weather events which are not expected and which must point to something being different.

They may not agree that this is coming from man-made causes. They may believe that it is a result of a natural cycle of the planet. But science has proven time and time again that we are throwing things into the atmosphere that cannot be good for the planet. The amount of carbon dioxide in the air is rising and the amount of plants and trees that can use this and convert it back to oxygen is falling. This is simply unsustainable.

What are we to do about it? Well. The fact of the matter is that you, my reader, can't do a single thing about it. You are just one person. You are just an individual with little impact and influence on the fate of a planet.

But the fact also exists that everyone on the planet is an individual with little impact and influence on its fate. But if everyone did something, then these six billion inhabitants of planet earth must be able to make a minor difference. Maybe even a major difference.

That's why I encourage you all to look at what you do on a daily basis and try to be a little more ecologically minded about it. Here's a short lists of things you could do.
  • Walk to the shops rather than drive.
  • Ride your bike more (the exercise will be a benefit too)
  • If you must drive, practice hypermiling
  • Get a more economical car. Preferably get an electric car. (Sure, they need electricity which can come from burning fossil fuels, but it can also come from non fossil fuels and the electric engine is more efficient than the petrol engine at using that energy)
  • Turn your thermostat down a couple degrees in winter and stick a jumper on instead.
  • Recycle as much as you can. I throw out more in my recycle bin than in my regular bin. I also compost where possible.
There are many other things you can do to become more environmentally aware. Some of them are easy. Others are harder and require a mindset change that will not come easy to certain people. (Would you give up flying on airlines and start taking your vacation somewhere that you could get to by coach or train?), but these things were never meante to be easy.

It's the future of the planet and our children. If it were easy we would be doing it already.