Opinion: Nature is doing its best to tell us about global warming
In the Near Future
During the next twenty years, the following sequence becomes increasingly possible.
Winters become warmer, and thus cold dry snow turns to wet snow,
Which turns to a mix of rain and snow falling on the Green Mountains of Vermont.
The snow of a normal winter sits on the mountain until spring.
The rain of a warming winter runs down the mountain In streams that are swollen in February.
After a normal winter, snowmelt during the springtime
Waters the land below the mountain.
Wetlands, like a great sponge, hold part of that water, keeping it for summer.
After a warming winter, most of the rain and early melting snow
Has already washed down from the mountain,
Leaving only a small percentage of normal winter precipitation
To water the land below the mountain.
To water the farms, to water the great rolling forests,
To keep the ponds and lakes full, to keep the wells full,
Through June, and July, and August.
If a warm winter is followed by a hot summer, with little rain,
So that by August, people are speaking about the “drought,”
Then the soil of the farms becomes parched,
The soil of the forest becomes parched,
The wetlands become parched,
And the ponds become bowls of mud.
Now in early September, a storm front is approaching from the west,
With thunderclouds, with rain!
People stand outside, facing the growing damp wind, facing the first cold drops,
Greeting the full downpour with cheers.
But the rain is only one feature of the flashing thunderheads.
Bolts of lightning stab down at the tinder-dry forests,
Reaching deep into the floor of pine needles and rotted maple leaves and twigs.
Within an hour of the storm’s arrival,
Hundreds of fires are burning in every corner of Vermont.
And Pennsylvania and New York and New Jersey
And New Hampshire and Massachusetts and Maine
And a huge swath of southern Canada.
During that same hot summer, that same blazing autumn
The news media may well carry the story that the polar ice cap
Which has been melting during the past several decades,
Has now entirely vanished.
So my question to you today is,
In our schools — grade school, high school, community college, college, university —
Do the students know what is coming?
Have the schools developed courses — entirely new, innovative courses —
Which present “Climate Change: the Problem” in the autumn semester,
And then “Clean Energy: the Solution” in the spring semester?
Full, serious courses, during which the students do their own extensive research.
Guest lecturers, such as sugar maple farmers, clean energy entrepreneurs,
Town mayors, professors of clean energy engineering, organic gardeners,
And a meteorologist,
Can bring their expertise into the classroom.
Are the students out hiking through a virtually snowless forest during February 2016?
Are they looking, carefully, thoughtfully, at what is happening?
Are the kids learning what they really need to know?
Are our young people reaching in their thoughts from the local to the global?
Are they reaching in their thoughts through the decades
Of the lives they will live
On a rapidly changing planet?
Are the kids learning what they will need to know in the 21st century?
As a teacher (PhD in literature from Stanford University, 1974) who has taught
In American classrooms and in Norwegian classrooms,
I would say that we are barely at the Cub Scout level.
Europe has over 3,000 offshore wind turbines spinning in the sea,
Powering hundreds of thousands of homes in 24 countries.
America has zero offshore wind turbines.
Do you think there might be a difference between
European schools and American schools?
These days of brown leaves and brown ferns and vanishing patches of snow
On the hillsides of Vermont
Are screaming at us … to notice what is happening.