Early blooming blossoms around the world are pointing toward climate change.
By Shanley Smith
Around the World
Headlines this week have reported the news; cherry blossoms are blooming earlier than ever. In Japan the famous trees bloomed earlier than they have in 1,200 years.
Across the seas in Washington, D.C., similar events are happening. The Capitol’s trees are blooming six days earlier than 100 years ago. The verdict from scientists is out — the evidence points towards climate change.
Here in Holland
Not too many cherry trees can be found in Holland. However, a more familiar example is close at hand.
As April showers begin, the tulips sprout. Already we can see their stalks on 8th Street. Holland has already faced earlier blooms. Looking at our historic records, we can see this clearly. The initial Tulip Time festivals were held during the third week of May. After a few years of early blooms in the late 90’s, Tulip Time planners made a change. In 2001 the festival dates were changed.
This year it will be held May 1 to 9. That’s right, three weeks earlier than the first festivals. Early blooms are only one minor signal of climate change. Tulips might be the most visible sign for many Hollanders, but more dangerous effects threaten our communities and those beyond.
Tulips are blooming earlier because of increased temperatures. A similar arrival is happening with a not so welcomed member of our ecosystem: ticks. Shorter winters means disease-carrying bugs spend less time in dormancy. This causes an increased range of mosquito and tick-borne illnesses in the Midwest. As temperatures increase, so does the potential spread of disease associated with them.
Beyond the Blooms
Rising temperatures also pose the risk of heat stress, especially for older populations and animals. According to Dr. Christopher Barney of Hope College, about 450 people each year die in the United States of heat stroke.
Keep in mind, climate scientists have predicted 10 to 50 times more heatwaves in the next 50 years. Let’s do the basic math… 10 times 450? That’s 45,000 people. And that’s not taking into account those who survive heatstroke. About 33% of survivors of heatstroke suffer permanent brain damage.
It bears repeating: there’s more to worry about than early blooming flowers.
It doesn’t take much to imagine more severe effects on a national level. We can expect more forest fires, rising sea levels, and floods.
Our Basic Optimism
These are the hard truths we face. What next?
Bill Gates, a world business and philanthropic leader, offers that his “basic optimism about climate change comes from [his] belief in innovation. It’s our power to invent that makes [him] hopeful.” And so we innovate. We look to news of just transitions and green legislation. And we do the work in our own neighborhoods. We push for a greener city, country, and planet.
Curious about the link between disease-carrying insects and climate change? Watch this video.
Interested in learning more about heat stress? Watch this video with Dr. Christopher Barney.
Sign our petition to lower Holland’s carbon emissions!
Write to your city council members. Use our email template to send an email.
Offer to give public comment at City Council. Email us for more info.
Shanley Smith is a life long Hollander, currently working with WMEAC as the HCC intern. Through community organizing and writing she strives to make her hometown a greener place. More of her work can be found on Dimly Lit, where she serves as writer and editor.