The star magnolia in our backyard is blooming, and I’m not happy about it. Don’t get me wrong: I love the silky, sparkling white blossoms, one of the true wonders of spring. But there’s no way that delicate shrub should be blooming in February. The daffodils that have popped up around our yard will survive a freeze or even a light snow, but the star magnolia blooms will shrivel into something like brown used Kleenex if the temperatures get down to the low 30s. And given the quirky weather of the mountains, that’s likely any day now.
I can hardly blame the poor plant. The crazy warm weather we’ve had recently tugs at me, too, to get out in the garden. But other than random clean-up I don’t dare attempt anything yet. All of us living things are learning to struggle with the change in climate that is coming upon us.
NASA tells us that January 2017 was the third-warmest on record, just 0.2 degrees Celsius cooler than the hottest January on record: that of 2016. Meanwhile, scientists are reporting that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has now reached what they call a “global minimum” of 400 parts per million. That means that’s 400 ppm is as low as concentrations get during the year. For most of the year, it is higher than that and pushing higher still.
It’s easy for our eyes to glaze over these numbers and scientific terms, but the upshot is that we humans are entering new territory, seeing atmospheric conditions that we as a species have never experienced. And the effects are more than just early-blooming plants. They include the spread of invasive species, rising ocean levels, collapsing ice sheets, wildly varying weather extremes, and so much more.
It’s ironic that just as the effects of climate change become increasingly alarming a new administration is settling into Washington that dismisses them and issues plans to dismantle efforts to slow the pace of change. As people who cherish the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part, we are called to attend to this: To use our voices and gather with others in common cause to shape an emerging movement to preserve life as we know it.
Earth’s history teaches that life can endure much, but we humans and the web of higher living things we depend on are more fragile. The forces that drive global change are immense and not always immediately apparent, yet once rolling are they hard to stop. We must join the work now.
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister
Thursday, March 2, 2017