curiosity about the ways of the world

Northern light and heat


On the kitchen window ledge there are geraniums and cyclamen in bloom at the same time and it doesn’t feel quite right. After hearing Melanie Phillips denying the fact of climate change on Question Time it occurred to me that she cannot possibly be a gardener.  But then the Daily Mail is more green ink than greenfingers. 

There’s ice on the bird bath and frost on the ground and I would be almost glad to welcome the cold if only our central heating was working properly.  Years and years ago I read an essay by D.H. Lawrence who said that winter was the time of year when people from the northern hemisphere feel most at home.  It goes with our gloomy outlook on life. At least I think that is what he said.  It is a long time since I read it and I have never been able to find that book of essays again.  But maybe that’s why this time of year feels so familiar, so reassuringly right, despite the long dark nights.  Or at least it used to.

Over the past seven years early spring has been getting warmer and some spring-flowering plants flower more than two weeks earlier. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh study of phenology (flowering times)

In some ways the reliability of winter is easier to take than the uncertainty of summer. And there is nothing quite like the Edinburgh skyline on a clear winter evening.


The northern light hasn’t changed – though you do need cold, clear air for a sunset to catch your breath – but there is nothing certain about winter any more.  The leaves have hardly fallen before spring bulbs start to appear, the pond is full of frogspawn far too early for tadpoles to survive. However the green ink brigade might deny it, human beings have made a real mess of the natural order of things.   Here’s what the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh has to say about the impact of climate change on plants.

Human-induced global warming will significantly threaten levels of biodiversity, potentially leading to loss of biological resources, environmental services and ecosystem function…Biodiversity science provides a fundamental link between the physical process of climate change and the subsequent impacts on social and economic well-being.

No need for ‘tricks’ or manipulating statistics. This kind of information is freely available to anyone who can be bothered to look for it – along with all the other IPCC statistics about melting glaciers, rising sea levels, rising temperatures and rising CO2 emissions.  Surely the real trick in the leaked emails from the University of East Anglia was leaking them just before the Copenhagen Climate Change summit? Fortunately it doesn’t seem to have had the desired effect. The science may be beyond Melanie Phillips but the impact of man-made change is all around us: ferociously flooding Cockermouth; quietly flowering in the garden.


  1. Fay

    this morning – gloomy news from Copenhagen (they didn’t pull a rabbit out of the hat) coincides with the great freeze in the UK. Flights grounded, traffic stranded because of snow. Climate change deniers are delighted – seasonal weather is always proof that the world is not warming, but, they say, there is no proof that climate change has anything to do with the ‘1000 year events’ that are now coming fast and furious – Boscastle, Cockermouth, Carlisle, Dunkeld, South Uist…

  2. John

    I blame Melanie Phillips

  3. Administrator

    Well, that’s what I get for lamenting the end of winter – I can hardly see out of my window for snow flakes, and I have to take a trip to collect some Christmas presents somewhere remote and prone to snow drifts. Better take a spade!

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