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The dangers and pitfalls of climate change are many – and terrifying.

The United Nations lists hotter global temperatures, increasingly severe storms, drought, sea level rise, ocean life die-off, land species die-off, plant die-off, loss of adequate food supply and increased health problems from all of the above as well as degraded atmosphere just to get the conversation started. I know all this. Chances are you do, too.

But come for my maple syrup, and now it is personal.

Yes, you read that right, maple syrup – that tastiest of treats and our reward for making it through winter – is in danger.

To understand this, first we have to make sure we all understand what maple syrup is. My own favorite explanation is “condensed tree blood.” Leave it to a fifth grader to break it down to the gory basics. And also, yes, that is basically what it is.

The maple syrup we all pour over our pancakes and waffles comes from trees in the genus Acer. Technically, pretty much any species of maple can be tapped for syrup, but the Acer saccharum, sugar maple to its friends, is the most common.


We all know these resplendent trees. We love them. They are the ones that in the summer leaf out so beautifully, and then in the fall go all kinds of flaming amazing gorgeous on us. They are stunners. They are one of the easiest trees to identify with their distinctive sharply pointed leaves (hello, Canadian flag) and deeply grooved barked trunks.

They also are prolific.

According to the USDA, maples grow as far north as parts of Manitoba, sweeping south through the Appalachian Mountains and out as far west as Kansas and part of Minnesota – a few even thrive in Georgia and the Carolinas.

Every year, during the winter, these trees produce liquid nourishment for themselves: sap. It’s 98% water and 2% sugar, and when the sap is collected and the water boiled off, you get syrup.

It takes a lot of it though. In fact, it takes 40 gallons of sap (about four mature trees’ worth) to yield just one gallon of syrup.

More importantly for this conversation, it also takes the right weather conditions: nights below freezing, mild daytime temps. Aye, there’s the rub.


The changing climate is wreaking havoc on what was once a pretty stable seasonal weather pattern.

The severity of this change is put on full display by this BBC’s news headline: “Canada’s maple syrup reserve hits 16-year low.”

OK, once we all get over the adorableness of the fact that Canada even has a maple syrup reserve, that’s actually quite alarming. According to that same BBC article, “the reserve … designed to hold 133 million pounds of maple syrup at any given year … fell (in 2023) to 6.9 million pounds.” They add, “experts link the shortage to both a rise in demand and warmer weather, which has disrupted production.”

I haven’t seen any statistics for our neck of the woods yet, but anecdotally, farmers are saying the same thing here. I spent this past weekend celebrating Maine Maple Sunday at our local farm, Goranson Farm in Dresden, where we buy our syrup. As we stood in the steamy hot sugar shack watching the fires boil away the sap, Rob Johanson told us that this year has been rough. The winter was just too warm. No good conditions for sap.


I realize that, technically, maple syrup is not essential. It certainly seems like a culinary canary in this coal mine we are all inhabiting, but it is not technically an elemental requirement of life.

But, then again, isn’t it though?

Doesn’t life, with all of its everyday difficulties, sort of require a pool of sweet, amber brown liquid love atop a steaming hot short stack?

I think so.

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