Thursday, February 18, 2010

winter, weather and worries

We've been having a mild winter in Cape Breton, this year. At least, parts of the island are. People tell me that in the Highlands and the areas just on the edges of them, there is plenty of snow, and the snowmobilers are happy. But here in the lowlands, the temperature hovers around the freezing mark. Some days water is liquid, other days ice. Most days, slush. There is some snow in the woods, but not enough to make it worthwhile to put your snowshoes on (in other words, not over a foot). The ice on Baddeck Bay only goes partway out of the bay, enough that the ice fishermen have something to sit on, but not enough to fly a plane on, like last year.

This warm and mild weather worries me.

My brain wants to "figure it out," make a logical plan of steps to follow. Something like: 1) research climate studies of Maritimes. 2) Read studies to determine if this IS an anomaly, or if mild winters come along every so often in Maritime weather history. If it is an anomaly, determine what is causing this weather. 3) Solve worries in my head; know what to do.

But then real life takes over and I get distracted. It's time to make my lunch for work tomorrow, or to plan the weekend, or talk to one of my best friends or my boyfriend. Or figure out my finances and figure out where all my money's going to go this week. Or it's time to go to work. But it seems you can't completely ignore the weather, because it will always crop up again - I'll be at work, sitting at the circulation desk, talking to patrons, and someone will mention the weather. It happens once an hour on average, I'd guess.

Most of the people I talk to are happy about how mild and snowless it's been. I go back and forth on how I respond to that - some days I want to say, "Are you crazy? Doesn't it kind of take the fun out of wearing a lighter jacket to think that this might be climate change and our world might be about to change in ways we don't even know about?" And when I'm feeling like this I'll make some comment about how I miss winter, how much I love snowshoeing and the cold weather. Other times I'm not up for the effort of disagreeing, however politely and non-confrontationally I do so, and I'll smile, nod, and agree that it is certainly nice to have this mild weather. Aren't we lucky. Oh my goodness.

Then I get distracted again, and several days will go by, and then I'll be reminded of it again, of my worries about what this weather might mean. Distraction, reminder, distraction, reminder. Frustration and worry.

The problem - of climate change - is so big that it feels absolutely overwhelming. And yet our rational minds want to "figure it out," solve the problem. There's got to be a logical plan of steps to follow! (Right??!) Yet all the "little things" that various articles and activists tell us to do, which we would put in such a plan, don't fare well in a cause-and-effect experiment. Turn off the lights when you leave a room, save the world. However, I've been turning off the lights like an electricity evangelist and the world is nowhere near saved. Does this mean the little things don't work?

I don't know. I wish I could end this on a positive note and say, "Well, we've got to do those little things anyway, because we'll never know, and these things could have an effect." They certainly could. They're definitely having an effect on something, like my house's energy bill, and the amount of electricity this one household draws from NS Power on a given day. NS Power gets its energy mostly from coal-fired plants, so my turning a light switch on or off does make an impact on those plants. How big that impact is, or how small, is impossible to know, especially when factoring in all the other houses and businesses and how much or little they're drawing.

Having a talk about this with a friend usually ends up here: the point where we both agree that climate change is huge, and that we feel powerless to do anything about it. That we do what we can, but we live in this society and it's impossible to completely change everything about our consumptive lives. Some days you feel great because you eat a totally-locally grown meal. Other days you're stressed and out of time and you buy a fast food meal on the run, which you eat in your car as you drive somewhere.

Some days you think about the worrying mild weather, and other days you don't because there are 632 other things to think about in the run of a day. (Exact amount unknown, but you get my drift.)

Rational, logical-plan brain won't give up. "OK," it says, "We've come this far. We've got the problem and we just haven't found a solution yet." So I take my brain for a walk. I lace up my hiking boots (made in China, shipped across the oceans, trucked to my town - but bought in a local shop, even though it's more expensive, because I want to support local businesses and not big-box stores) and head out. It's a mild evening. There's a feeling of spring in the air. (It's Cape Breton in February, there shouldn't be a feeling of spring in the air. But still, it feels nice.) Part of the road is slushy snow, and other patches and dark brown, bare earth. The air is slightly misty and the sky is pinky blue.

I walk and I think: Here I am, here, now. In this time, this day, this minute, unable to jump twenty years ahead or go twenty years backward. Weighted down and held in place by limitations beyond my control. For a while, the last three years, one of those limitations was not having a vehicle of my own. Plenty of times that was frustrating, so irritating that I'd take myself for a walk. Get my head out, away from the problem, walk and realize that it was OK to have this limitation, because I could still walk. Still breathe outside air, still vent my frustrations to the snowbanks and trees.

Coming to terms with those limitations isn't the same thing as finding a solution. But in a weird, roundabout, emotional and not-quantifiable way, it IS the necessary step before finding your way to a place where you can figure out how to live with the limitations, and still get around them. At least, I think so.

Beyond that? I don't know.

It goes without saying, really, but it's true each time I post. And especially for this one: I'd really like to hear your thoughts.

Blog Archive