My Turn: Ready or not, spring is unfolding

  • As forsythia blooms around the county this spring, this old car grill makes an impromptu planter in Montague. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Published: 5/10/2022 9:49:43 PM

I am resisting spring this year. Usually, it is my favorite time of year — the slow, shy, sometimes elusive reawakening of the earth fills me with anticipation and a hope of renewal, in many dimensions. It is also the best time of year to tackle certain, sometimes difficult or unpleasant, tasks. Before full leaf-out, we can more easily see the dead branches, the vines strangling trees and shrubs. The prickly invasives with their bright green stems and grabbing thorns stand out. We’ve worked hard to free trees from the pernicious bittersweet. We’ve dug up underground roots inches thick and many feet long. We kept one tree alive another seven years, but now it must come down; the base is dangerously weak. This prospect fills me with dread; I feel the chainsaw in my bones. Well, just spring cleaning, some might say.

This is also the time to prepare summer food and flower beds. The sheer number of tasks is daunting and a sore knee makes many tasks, once performed quickly and without thought, a challenge. So I’ve been glad to have the days stretch out a bit, cool and damp and windy, so there is time to work on all the needed chores. I have not wanted everything to “spring” all at once.

There are plenty of other pernicious developments cropping up this spring along with the vines and brambles. The findings of the January 6 Committee horrify. The Supreme Court’s disregard for boundaries of law, precedent, propriety and honesty is out in the daylight now. Internationally, the full, direct impact of global heating is being suffered by the people of India and Pakistan. Worse than thorns, all this evidence leaves us struggling to clear a path toward the change we need.

But now the daffodils and forsythia have braved the chill; peach blossoms are out; the grass is a brilliant emerald; redbuds and dogwoods are nearly out. We can see the new June berry blooming from the kitchen window. Blueberries are budding. The bluebirds are working on a second nest after the first one blew down in an overnight wind, leaving three tiny sky-blue eggs broken on the ground like blue tears. Ever so persistently spring is proceeding.

Other evidence sprouts, too. The University of Massachusetts just announced its commitment to reach carbon zero by 2032 on its 1,500 acres of buildings and grounds. Quietly in the works for two years, the plan lays out methods to shift all facilities to renewable energy systems. The university is responsible for 20% of the greenhouse gasses emitted by state public facilities. It is deploying its Energy Transition Institute to focus on equitable transitions to decarbonized urban and suburban energy systems. They will invest $500 million to activate this plan.

Another recent report from the Lawrence Berkeley Lab of the Department of Energy identifies newest innovation in our power system as combined hybrid generation and storage plants. The Lab has documented project applications that account for more than 1,400 gigawatts of such hybrid projects — more than all existing U.S. power plants combined. On Saturday, April 30, 2022, California, the world’s fifth largest economy, was powered 100% by clean energy for the first time. That record only lasted for 15 minutes before dropping to 97%, but it’s a start. While President Biden’s efforts to free us of climate disaster are stymied by nearly unanimous opposition from Republicans and one Democrat, as our national attention and international commitment to halting climate disaster are distracted by the horrific assault on Ukraine, nevertheless, these efforts are slowly gaining ground.

This past week Harvard also released its report on the university’s complicity in slavery. Several years in the preparation, a brave and somewhat unexpected effort to document history and recommend actions was presented. The report contributes to the new dialogue on our nation’s history and underpinnings, and to a new phase of seriously considering amends. Could this have anything to do with climate change? Most certainly. Underground in our nation’s culture, the roots and vines of racial theory, the slavery-based economy, and the extractive abuse of our earth’s resources all have the same origins.

It is a long, laborious process to find those roots and stop the strangling of our nation’s promise. But it has begun. The leaves of understanding are unfolding. The roots of change are there; the sprouts of action are coming into view with vigor. Something like the unfolding of this spring, ready or not.

Judy Wagner lives in Northfield.

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