Is Spaceship Earth* trying to tell us something?

Posted on March 14, 2012

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*I’ve been using this phrase ever since I watched Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapbox on Netflix several months ago. I recommend it. You’ll definitely laugh, and a part of you will probably cry. It’s fun. And the sound of the phrase brings a Ziggy Stardust David Bowie to mind, which always brightens my day. Love Bowie.

David Bowie as Ziggy StardustFULL DISCLOSURE: This post is pretty off the cuff, so I apologize in advance for any inaccuracies. It’s mostly just my internal dialogue regarding this wacky weather we’ve had so far this year.

Spring Break temps in BeantownThis is the forecast for the beginning of my Spring Break. In March. In Greater Boston. Pretty cray-cray, right? I mean, yeah, I love warm weather. I’m that girl who would rather be sweating in her apartment with the windows wide open than have an AC blasting (exception: the bedroom… I’m sure you can figure out the deets on this one yourself). A part of me thinks it would be appropriate to move further south eventually, but I really love the culture of Boston and the Northeast in general, so right now a move below the Mason Dixon is not really being considered.

Anyways, I have plans to do some garden prep next week- greenhouse and tool shed organization, soil working, compost turning, cutting back a rose bush gone wild, maybe some seed starting- and this forecast is looking mighty glorious for being outdoors. But it begs a critical thinker and grower to wonder… what exactly is going on here in the Northeast? And what will it mean for the crops?

Immediate free-form thoughts that come to mind: so little moisture this winter (!!!), diseases and pests gone unharmed, potential for an extended season, weather extremes (storm systems, heat waves) to come? THE POLAR ICE CAPS?!

USDA 2012 Plant Hardiness Zone MapAnd what about the USDA’s new Plant Hardiness Zone Map released several weeks ago? The USDA is quick to reassure citizens that the map is not representative of climate change; it’s simply a more accurate depiction of the zones according to new algorithms, technology and information systems, and more geographically-specific data. Let’s not forget it’s only telling us “… the average of lowest winter temperatures for a given location for this time period [1976-2005].” Climate change is monitored via overall shifts in average temperatures over a 50-100 year period. But some zones, as seen in the Northeast, have shifted upward, meaning warmer average annual minimum temperatures. Am I supposed to just brush this off as a byproduct of better technology and record keeping?

Tomatoes in May at Waltham Fields (2011)The skeptic in me doesn’t want to jump too quickly to conclusions (say it with me: correlation does not imply causation), but I will admit I’m on board with the climate change folks; the data speaks pretty clearly to me and a slew of other, far more intelligent earthlings. I also think human observation and experience, as biased as it can be, is important in this matter. What have the people, especially those farmers who have been working for decades in the fields, observed in their time? And what weight should their ground experience hold in the climate change discourse?

I’d love to hear what others have witnessed and experienced around the country so far this year and years previous, and how they perceive(d) those observations to affect their region, food and watersheds, local farms, home or community gardens, etc.

“We completely underestimate the power of human conversation to change the world.”

Dr. Margaret J. Wheatley

Image credits: “David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust” via Fran and Dave’s Musical Adventure; weather forecast via the Weather Channel; USDA 2012 Plant Hardiness Zone Map via the United States Department of Agriculture.

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