Taking a tour in the Champagne region, not very far from Paris, is an exciting experience, as exciting as the taste of champagne! The mounds and hillocks receiving the angled sun light and lined with green vineyards dotted with small churches is a site to cherish. Last week I was there to meet my friend who owns a small vineyard and sells his 'Chardonnay' to a large vinery which makes famous French champagne.
But we did not discuss the taste of champagne this time, we discussed global warming, instead! . In France, the thermometer of global warming has nothing to do with measuring atmospheric temperature nor it is correlated to the measuring of rising temperature of sea-water. Instead, it measures the timing of the 'vendange' - grape harvesting.
My friend told me that the first day of vendange - a time to celebrate for the vineyard owners and the villagers there - is advancing in the last few decades. In the 80s it was in mid October, in the 90ies it was mid September and he fears that this year it may be as early as mid August. Due to global warming the grapes are maturing early.
For French people this has been the most visible impact of global warming. The 'canicule' - heat wave - that resulted in more than 15,000 deaths in 2003, is probably considered as the result of a freak climate phenomenon. But the shocking trend in early flowering, early maturing and early vendange has definitely left its footprint and shaken French vineyard owners.
Its not just vineyard, the cherry trees in my garden, west of Paris, blossomed quite early this year. My neighbor's cherry tree blossomed even earlier which gave rise to some sort of curiosity or even a neighborly jealousy! Two weeks ago my cherries became ripe, became darkish red and were savored by birds who had an early feast.That was much earlier than normal.
Nature is adjusting to climate change, flourishing earlier than normal, birds are having an early dinner, the leaves of cherry trees have already started falling instead of in September or October. Of course, there is a 'fall-out' of early autumn. The cherries in my garden were smaller and less juicy, nevertheless trees are getting ready for early wintery sleep!!
UNEP's mandate includes the assessment of the state of environment of our planet and providing early warning. To me the one who has heeded this early warning is nature itself and it is nature who is taking early action. Human beings are yet to wake up from their intellectual hibernation.
Some of the images that have made an impression on my mind are:
- petrol stations flooded and closed down by water due to hurricanes
- cars being swept away by inundation and torrential rains.
By looking at these pictures I sense that nature is taking early action on climate change. Message seems to be 'if you do not want to stop using petrol, the petrol station will be stopped by nature through flooding, and if you do not want to stop using cars, nature will stop it by flooding the roads.' What a powerful message from Nature!
Humanity got similar messages in the 70s and 80s on ozone layer depletion. Nature sent a message to us at that time, 'if you do not stop using CFCs, nature will take action and make you blind by causing eye cataracts or even causing skin cancer and make you an invalid, so that you are handicapped and forced not to use CFCs'. At that time we heeded the message given by nature, we acted. Naturally!
Now is the time to heed the message on global warming given by nature again, naturally!