There were no bees at the hive entrance on mild days last month when I expected to see a few flying to look for flowers. To avoid starvation, I fed them home-made candy, but it was consumed slowly, a bad omen, and there was a minor invasion of ants.
When I inspected the hive last week, I found a few hundred dead bees on the gauze base or stuck to combs. It was very disheartening, again. The colony was strong through the summer after starting as an Italian nuc in late April. There were no signs of hive beetles, mites or wax moths.
Once again, I had to dismantle a dead hive and store frames containing honey, nectar and pollen in the freezer until they are needed by a new colony.
Next time they may be Russians. Honeybees that evolved with tracheal and varroa mites in the Far East are said to be more resistant to these foes. It’s a story of adaptation over countless generations, like the blight that eliminated the native chestnut tree across eastern North America but has co-existed for eons with the Chinese chestnut tree.
I feel like a farmer who’s lost a cow. I didn’t know my winged livestock intimately, like my dogs, but their loss was more than economic. Visiting their home almost every day, I grew fond of them and gardens close by will miss their services.
Someone I know is undertaking professional training to counsel people about climate change resilience. People who lose someone or something they love to hurricanes, tornadoes and other catastrophes should be offered counselling, of course, and this need is likely to grow as the climate becomes more extreme, which in this area is a threat of more flooding. But I wonder if the counsellor I know will be called on for the psychological effects of climate news and forecasts by people who take warnings deadly seriously even if they have never been personally impacted. I call this climate anxiety.
In a BBC interview this week, David Attenborough said, “the moment of crisis has come …we can no longer prevaricate … we have to change.” He meant carbon emissions, of course. As a much-respected public communicator and naturalist his warning is stark and alarming.
Young people and those yet unborn will live to see the greatest impacts. Symptoms of depression are already on the rise among teenagers (1 in 5 girls in the U.S. in 2017), mostly attributed to online activity and social media, but the statistics are likely to be compounded by apprehensions about how their world is becoming impoverished by climate change as opportunities for concerted political and economic adaptations slip past unclaimed.
“Where there is no vision the people perish.”
Climate anxiety bears comparison with symptoms of grief when we lose a loved one. Psychologists have divided the familiar kind of grief into five stages, which can be fitted to emotions generated by cares for our beautiful Earth home: 1. DENIAL (weather was never constant and we are currently in a warm phase of a natural cycle). 2. ANGER (climate change is unfair because I haven’t lived long enough to enjoy a prosperous life like the lucky Boomers). 3. BARGAINING (I try to avoid air-travel and buying some foreign goods because doing my bit makes me feel better). 4. DEPRESSION (Every newscast makes me feel more awful and I have nightmares about landscapes changing and species going extinct that rob the joy of living). 5. ACCEPTANCE (OK. I understand large parts of the living planet will die and we won’t halt the process, so I will struggle to make the best of my life).
I admit feeling some of those emotions on different days. I tried consoling myself that “nothing stays, all changes” (Virginia Woolf), considering the five great extinctions before the Anthropocene, and each time evolution roared back with more wonderful living forms. It didn’t work. Perhaps in some far, far off era new creatures will replace those lost, and if humans disappear maybe the next apex species won’t terrorize the earth or will be too dim to invent destructive technologies. But hope doesn’t reach so far ahead. Coping with environmental grief is is a huge challenge to find personal peace and offer something positive for the spirit of younger generations.
The first daffodils of the new year burst into flower in mid-January after a period of mild weather. The buds on some of our trees and shrubs are swelling too, waking up for spring, although they might be nipped by frost this week.
The weather swings wildly from mild to cold at this time of year in mid-Atlantic states, according to the flow coming from the warm Gulf or frigid Canada. A century of temperature records for the Williamsburg area show huge standard deviations for the interval between last frost of winter and first fall frost. The growing season here is 30 days longer than it was as recently as the 1980s, and the maximum summer temperature in the past couple of decades mirrors the new peaks in national data. A longer growing season helps farmers and gardeners, but for every gain there is a pain—more exposure to ticks and invasive plants, and shrinking habitat for beneficial birds, etc.