On climate change and sweet corn, and other things that change history

Indulge me, dear Reader (cap deliberate), for I am about to complain for the umpteenth time about climate change, and specifically its disruptive effect on that engine of weather in these parts, the Jet Stream.

The Environment Canada Weather daily weather graphic for this day, as you can see, shows the Jet Stream dipped south over much of east-central North America, so far south into the U.S. that the full extent of its reach is not shown. But the temperature-range aspect of the graphic clearly shows temperatures in Pennsylvania, for example, as well as most of southern Ontario, are colder than northern Alberta, Canada, and even the Canadian Northwest Territories.

jetjune14

I look at the seven-day forecast for this region of southern Ontario, specifically the Bruce Peninsula, and no day is forecast to reach a high of 20 degrees Celsius. This, along with flooded fields, is not good news for farmers, including vegetable gardeners like me: certain warm-weather crops need more than 20 C to germinate if untreated seeds are used. That means not treated with fungicides to prevent the seeds from rotting in the ground while they wait for warmer temperatures.

I’ve always loved growing sweet corn, my favourite food. In previous years I’ve always managed to get my corn planted before the end of May, when normally by then suitably warm temperatures could be depended on to arrive. That was, well, normal. But ‘normal’ seems to be gone. Last year I had to replant when late-May corn fell victim to cool weather. This spring, I waited as long as possible and planted corn June 8 to 10, with sunny days in the forecast. Any later would mean missing the late summer, local sweet corn market season already glutted with corn from warmer climates much further south. I see, for example, sweet corn grown in Georgia is already for sale at local stores. But then the clouds, rain and cool weather came back before, I fear, the corn had a chance to fully germinate. It still remains to be seen what comes up. I’ll try not to send too many negative vibes out there where the corn and squash are planted.

DSC00310

The 2017 garden

I find myself wondering if climate change and its disruptive impact on the Jet Stream spells the end of farming sweet corn and other temperature-tender crops in the more northerly parts of Southern Ontario. Who would have thought? Back in the days when ‘global warming’ was the more-often used term to describe what was happening to the world’s climate, I used to imagine southern Ontario becoming semi-tropical. But not so; on the contrary.

I feel guilty about complaining. Millions, even billions are suffering far worse from the effects of climate change in the wider world, from unprecedented floods in parts of eastern Canada and the U.S. Midwest, to drought and famine in Africa, and increasing numbers of extreme weather disasters happening who-knows-where next.

Historians who know their stuff will say, or should be saying already, that previous climate changes in certain parts of the world, for whatever reasons, has changed the course of history before. The Roman Empire declined and fell for many reasons. But ultimately an empire already weakened and rotted from within by civil wars and incompetent emperors, ultimately fell victim to the overwhelming pressure of massive migrations of people driven out of the steppes of central Asia by drought.

If this is starting to ring a bell of current familiarity, then so be it.

This modern period of rapid, unprecedented climate change brought on by unsustainable, human, industrial activity will lead to catastrophic disruptions of socio-economic life on earth that will make the fall of the Roman Empire look small indeed by comparison.

The date of the final collapse of the western Roman Empire is usually given as 476, when the last western Emperor, based in Rome, was disposed. The Eastern Empire, based in Constantinople (now Istanbul) continued to exist — its fortunes ebbing and flowing — until the great city itself was conquered by the Ottoman-Empire Turks in 1453.

I think it’s fair to say the Roman Empire was not all that Roman in its demographic make-up long before it collapsed in the west. In a word, it was multicultural, home to many different nationalities. As a Republic it rose to greatness and survived many formidable, possibly fatal, challenges because it met those challenges defiantly with determination and necessary change. But in the period of decline it lost it’s ability to think creatively. One might say it became ultra-conservative. It built walls, and numerous fortified positions on the frontiers of the empire to keep the “barbarians’ out. Inevitably, that was an ill-conceived strategy, bound to fail.

rome

Of course, there’s no way now of knowing if embracing change, and building on its multicultural experience to welcome newcomers into a renewed vision of what the Empire could become would have saved the western empire, or whatever it might have been called. By that time it may have been to late. The decline and fall of the Roman Empire may have begun when Julius Caesar broke with the long-held, underlying law of Rome and ‘crossed the Rubicon’ with his devoted legion.

rubicon

We are at such a moment now, by the way.

The child-man, would-be emperor whose name I can’t bring myself to say is no Julius Caesar. But, Heaven help us all, he has the fate of the world in his hands, and will likely start a ‘wag-the-dog’ war before the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

But he is not the problem. Rather, he is a symptom of it. We are the problem, we terribly imperfect human beings, we irrational beings, lost in our dangerous tribal nonsense, incapable of coping with change.

But there’s more to being human than that: at a critical point in human evolution, faced with catastrophic environmental  conditions, a relatively small group of our ancestors decided to take matters in hand and begin a long, dangerous trek in search of a new home. They survived by being innovative, creative, determined, and last, but not least, by taking advantage of the diversity of abilities, talents and character in their community. In effect, the new home they sought and eventually found, was within them.

 

One thought on “On climate change and sweet corn, and other things that change history

  1. Amen to all: corn, (I ploughed my corn and squash plot down last week), the Roman Empire and the child/man who shall be nameless. Cheers, and happy gardening the things that will survive. Patric…

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