Sudden spring has us thinking about the great outdoors and how to protect it

Thumbs up: Sudden spring

The past week was astonishing: Following deep snow and chilly weather that preserved piles of it for weeks, temperatures suddenly jumped 20 degrees or more. An explosion of warm sunshine startled the natural world awake, sending buds, shoots and cherry blossoms into a surge of sudden growth.

Gardeners nearly swooned with happiness as the soil warmed under that record-breaking sun and the planting season finally began. If the worms in that soil could high-five each other, they surely would.

Frogs are finally singing, birds are celebrating, and toddlers are enchanted by the beauty of blooming dandelions. This is bliss.

We know there will be more rain, more clouds, lower temperatures to come . . . but still, this past week made the spring equinox more joyous than it’s been in many years.

Thumbs down: Climate change

And yet, in more than one conversation during our glorious week of sun, wonderful weather came with an undercurrent of fear. What does this spring heat portend for the summer to come? Will we be sweating through longer, more intense heat waves? Will we be choking on wildfire smoke again?

As we basked in the unseasonable warmth of a sudden spring, we read about catastrophic floods in Missouri, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska; a vast, devastating cyclone that spanned several countries in Southern Africa; and a 19-year drought plaguing the Colorado basin.

And we were not alone in our rising worry. Greta Thunberg, a young Swedish high school student, recently told the assembled titans of finance in Davos, Switzerland, “I don’t want you to be hopeful, I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day and then I want you to act.” On March 15, children and teenagers in more than 100 countries cut classes and took to the streets to second that emotion.

Thumbs up: Jay Inslee

While we are emphatically not inclined to endorse any presidential candidate at this point, we are grateful that Jay Inslee has entered the race with combatting climate change as his primary issue. And we’re glad he’s a wonk on this subject, because panic, though justified, is not a great state of mind for finding solutions.

Inslee has a sense of extreme urgency – he endlessly repeats his line that “We are the first generation to feel the sting of climate change, and the last generation that can do something about it.” But he also has serious policy proposals to combat it, and a call to patriotic duty to do so. He recalls Kennedy’s successful vow to go to the moon as a challenge “we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”

Lacking a crystal ball, we have no idea how well Inslee will do in such a crowded field of candidates, but we hope he succeeds in making climate change a central issue in the 2020 presidential campaign.

Thumbs up: Forums about water

There is one reassuring feature in the long-term climate forecast. Climate change models predict that our region will continue to get about the same amount of precipitation in decades to come. More will come as rain and less as snow, and summers will be drier, but we will still be able to brew beer and take showers. That’s a much better prospect than much of the Southwest.

Still, we need to keep our water clean, and manage it wisely, because we will be sharing our supply with a lot more people as we accommodate climate refugees from hotter, drier, more fire-prone places.

That is one of many reasons the Thurston County League of Women Voters and The Olympian are cosponsoring a series of five forums about local water issues. The first three have drawn large audiences and great speakers. Those who’ve attended have learned the difference between shallow and deep aquifers, and why that difference matters. We’ve also learned the history of water law, how Yelm has dramatically reduced its per-capita water use, and how the Nisqually watershed is leading the state in planning for the future.

There are two events still to come: An April 2 forum at 6 p.m. at The Olympia Center will focus on stormwater and toxic runoff and the harm it’s doing to Puget Sound. The final event on May 7 will focus on streams, salmon and orcas.

We encourage students and adults alike to attend these forums, to learn more about how to address the challenges we face, and to meet up with people who care deeply about preserving the natural world that sustains us all.