The leaves are falling every day, a little or a lot. Today is a rainy day, to be followed by a breezy one, so I expect not many leaves will be left by the end of tomorrow. This is something I look forward to every year because it means I can see the sky again. It means I have a view again. It means I can see through the woods again when I sit on my back deck.
I have been in my cabin for nearly 20 years now, and each year the leaf fall is a day or two later than the previous year. For a good many years, I could count on the leaves being down before Halloween. Sometime around the 26th or 27th or 28th they were down. Then the leaf fall became Halloween itself. Now, the leaf fall is slipping past the first of November and will soon threaten not to finish until the second week of the month.
Climate change? Global warming? Call it what you will, but a change in the date of leaf fall by two weeks over 20 years is a lot, no matter how you name it. That’s two weeks less for the leaves to decay on the forest floor over the winter and likely two weeks less for winter weather, as well. What does that change do for the germination of this year’s nut crop? What does it mean to the water table if warmer weather lasts longer? Likely, thousands of things are affected by such a shift, most of which I suspect we don’t even know about.
Insects can forage later in the year. Warblers arrive in the spring after the point when insects they used to feed on have already dispersed. The trend doesn’t look to be one that shows any sign of slowing down. It’s as though our little blue marble in space is rolling down a hill and picking up speed with every revolution. Stopping or even slowing this freefall will be difficult to impossible, I expect.
I hope I’m wrong. I hope we can find fixes that don’t entail removing human life from the planet. I hope we are smart enough and care enough about our little blue marble that the best minds on it can find a solution to keep all life on it healthy. But every year the leaves drop a little later than the year or the two years before, and I wonder.