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Poor Will's Almanack: March 28 - April 3, 2017

In his 1989 classic, The End of Nature, ecologist Bill McKibben talks about people’s expectations that spring will come the way it always has come. There may, of course, be cold springs and warm springs, wet springs and dry springs, but what if  our deeper expectations are unmet? What if spring is so cold or so warm that it becomes a different season altogether? And what happens, McKibben asks, if our certainty about the predictable sequence of nature falters?   

People ask me whether I have seen signs of global warming in southwestern Ohio where I live. I look for changes in blooming dates of flowers, the number of insects and birds, the patterns of their songs. I always look for what is the same and what is missing. I find that I have to look hard, and even then, I can’t always make sense out of what happens in front of me.

While a certain number of flowers or leaves or a certain level of warmth is necessary for one to experience April, a marked decrease in the number of elements decreases the season itself.  The critical tipping point of absences is of obvious concern to ecologists, but unless  we pay attention, too, the changes will catch us by surprise. The sequence of nature will have broken down, and it may be too late to adapt.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the second week of middle spring. In the meantime, In the meantime, notice as much of the world as you can. Pay attention. Don’t let nature end.

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