Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Trees in trouble

I saw this on Isaac Bonewits' blog Views from the Cyberhenge, and it kinda scared me a little: a map created by, in a post where he suggests buying oceanfront property in northern California... (and wouldn't we all love to do that!)

This is a map showing Zone hardiness changes in the last 17 years and how global warming has affected the growth of trees and plants in those zones.

Hardiness zones are areas mapped to let us gardeners know which plants will do well in the areas we live in. For example, when I lived in Boston, it was Zone 6, but now in Albany I am in a Zone 5a. My pal Wren in Florida lives in Zone 9; this means she can grow all kinds of cool tropical plants and have stuff in bloom year-round, but it also means cold-hardy plants and trees which need a period of cold temperatures for their growth cycle will not grow there at all, like peonies, daffodils, lilacs, apples, pears, etc.

Global warming is causing some zones to get warmer, while a very few (mostly in desert areas) have gotten colder. Global warming, despite the name, does not just make things warmer: it intensifies weather conditions that already exist, hence bigger floods in Bangladesh, more severe droughts and dryspells in Florida, hotter muggier summers in New England, and windier gale storms in Europe.

How does this affect us? Well, in areas where farmers grow certain crops their ability to grow and harvest fruit from trees (like apples, cherries, peaches, pears, oranges, in short ALL THE FRUITS WE LIKE TO EAT) will be compromised, thus affecting their livelihood, and our ability to purchase locally-grown fruit. It is likely Californa will still be able to grow large amounts of produce like it does now, so we will still be able to get many fruits at the supermarket. But in recent years there has been a nationwide movement afoot to support local farms and eat local food for its benefits to our health and local economies, not to mention supporting the farming way of life which helps us all to acknowledge and participate in our most basic connection to nature, the fact that the food that feeds our bodies comes from the earth.

This is important.

My thought is that if this type of farming gets more difficult because of weather changes (as we saw earlier this year when some Northeast apple growers feared crop failure due to an abnormally-warm winter), that more of them will throw in the towel. So we need to support them now if we want the coming difficulty to be lessened.

If any of you have never tasted a locally grown apple, ear of corn or tomato, let me just say there is no comparison to that pale, mealy often tasteless stuff you buy at the supermarket. The freshness is everything. And if you can get organic local produce, so much the better. Even if the health benefits from not ingesting pesticides were not a factor, the superior taste alone should get people to switch to organics. And eating local produce means your immune system gets a boost from the local pollen and bees that helped to pollinate these plants.

It worries me that this warming trend is going to affect trees and crops. I want to try and do what I can to raise awareness. I try to buy local and organic produce, visiting my farmer's markets every week, but my purchases alone won't do much. So I will continue to try and write about these issues and talk to my friends about them.

There are so many problems in the world, that if a compassionate person tried to decide among them it is enough to drive you crazy. I learned long ago when I worked as an environmental activist, you have to choose your battles and put your energy into issues that are important to you, and apply your skills where they are best utilized. So in my activist activities connected to paganism, I have written about media portrayals and the like for years. But I am feeling a need to reach out a bit further and help the planet.

My focus now in environmental activism is on promoting healthy local food, lessening pesticide use, and helping protect trees and orchards. Join me in eating well and preserving the beauty and majesty of nature's wisest plants.

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