Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Hot Enough For You?

(Photo: Australian Bureau of Meteorology/)

As reported by http://www.voanews.com/
January 16, 2014

More Severe Heat Waves to Come as Australia Sizzles

by Phil Mercer

Heat waves in Australia are becoming more common and severe, according to a report released on Thursday by the nation's Climate Council. The independent non-profit organization insists that extreme weather patterns can be attributed to climate change. The report comes as southern Australia braces for more punishing heat and emergency crews battle dozens of bushfires.
Temperatures in the southern city of Adelaide have been near 46 degrees Celsius, while Melbourne is on track to record its second-longest heat wave since the 1830s. Strong winds are likely to increase the bushfire danger later this week in South Australia and Victoria, where more than 1,000 fires have been reported. Some 40 are currently burning out of control.
The Climate Council said that periods of intense heat in Australia are becoming more frequent, hotter and are lasting longer. The council predicts that such heat waves will become increasingly severe in the future. Researchers blame climate change, and believe that the burning of fossil fuels is trapping more heat in the lower atmosphere.

​​Professor Will Steffen, one of the authors of the Climate Council report, said events spanning many years were studied.

“We are putting together [data] over many decades to look at longer term trends rather than individual events. It is when you do that that you start seeing those trends of longer heat waves, more frequent heat waves, hotter heat waves, and they are actually starting earlier in the season and this shows you that the basic fundamental characteristics of heat waves are indeed changing towards conditions that are worse in terms of human health and well-being,” said Steffen.  
Health authorities in Australia have warned that extreme heat can kill. In February 2009, 173 people were killed when bushfires tore across the state of Victoria in what was known as the Black Saturday bushfire disaster.

​​In South Australia, dozens of people have been treated for heat-related illnesses and more ambulance crews have been put on duty; the number of patients is expected to rise later in the week.

Bill Griggs, from the Royal Adelaide Hospital, said the heat can cause a variety of medical issues or exacerbate existing ones.

“The commonest things are actually the deterioration in existing medical conditions, they can be affected by a degree of heat stress, but you get other simple things ranging from heat rash or prickly heat, some people get cramps, some can become dizzy and faint. But it's when you get more affected and run the risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke,” said Griggs.
​​The extreme heat has also affected the world of sport, forcing matches at the Australian Open in Melbourne to be suspended. The punishing conditions are expected to continue into Friday, while a cool change is forecast over the weekend.

Scientists said that 2013 was Australia’s hottest year on record. In many parts of the country, 2014 has started in a similar fashion.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Cold Enough For You?

Cold enough for you? This is the familiar ironic, rhetorical question asked at this time of year. This January - after an ice-storm followed by frigid temperatures - it is particularly keenly pondered. These days, it is often accompanied by a dismissive “Global warming, huh?” Sure, it’s cold here -  it is winter, after all -  but this doesn’t mean that a global warming trend isn’t happening. Yes, extreme weather is upon us. But one cold weather system does not constitute a climate trend, and nor does even one cold winter. We joke about it being the new normal, but it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t, or can’t, do anything about it. Powerful hurricanes, typhoons, ice-storms, snow-storms, wind-storms, avalanches, droughts, floods, heat-waves are all throwing us off our complacent stride. And yes, sea levels are rising, yes, the polar icecaps and mountain glaciers are melting. Is this a conspiracy on the part of governments and the overwhelming majority of scientists is collusion with the mainstream media (as I have always been perplexed to hear from the more opinionated in alternative media)? In this case, I think not. Climate change is everywhere, except in the small world and closed mind of career contrarians.

I have been captivated watching a documentary series on TV called I Have Seen the Earth Change.  Now heading into its second season, it documents the changes in the lives of people who work the land and sea in now twenty countries around the world. These people in diverse landscapes are having to deal with the brutal reality of climate change as it already affects their daily lives. From Bolivia, to Australia, Canada, United States, Norway, Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain, Greece, Brazil, Namibia, Mali, Egypt, Jordan, Oman, Nepal, Mongolia, Vietnam to Japan, the story is the same. Program notes state: “Climate change is forcing farmers, livestock breeders, fishermen, foresters, hunters and others to adapt, and adapt fast. These are the people on the front line who are in daily contact with nature and who depend on it for their living. They face a formidable fight, but mankind’s capacity for adaptation shows there is still hope.”

Smallholders tell how the rains do not come as they used to; how there is not enough water to irrigate their crops as they once did; how the seasons have shifted; how they have to adapt what they grow to more frequent droughts. Small-scale farmers know. They can smell the change in the air, feel it in their bones, see it in their crops, and sense it in the changing ecosystem in microcosm that makes up their farm. I am one of these farmers. We are fortunate in our somewhat temperate climate; we are used to a mixed bag of weather, cast seemingly like a roll of the dice each year. But there is a pattern. We have generally been seeing less snow and more ice and freezing rain, more thunderstorms and fluctuating levels of rainfall. And hotter summers most years. We have had to water more than before, placing stress on our well. Water tables in southern Ontario have suffered under droughts and dry spells. We are mildly inconvenienced, but in some countries, whole villages are forced to relocate, farmers are forced to give up on the crops they have traditionally grown, and displacement as refugees is a new fact of life, just as wars shook up people’s lives in the past.

If we cannot get the big boys with their toys to stop deforestation, dirty oil extraction, toxic pollution, chemical mono-culture of farmland, burning of fossil fuels creating greenhouse gases, all on a mammoth scale, with scant regard for the natural environment or the health of the populace at large, we must at the very least as small communities feather our own nest by growing and eating healthy local food, conserving resources wisely, adapting to renewable energies, setting aside for a rainy (or blisteringly hot) day, and minimizing waste.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Winter Hours Spent Delving

Recent screenshot from my Pinterest page, www.pinterest.com/peterfinch/

I have spent quite some hours recently - through the bone-chilling weather outside, toasty by the wood-stove inside - delving into some themes that fascinate and inspire me. The media by which I have made these explorations are two-fold: books in print and Pinterest. That may sound like going from the sublime to the ridiculous, but both channels have been highly rewarding.

In books, I have been taking in There is a Season by Patrick Lane, The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane, The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King, Secrets of the Soil by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, Grass, The Forgiveness of Nature by Charles Walters, The Real Crash by Peter D. Schiff, The Farm as Ecosystem by Jerry Brunetti, Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, earth works by Scott Russell Sanders, An Epidemic of Absence by Moises Velasquez-Manoff. I have been thoroughly captivated by them all.

On Pinterest, I have developed several boards of interest - Magical Places, Magical Foods, Magical Plants, Health Naturally, Art & Sculpture, Home is Where the Heart is, Green Heroes. I like the format of Pinterest; it draws the viewer in via the image, following up by opening worlds of words, detailed analysis and so deeper meaning through web links.

You can find boards from my Pinterest page that are pertinent to this blog here:

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's Bunny

New Year’s Day, and up pops a bunny rabbit to greet us.

The appearance of wild animals has always been a good omen for me of the endurance of life. When Mum died, two deer wandered across the snowy field ; when our grey cat Gato died, a stag deer stood and watched, then scooted off into deep snow; when our black cat Negra died, a cawing raven landed on a tall elm tree, then winged off into a clear blue sky. Whenever deer, foxes, wolves, turkeys, even raccoons and skunks cross the landscape, I feel a frisson of excitement that the wild is right here outside our window. Now, just after the winter solstice, as the days get longer and a new year is upon us, rabbit tracks in the snow lead to a bundle huddled up facing into the sun, sheltered against the cold wind. The thermometer reads minus 20 Celsius out there,  but it is nice and toasty by the wood-fire in our sunny house.

May the New Year bring health and happiness - and occasional encounters with the magnificent wild - to you and yours.