Winter into spring

I read an interesting essay a few days ago proposing a new word for plants that bloom far earlier than usual — far earlier than they should — as a result of climate change. The word: antevernals. I like it because it has roots that English speakers already know and use in other words: ante and vernal, both from Latin.

Here in the Chicago area, I recently have seen irises and tulips bloom in November. These are spring flowers, and I should not be able to see them in late fall. That worries me. More regularly, I find that the crocuses bloom about 3 weeks earlier now than they did when I was a child. I might be able to chalk up one week of that to lake effect warming that I didn’t experience where I grew up. But only one week. The other weeks represent change from when I started planting crocus in this area some 25 years ago. That’s recent change. It worries me.

The reason I’m thinking of this is because I noticed the array of boots lined up under the sideboard near my front door last night and found four different pairs of my own boots — one person’s — each serving a different purpose and each having been in use in just the past few days. My initial thought: That’s how you can tell it’s winter in the Midwest.

But no. That’s really more a sign of changing weather — either fall into winter, or winter into spring, and neither of those should be happening in mid-January. Where last week our temperatures were arctic, yesterday saw at least upper 30s (Fahrenheit), and today will bring us into the 40s. By next Tuesday, we are expected to be back to a high of 15 and low of 3. This isn’t an isolated occurrence. We can no longer chalk this up to just something unusual. It’s not just this week’s weather that is unusual; our patterns have changed. Climate change is real. It worries me.

Today, I awoke to the news of mudslides so severe that houses are sliding off their foundations and people are being killed. This is the result of unprecedented, torrential rainfall in an area stripped of vegetation by the recent wildfires. I fear we will see more of this in the coming years. People will die. People will suffer. This should not be happening.

Our federal government has chosen to bury its head in the sand and deny this is happening. We cannot look to it for help. A widening group of states has banded together to try to continue the fight to slow or combat climate change, and more states need to join in. My state needs to join in. This will be one of the key issues defining how I cast my votes in elections moving forward.

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