Wednesday, 18 May 2011

A deepening unease

Village of the Damned (1957) adapted from John Wyndam's novel Midwich Cuckoos
We are all familiar with the science fiction technique of starting with apparent normality and then the developing sense of disquiet as it becomes apparent from small clues that things are far from normal.

I am finding that more and more people have that sense of unease about climate change. This Spring has felt rather like the beginning of a science fiction film with things gradually getter stranger: a hot spell in early Spring, the driest Spring on record and the absence of April showers in the south, cracked and fissured London clay out in the fields of Fryent Country Park and abnormally early flowering and fruiting of plants.

We associate English strawberries with Wimbledon which starts this year on June 20th and runs until the first week of July but strawberries are already ripening on my allotment in Birchen Grove, Kingsbury. Self-seeded tomatoes sprung up in my unheated greenhouse about three weeks ago and courgette plants started  flowering in outside beds a week ago.   Sweetcorn plants are flourishing at a time when we are usually only just thinking about putting them outside under fleece.

Corn and courgette plants at Birchen Grove allotment last week

I am well aware of the difference between weather and climate and that all this might be a one-off but the long term trend has been warmer so that as a gardener I am now able to grow tender plants such as chillies and aubergine outside with some success in most summers. Last year's cold Spring seems to be an exception to the overall trend (see Note). It appears that Spring 2011 may ell be over before the BBC's Springwatch is aired.

All this may seem moderately interesting but hardly world shattering. However I think it opens up a way of discussing climate change which isn't so extreme and apocalyptic that people run away and hide under the bedclothes. That sense of disquiet is something that a lot of people have felt but not voiced. Talking about it can start a dialogue leading to a deeper understanding and a recognition that action has to be taken.

The Woodland Trust publishes information on the latest UK Phenology surveys.  The findings suggest that by  2005 Spring was 11 days earlier for 80% of Spring events than it was in 1976 and that the trend has been accelerating in the last decades.

You can take part in monitoring Spring and Autumn events by registering at the website HERE

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