Went into town yesterday and spent the best part of the afternoon shopping for a birthday present for a 14-year-old girl. What the hell can you buy them that doesn’t constantly emit electronic beeps? The sun shone, the sky was blue and the streets were busy and bustling with shoppers. People wore t-shirts and airy summer clothes while I, wearing a light jacket was overdressed and soon felt it. I saw several people, including a postman, wearing shorts. Surreally some shop windows were already decked out in variations on traditional Christmas themes – all sparkly snowflakes, jolly Santas, and red-nosed reindeer.
The terraces fronting the bars and restaurants were crowded with people lazily taking in the sunshine or struggling to control their restless kids. The traffic warden busily writing out my parking ticket was in shirtsleeves but still sweated profusely as we amicably agreed that, yes I was a few minutes too late, and no, it didn’t merit a 65 euro fine (he let me off with a token gesture). Later a friend told me that her sister had organised a family barbecue for that evening. This is in late October.
In the barn where I have my workshop the swallows whistle and swoop. “Normally” they’d be halfway to South Africa by now. Outside in the orchard and in all the surrounding orchards apples and pears still hang on the trees or fall rotting to the ground. After the bizarre late winter/early spring when blossoms appeared in February only to be stung to death by the sharp frost in April the harvest has been so poor that farmers simply can’t gather enough fruit to cover the costs of picking it. Alternatives to allowing the crop to rot seem not to exist, at least if you take the taciturn farmers at their word. Only the language of money appears to play any part in the decision-making, and the market, as always has the final word.
Last night it rained, an unhurried, unrelenting downpour that went on all night, flooding part of the garden, as it has done every night for the past week. There’s barely enough wind to blow the leaves from the trees or rustle the feathers on the busy green woodpecker whose territory we share.
Black is White
There are those who say that climate change isn’t happening, won’t happen, or that even if it does we shouldn’t waste our time worrying about it – it’ll be somebody else’s problem by the time it manifests. Others say that climate change, while acknowledged, is not caused by the ruinous industrial activities of humanity but is simply the consequence of a natural cycle. There are people – the desperate politician, the global industrialist, and the ubiquitous surprised scientist who will tell you that black is white, night is day, and God is in his heaven, as long as they can get you to buy whatever it is they’re peddling. I say: believe the evidence of your own eyes, if nothing else.
For almost five decades we’ve read all the books, seen all the documentaries, and heard all the warnings (remember The Club of Rome back in 1968?) and still nothing has been done, even to slow down the inevitable. On the contrary, the blind, primeval striving after industrial and economic growth is the only thing on the agenda, at least in the “developed” world. Meanwhile the less fortunate are the first to experience just what the consequences of climate change are going to be for us all.
The fact that all this is still a subject deemed worthy of chatter and debate rather than decisive action would be cause for despair if it wasn’t for the inescapable truth in the conclusion made by filmmaker Yann Arthus Bertrand: that it’s simply too late to be a pessimist. ‘Do what you can’ is I suppose the only option we ever have. Support the right organisations, make your voice heard whenever opportunity arises, and minimize your own impact if possible. Me, I’m picking apples.
Temperatures “slightly above normal for the time of year”, says the weatherman on the radio. Who’s he kidding? One thing is certain: “normal” isn’t what it used to be. Personally I believe we’ve seen the last of normal.