It is the sixteenth of April and the sky above me is breathtakingly blue. There are absolutely no clouds and in my imagination I can see clear through to the heavens above. It is late morning, and despite the time of year, it is nearly 70 degrees. One doesn’t often complain about weather like this, but I find myself concerned about the fact that the sugar maple leaves are opening up on the branch tips above my head. The young green foliage contrasts sharply against the blue sky. I have never seen maple trees leaf out this early in this part of New England.
As I ponder the maple leaves I think back to the unusual patterns that we have been experiencing during the last few years: giant and frequent storms in the Gulf of Mexico, extended droughts in the Midwest, extremely mild winters along the northern tier of the United States, and very unusual autumn rain events in the northeast. The pattern makes me increasingly nervous, and I feel helpless because I know that these are circumstances that may be beyond my control.
From an early age I learned to be independent. My family circumstances, although difficult at times, taught me survival skills that would last a lifetime. I have known for a long time that the reason I feel so comfortable in the wild is that it is the one place where I can trust my instincts. It is the one place where I can feel in control of my own survival.
Although climate change may be an issue that can be controlled by collective mankind this may be only part of the picture. While there is much evidence that the world has been through several warming trends during the last two thousand years, it appears that the present warming pattern may be of different origin and of possibly greater magnitude. Recent studies of carbon dioxide levels in ice, where atmospheric CO2 can be evaluated for as far back as 20,000 years, have revealed that today’s carbon dioxide levels may the highest they have ever been during this long time period. Carbon dioxide has been linked to the “greenhouse” effect where the suns heat becomes trapped within a layer of gas that may result in the warming of the earth’s surface temperatures.
The life on our planet is the result of and dependent upon a very delicate and intricate balance of surface temperature, land mass, water mass, ocean currents, and air currents. Even slight changes in surface temperature can increase the amount of surface water by melting glaciers and ice caps decrease the amount of landmass as the water covers the edges of the continents, change currents within the oceans resulting in a change of global air and wind patterns.
The best we can expect might be subtle climate changes that would change local climates. For instance our forest composition, over time, might mimic the forests now found in more southern climates. Northern deciduous trees, such as the sugar maple could be lost. Northern coniferous trees such as the red spruce would almost certainly be lost. A change in vegetative communities will result in corresponding changed in the animal communities. New England would become quite a different place.
The worst we can expect is nearly unspeakable. Many scientists agree that even modest changes in temperature of the earth’s surface will result in larger areas of the earth’s surface being covered with water. Our earth’s temperature is governed by the collecting of heat by the landmass of the earth. When this is reduced and as the increase water surface reflects light and therefore potential heat, the earth will cool. Ironically, global warming will result in global cooling and an ensuing period of advancing glaciers.
There are many scientific models predicting this change. There is also much disagreement on how long this would take given present warming trends. Some models predict the changes will take place over many hundreds of years, others predict the changes will occur in much, much shorter periods of time.
Despite all this there still may be hope that we humans can control the destiny of this planet earth. It will require a massive, collective effort. It will require changing the way we live and the way we do business. It will require a monumental change in how we view our planet. It will require that we understand that this planet is one living organism, of which we humans are only a small part. It will require that we measure every action, and be responsible for every reaction.
Deep, very deep, in my own soul I understand that humans have great capabilities. We are capable of surviving such great changes.
It is the eighteenth of April and I am sitting in the dark, high on a ledge, waiting for the sun to rise. I am completely shrouded in the black abyss of the night. As morning approaches the sky begins to lighten. It is as if there is a large curtain to the east that is being opened very slowly, and the morning light leaks in through the narrowest of openings.
I hear one lone bird voice rejoicing a new dawn. Then there is a long moment of silence. It is so quiet I can hear my own breathing. The bird sings once again, like it is trying to wake all those who inhabit the forest. Once again there is silence. And then it seems the other birds hear it. Their movement can be heard in the branches. A second song can be heard clearly throughout the forest, and then another, and still another. The forest is now beaming with excitement! A chorus of enlightenment celebrates a new day.
Originally written in March of 2005