In Seattle, unlike a lot of places, we don’t usually get a whole lot of really, really hot summer weather. I grew up in S. California and know (and have missed) truly long hot summer days.
But the last few years, it does seem that we’re getting more of those long, hot summer days and often, even though it’s cold and rainy for much of the year and people go a little cabin-crazy around February, you hear a lot of grumbling among natives about when the rain and clouds will return. Can’t please everyone, it seems.
This last winter was, well, treacherous. Mind you, for the most part all we usually deal with is lots of rain and Seasonal Affect Disorder. Last winter we had record breaking amounts of rain and wind like you wouldn’t believe–this is not hurricane country by any stretch and yet we had hurricane force storms roll through large swaths of the region. The biggest storm is now known as The Hanukkah Hurricane, for its timing right on the holiday.
Why do I mention this? Because a lot of trees fell during that storm, which was bad enough–I mean, a LOT of trees. Power was out for a couple of weeks in many areas, roads were blocked. This is an area with a lot of urban trees…though less than we used to have.
Because a lot of trees fell and did a lot of property damage, the following months were marked by the daily cacophony of chain saws and chippers. Not just to handle the fallen trees, but to take down the remaining trees around houses. There are several houses just in our neighborhood with huge (I mean huge) trunks in the lots where once were mighty and beautiful evergreens and pines.
Now, when the hot weather has hit, these houses no longer have any shade at all and the sun is hitting full force, causing the house and gardens to heat up. Result: much more dependence on air conditioning and watering to maintain the status quo. (I’m not even going to get into the loss of habitat resulting from the urban clear-cutting).
Do I blame people for being nervous about trees around their house? No, I don’t. I’m a little nervous myself–our house is surrounded on all sides by madronas, cedars, pines and we watch them with real trepidation when the winds hit–which interestingly is much more than ever before. I recall reading in The Weather Makers that one of the impacts of global climate change will be an increase in extremes–bigger winds, bigger droughts, bigger rains–in all the places that used to have “normal” amount of same.
The point is, we live in a systems based world. You do one thing and it has an impact over here, over there, and in places you can’t even predict. Because of that, yes, our choices matter.
Trees have always been a source of natural air conditioning and protection for homes. Sometimes that protection can turn into a liability. Many of the more knowledgeable people I’ve talked to have suggested that hard-core pruning, thinning out of volunteers and the like will make the existing trees stronger and less likely to fall. Degradation of soil, lack of care, removal of necessary understory brush will cause the trees to be weakened. We sort of live in a magic world where all things– trees, animals, weather, people– are seen as objects to be used as we wish, rather than as a healthy systemic environment requires.
So, here’s to a long, cool drink this afternoon in the hammock. Shade–sure, it’s old fashioned, but it works.
Daily stats: (Tuesday)
It was a lot-of-deskwork-day.