People notice when things are different.
Lequille Country Store, up the hill from Annapolis Royal, N.S., brands itself as an outdoor specialties store, but it’s actually something else — a true general store. It’s something you don’t see so much anymore. It’s got a red enamelled metal roof, an attached building with farm supplies and livestock feed.
It has the fine smell of cured ham, a glass-fronted counter full of smoked meats, and it sells everything from gas to soft drinks to fireworks and firearms. Nails. Work gloves. Bread. Someone is at the counter buying fresh-sliced bacon. It gets wrapped in red butcher’s paper, tied with string.
And the talk is about the weather, about how it’s different.
An elderly man, a big guy with broad shoulders that have known hard work, says, “Better have those kids now, with everything changing.” He’s talking to a woman at the counter.
“I don’t think that’s the plan,” the clerk says. Rain smacks the metal roof, stops, starts again.
They’ve talked about the strange cold and frost a week or so ago in Nova Scotia, the pictures of the June snow in Newfoundland.
Everyone talks about the weather. That doesn’t mean they are necessarily talking about climate change, but what’s interesting is how often they’re talking about how unusual things are, how different from normal memory.
Like how a constant strong, cold wind from the north this spring has brought cold water deep down into Newfoundland’s north-facing bays, one Conception Bay North lobster fishermen saying his season has been far worse because, “the lobsters aren’t moving and you have to drop the trap right on top of them.”
A business operator in Annapolis Royal tells us how the killer frost destroyed a farming friend’s entire strawberry crop, the berries almost ready to pick when the temperature plunged. “It wasn’t just frost, it was well below freezing,” he says. Crop insurance will cover some of the farmer’s losses, “but he’ll only break even, if he’s lucky … He’s got peaches, plums. But they got hit, too.” One year is survivable. Two? Not so much.
The weather map comes on in a darkened hotel bedroom and even with being able to hear the forecaster talking, I can see the deep dip of the jet stream, well south of the foot of Nova Scotia, the way cold air is fingering down in a fat pulse, something that wouldn’t happen if the jet stream was holding its usual strength and sweeping west to east. The hotel is waiting for summer’s warmth. Only brave children are in the heated hotel pool. The transition from water to towel is too much to take.
An old family friend points out my father, an oceanographer, was predicting these changes 30 years ago. That’s true, I know — but then, it’s wasn’t something that attracted so much public attention in those days. I remember reading about how we should expect exactly this — more violent weather, more unexpected weather, higher winds, larger rainfalls. Heat waves that stall and can kill, either through heat or super-cell storms. Cold fronts dipping from a steadily warming Arctic. Watching all of that play in the last few years in flooding and infrastructure destruction, insurance losses due to the fact that storm water culverts aren’t big enough. Insurance companies know it. Oil companies know it. Governments know it.
Now, it’s part of the public lexicon. Part of the daily discussion.
And still, the dinosaurs say this because they can’t — or won’t — consider anything except what they want to believe. That’s OK, as long as they aren’t presidents, I guess.
The rest of us?
Better have those kids now.
Russell Wangersky’s column appears in 39 SaltWire newspapers and websites in Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at email@example.com — Twitter: @wangersky.
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