Taking a brief break from felling and working up next year’s cordwood (and a couple weeks beyond Punxsutawney Phil’s prognostication) a mid-winter musing intrudes. Ruralist wisdom has long held that “Half your wood and half your hay, you should have at Candlemas Day” — Candlemas Day being what we now call “Groundhog Day.” That’s still true, more or less and I guess we’ll make it this year though mostly purchased wood filled the shed. Alas, the indignities of advancing age and seasonal tillage distractions. …

But I digress.

Though other towns have tried to cash in on the touristy PR phenomenon of Punxsutawney-ism, (when the Pennsylvania town swells from 7.000 to sometimes 40,000 consumers — plus live-stream gawkers), “Phil,” the Keystone State’s favorite rodent still still reigns as the king whistle-pig “seer-of-seers.” This year he reportedly failed to see his shadow when pulled rudely from his pen and the word was spread across hibernation nation (normally focused on fear & loathing, Stupor Bowling Tay-Tay & Trav Talk, and Pseudo-Reality Smack-Downs) that an early spring would follow.

Yes, dear reader, early springs and scorching summers are trending these days thanks to fossil carbon loading of the atmosphere. The UK Guardian headlines (2/17/24), “February on course to break unprecedented number of heat records.” The report focuses especially on dramatic ocean warming: “A little over halfway through the shortest month of the year, the heating spike has become so pronounced that climate charts are entering new territory, particularly for sea-surface temperatures that have persisted and accelerated to the point where expert observers are struggling to explain how the change is happening.”

“Humanity is on a trajectory to experience the hottest February in recorded history after a record January, December, November, October, September, August, July, June, and May, according to … Berkeley Earth scientist Zeke Hausfather.”

The Guardian piece quotes Nature Conservancy chief scientist Katherine Hayhoe observing that this heating is “happening at a much faster rate than ever documented in the past.” Further, she cautions, “If anything, we are much more likely to underestimate the impact of those changes on human society than to overestimate them.”


Locally, “underestimation” rules. With less than an inch of snow left on the ground, trucking enough into the downtown for a “sliding hill” at the increasingly climate-afflicted “Winterfest” was looking iffy, and putting revelers on donated bikes was suggested. Meanwhile two record busting coastal storms lashed the southern Maine coast (a scant 5 miles east of our downscale dirt farm) causing flooding and property damage.

The Wiscasset Newspaper (2/03/24) cites Hannah Baranes, of the Maine Research Institute as observing that “The coastal storms’ severity was significantly impacted by sea level rise. In addition it is likely that one or both storms resulted in the highest recorded sea level in any given area on the Maine coast. …”

“Baranas said sea level rise will increase because oceans have not yet seen the effect from the anticipated melting of the polar ice caps due to global warming. In addition, she said sea levels have been buffered by an 18.6 year cycle of the moon that makes tidal ranges rise and fall by 5 to 7.5 inches, the effect is almost at its minimum and, in about a year it will draw the ocean upwards.”

Undeterred — business-as-usual prevails in pursuit of “economic development” and “affordable housing.” (More equals affordable, presumably.) Hence our local Twin Cities are moving ahead with new turnpike interchanges, the better to speed car-cultural sprawl. Just to the north, the Maine Turnpike Authority gears up to plow a “Gorham By-pass” toll road through what Portland Press Herald editors conceded was an “impressive and charming farm” and a 5-mile stretch of back-country sacrificial remainder. The stated vision is that all those happy-motoring commuters/consumers will hurtle along in electric vehicles — fraudulently green-washed as having “zero-emissions.” (That depends on where you start counting and where you stop.) (But I digress.)

Locally the push is on to consider zoning changes to perhaps facilitate the transformation of fields and forests into “solar farms,” the better to generate green electricity with which to propel the sprawl machine.

That machine also gets political juice from the Reagan/Clinton “re-inventing government” malefactors who re-jiggered policy to promote the suicidal idea that private/profit “markets” could somehow promote the public good. Thus we have a rail system of which “Bulgaria would be ashamed,” the world’s most expensive “health care system” and declining life expectancies it sponsors, crushing educational debt, people “sleeping-rough” (as the Brits call it) in doorways and tents next to the sewage treatment plant downtown, and a profit-grasping media system that coarsens and despoils the population whose “interest, convenience, and necessity” it is supposed to serve.

We don’t need a rotund rodent to predict our thermal future.

It’s not kool.

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