We need to talk about … the weather.
Well of course we do, we’re British and if we didn’t, we might have to talk about our feelings and then the whole carefully crafted edifice might fall apart. But my fundamentally flawed and cynical nature aside, we actually do need to talk about the weather; about what it tells us about the climate (where to start on that one) about the big, frightening implications for our planet and about the (relatively) tiny, crappy implications for each and every one of us.
Surely you don’t need the climate story – well apparently you do because believe it or not there are still significant numbers of people who deny that the climate is changing. I’m trying so hard here not to resort to number s but people – 11 of the 12 hottest years on record have happened since 1995. And of course it’s not just about a temperature rise- it’s about storms, tornadoes, forest fires, floods, freezing cold winters (turn the Gulf stream off and you start to notice that our latitude is about the same as Moscow). All quite apocalyptical and all very relevant to all of us. Particularly when you run it forward. Where do all those people in the heavily populated coastal areas of the world move to when the sea level rises, where do the tens perhaps hundreds of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa and other water stressed regions migrate to when the rains fail for good, and what about the polar bears?
And then you start thinking locally, personally– the currently crappy level in the UK. If like me you needed to be out and about on Friday it was a nuisance- I got wet through and then had to try three different routes home before I found an open road. If you are like my friends in Hebden Bridge, well you lost half of your carpets and furniture and most of your electrically two weeks ago and now you’re sandbagging the doors. And they’ll probably struggle to get home insurance next year.
It impacts on the activities of the Land Trust too- in so many ways. It spoils the event we offer our friends all around the country- come and join our giant picnic at Festival Gardens (but wear full waterproofs and keep moving to stop the pneumonia kicking in)- come and help count species at the Elba Park Bio Blitz ( but do keep your eye on the Burn- its subject to an Environment Agency Flood Warning). It’s also costing us money – grass mowing (when we can get on to mow it) might cost us twice as much in a wet year and the weed growth, don’t talk to me about weeds! I currently have a crop of 6 feet tall hemlock on one of my Yorkshire sites which would not only finish off Socrates but the entire Academy and every philosopher since (oooh there’s a thought, I never did care for Nietzsche and really don’t get Kant…).
But the really sad impact this year of course is on the wildlife. Many of our sites are excellent havens for ground nesting birds, but in a season of repeated torrential downpours and heavily saturated ground, eggs chill and nestlings die of hypothermia. Butterflies struggle to find days that are warm and dry enough to take to the air and find nectar and mates and even wetland species struggle. Normally shallow pools are flooded and scoured out so all the mini beast that like still water are washed away into the roaring torrents nearby and perish. This happening once in a while isn’t an issue, but happening year after year it is a serious problem. And locally, nationally , globally we’ll have losers and winners in the great climate change lottery but I’m willing to bet we’ll have more losers than winners and we are very likely to be one of them.