The Melting of Winter, 1960-2010

Posted on January 25, 2010


On 22 January 2010 the first dandelion of spring is photographed in Richmond.

The winter of 1961-62 was my first in Vancouver.  I remember an eighteen inch snowfall which shut down the schools, with the grades four and five presenting a united front against the grade sixes in the snowball fights in the schoolyard.

The following winter, I was living in Steveston, in the southwest angle of the Fraser delta slightly south of the city.  I remember ditches beside the roads capacious enough in some stretches to have served as summertime canals for canoe traffic.  Come winter those same ditches were frozen so solid that children could skate on them on the way to school.

In 1964-65, living again in the city, I remember the temperatures doing the frosty limbo down to minus 17o C, and I can’t really be sure if they didn’t dip even lower than that.

Here in the winter of 2009-10, things are different.

Two weeks ago perhaps, I noticed in my walks that some trees around the city were starting to sprout fuzzy buds.  In their vegetable tree-brains, spring has apparently sprung.  In mid-January.

And children no longer ice skate in the ditches of the Fraser delta.  Even mouse-children would be strained to find enough frost in Steveston ditches nowadays, even during the coldest stretches, to justify strapping on their blades.

In the 1960s, the salmon fishing industry in British Columbia was dying because of a half-century of over-fishing and habitat mismanagement.

By 2010 whole populations of salmon are disappearing in the ocean, failing entirely to return to the rivers, probably because of disruptions associated with climate change.

In the 1960s, the forest industry was popping.  We couldn’t cut down trees fast enough, and every year the forests were fewer and fewer.  But, oh! there were so many trees when we started, and so many still to go.

By 2010, with climate change, the pine beetles and ever worsening wildfires assist us in eating up our forests.  The forests, which climate science now tells us we shouldn’t have been cutting down in the first place.  They store carbon, don’t you see?

In 1960, the world had a population one half of what it is today.  In 1960, the world’s carbon footprint was one quarter of what it is today.  Population change has doubled the human impact on the world in the last fifty years, and consumer culture has doubled that impact again.  Thus consumer culture rather than population growth has now become the leading factor in the human production of atmospheric carbon.

For the love of all who follow us, for the love of the planet itself, we have to stop.

Posted in: climate change