I played my first round of golf of the 2012 season on Sunday. Beautiful day, 77 degrees. In times past having such temperatures on March 18 in this part of New York State would have been cause for yips of delight and joyful conversation about an early spring. Don't get me wrong: I'm thrilled at the nice weather. Still, there's an undercurrent of unease about sun and warmth this time of year. This is snow country, where it isn't unusual to see flakes -- and sometimes snowbanks -- in March and April. On Sunday on a relatively dry golf course, perspiration trickling, I turned my face skyward and wondered: Is this just an unusual spring, or are we in the midst of that dark specter, climate change?
There was a TV program on the other day about global warming. My flat screen was full of dire predictions and depressing images. "The polar bears are finished," the narrator said while cameras panned across crumbling glaciers from which huge chunks of melting ice crashed into arctic seas. Others, deemed experts, warned of oceans rising 20 -- even 40 -- feet, essentially putting places like Florida and Manhattan underwater. For long years there has been talk of the lost city of Atlantis. Centuries from now, will our great great great grandhildren contemplate the lost city of New York?
I decided to take a peek back in time, dipping again into the lives of the ladies who once lived in my house. Ida, bless her heart, was ritualistic about providing the weather report at the beginning of each diary entry. One hundred eleven years ago, on March 17 here in my hometown, Ida reported that it snowed all day. On March 18, however, she said it was "real warm and spring-like," and that the snow was melting fast. Two days later, on March 20, she said again the weather was like spring, noting that the temperature had reached 40 degrees. For the next 47 days Ida describes the weather as snowing, raining, blowing, and cold. The first time she uses the word "hot" to describe the weather was on May 7.
There's no telling what this means other than in 1901 in Sherburne, New York, spring did not come early. I haven't yet gotten to the diary entries of years after, and for all I know March in 1902 was warm and glorious. I can say that my memories of growing up in these parts are more similar to Ida's than to what I experienced on Sunday. And last year, of course, we were buried, having had a major storm in early March after which snow was up to tall hips in my driveway.
Climate change has become a hot topic. Former Vice President Al Gore has raised his voice about the potential and frightening results of the warming of our planet. Then there are those who say it's "a hoax." A hoax? To what end? I realize I'm not much more than a tick on donkey's behind in the big scheme of experts who argue on both sides of this issue, but it seems to me that if in fact we are experiencing climate change, and if this isn't just the Earth going through a natural cycle but instead is something in which we humans with our oil burning and forest cutting have played a part, it's at least worth considering instead of waving a dismissive hand that a melting ice cap is nothing to worry about. If each of us taking ownership of little things might make a difference -- like walking more and driving less, or planting a tree -- why not try? And if global warming is someone's politically-motivated agenda...well, okay. So we'll get some exercise and have a nice maple to come home to. But if climate change is a legitimate threat to our world, how good to know that we didn't go down without a fight.