Sunday, February 6, 2011

What this freakish weather means

It's February 6, 2011 and the fruit tree buds are breaking. A warm, mediterranean wind is blowing over the hills in the Bay Area and plants, animals and humans alike rejoice at the coming of an early spring. Almond, cherry, plum, apricot - all confused and coming out to show their pretty little petals. In all the farm fields of California, nature has been jump started by a good month into thinking it's really April and farmers are scurrying to get ahead of yet another hectic season of coaxing food from the soil. If a late freeze comes, which it probably will, the buds will freeze and no fruit will come. Some may choose to plant annual vegetables with less of a gestation period after the weather becomes more stable. Some will write it off as a bad year. Regardless, farming is at the whims of nature. As young farmer Zoe Bradbury (she's so quotable!) wrote in one of her posts in Diary to a Young Farmer, "When I signed up to be a farmer, I knew the small print: and ye shall accept without question, whining or self-pity the vagaries of the weather, over which you shall have no control whatsoever. Sigh. All I can do is keep an eye to the sky and try to work with it, around it, in it."

During this West Coast heat wave, New York, Chicago and other states to the East are slammed with snow storms so intense that many cities, such as Madison, Wisconsin, declare snow days. It's an ever-increasing trend that leads to celebration only when there's heat involved. But heat aside, it has become normal to have abnormal, more extreme weather. Despite some of the most brutal winters on record in some parts of the Midwest, heat is also being experienced and some growing zones have increased two notches in the last few years. Since the weather is related to climate change, all of us need to do our best to reduce our energy consumption. Here are some small steps towards tightening your global warming belt:

1) Unplug unused appliances, they are using electricity and electricity = coal/natural gas/etc., contributors to global warming.

2) Try biking to places within two miles from your home (where most car trips are used). Cars are huge contributors to global warming and declining air quality

3) Eat less meat. Especially red meat. Cattle are large contributors to global warming through the production of methane gas and are a major reason for deforestation in South America (the lungs of the world!). Vegetarianism is the best diet you can have for the planet, but if you can't eat veggies every day, choose organic white meats as much as possible and stay away from industrial meat.

4) Think about your water usage. Turning on water means using electricity as well as this precious natural resource that is on the decline.

5) Talk to your friends and family about what they can do. You may want to use Anna Lappe's Take a Bite website.


  1. I so badly wanted to chit chat with you while you were in Iowa. We just weren't able to make it. I really enjoy the blog! Thanks!

  2. Hi Jane,
    My first time reading your blog. Our values are in alignment around sustainability. I am prompted to respond to this post as February is when the almond trees blossom in the Capay Valley in CA. If it cools down this week, we may almost be on schedule. Not as dramatic as April.

  3. Hi Temra!

    Last week I was surprised to come across an article from March 2010 that said, "The UN has admitted a report linking livestock to global warming exaggerated the impact of eating meat on climate change."

    Do you know if this is true?

  4. Hi J - I'm glad to hear that the weather is right on track in the Capay Valley! (When is the Almond Festival anyway? I love it up there this time of year.)

    Check out this video that Maria Rodale made about this past decade being the hottest on record. My concern about the weather is that a late freeze will come, that it will rain and the almonds won't be pollinated, etc. Should have explained it more and appreciate your comment!

    Britt - great to see you here! When you take into account methane production, transportation of beef, deforestation in South America, water use, corn and soy production for feed... reducing red meat is an eater behavior that can have a big impact (in terms of eating/shopping habits). I'll dig around some more on this one and will check into the study you reference. Thank for posting!

  5. Just found this article by Union of Concerned Scientists that answers your question Britt!