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To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Why we fear Punxsutawney Phil

On Friday, Feb. 2, a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow. For the uninitiated, that means that an early spring is on the way. This is an … inane way to predict the changing of the seasons and one that American society has “relied” upon for over 100 years. Since 1887, Punxsutawney Phil has only been right about 39% of the time, and his predictions are obviously not taken seriously in this day and age.

But, as an occasional herald of early spring, Punxsutawney Phil provided a dire warning this year about the future of our planet. Silliness of Groundhog Day aside, spring is truly coming earlier each and every year. This year is no exception, as the New England area has had some exceptionally warm days as we leave the harshest days of winter behind us. In fact, spring weather now arrives more than a week earlier than it did 75 years ago.

Last year, for example, countless trees and flowers bloomed early throughout the American southeast, migratory birds arrived before long, and seasonal insects emerged ahead of schedule too. This can have consequences for ecosystems, as migratory species and plant bloom timing shifts could result in ecosystem-rattling damage. Additionally, plants that bloom early and animals that migrate early could find themselves stuck in the cold if and when a cold snap arrives at the tail end of a winter season after consistent warming.

On a much broader scale, early spring can lead to floods as man-made dams struggle to hold back higher levels of snow melt. Even more, regional-disaster level effects can result from early spring arrival, but that’s far beyond the scope of a college newspaper editorial.

The question now remains: what is to be done? We know that, despite how nice it is to store your winter coat away for the remainder of the semester, early spring is a symptom of climate change and can have myriad negative effects on our ecosystem.

At Brandeis, we all know that climate change is real. But, we at The Hoot would like to draw specific attention to the advice shared by Richman Fellow Robin Wall Kimmerer. She emphasized the importance of using both Western science and traditional ecological knowledge in ecological restoration, and we’d like to extend that well-founded line of thinking to the fight against climate change itself. We urge you all to not only think of the scientific solutions to climate change. Curtailing carbon emissions, using more electric vehicles and other science-based solutions will do a lot to fight climate change.

But, to each and every person who values something about spring or winter: whether you like sun or snow, sledding or gardening; you should find what connects that thing to nature and the changing seasons. Hold on to that connection, and let it guide your climate actions and activism. We feel that direct connection to that nature, along with action founded in science, is the best and only way forward.

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