By: Sarah Pomerenke, Environmental Educator, LIU Post
My birthday is August 3rd, and, growing up, I used to think that it was the best day of the year for a birthday because during the first week of August it was usually guaranteed to be hot, sunny and beautiful. I absolutely love the hot weather, and, growing up in Austria, we did not have very long summers. However, starting on my 16th birthday, August 3rd became a pretty cold and rainy day. I thought it was an exception. Yet, to my disappointment the next year was the same. After a few years, I realized that the weather had changed, and my predictable hot August 3rd had become rather unpredictable. However, that was not the only weather problem I observed growing up in Austria.
During my childhood, summers would usually start around June and would last until September. The first snow always fell between October and November and would not melt until March or sometimes even April. When I became older though things started to change. Hot summer days started in May, and the first snow sometimes did not appear until January. Furthermore, the seasons began to “mix.” For example, we had periods of freezing cold temperatures around June or July. One year, I even remember that we had snow in June. To me, it was highly obvious that our climate was changing; yet, personally, I did not think about it in a way that concerned me.
Later on in my life though, I moved to the United States. I realized that uneven weather patterns existed here as well. During my first two years in the United States, I experienced exactly what people had told me regarding the weather in New York: summer was from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and winter was the other half of the year. I remember the weather very clearly because I enjoyed the summer very much, and I disliked the fall and the spring. However, I did not feel that way for very long.
To me, it felt as if the seasons started to disappear. For example, in 2010, the first hot days were in the beginning of March, just about to cool down again in May and June. Another extreme example was the winter of 2011 to 2012 – where we had snow for only about two days and for the rest of the winter the temperature did not drop below 50 degrees. This seemed kind of scary to me considering that I lived in New York and it felt more like San Diego.
In 2012, the weather again continued to be erratic. It started with an extreme heat wave on Memorial Day weekend and then cooled down for the whole month of June before warming up again in the beginning of July. We are supposed to live in an area that experiences four seasons, and we used to have those seasons. But at this point, I gradually started to see them disappear and what is left seems to be just a “mix” of warm and cold weather at any given time of the year. This “mix” of seasons makes it more than obvious – the climate is changing!
In the past, I never thought much about the connection between disappearing seasons and climate change. Only after I read Jill Carpenter’s story “Black Spring” in Thoreau’s Legacy did I realize that one thing effects the other. Carpenter’s story is somewhat similar to mine; yet, her story does not end at the fact that seasons are disappearing. She closely monitors the effects of disappearing seasons on nature and wildlife. The changes she found that were caused by these abnormal weather patterns was significant. This made me remember my own findings in the summer of 2012 following an extremely mild winter – my finding being a large amount of unpleasant bugs.
More bugs than I have ever experienced in my life…
Every day that I would spend time outside after sunset, I ran the risk of getting tons of bug bites all over my body. It literally got to the point that even bug spray did not help. One day, I even counted all the bug bites over my body and I came up with a number above forty.
Again, after reading different essays in Thoreau’s Legacy, I was able to connect them to my own experiences and climate change. I realized that my personal experiences with climate change were much more convincing than the news that the media tends to bombard you with such as icecaps melting or polar bears dying.
In the present day, most of the population is aware of global climate change. However, most of the things that the general public knows about it is intangible. Whether distance wise, like Antarctica, or time wise, such as the future consequences of climate change, it seems beyond our reach. This is one reason for peoples’ passivity towards climate change. However, if the broader population would recognize the changes of global warming that are happening now in our own backyards, then people would be much more active in trying to reduce the impacts of climate change.
So, what I say is that we need to make people more aware of the problems that we face on a day-to-day basis related to global climate change. We need to make them realize that the many problems we do face are indeed related to global climate change. Only until we all work together to reduce the impact of global warming, will we have a chance of carrying on, to our children, the luxury of this planet that we now get to enjoy.