Today it will be 80º in Los Angeles. Nearly a decade ago, during my first Winter in Los Angeles, the temperature was 58º.
The record temperature for this date was 88º, logged in 1938, while the average low is 49º and the average high is 70º. Today, the low is 52º and the high is 80º, a shifting of three and ten degrees, thirteen altogether.
This seems so small. What an insignificant little change! Ten degrees. Minuscule, I think. Then I get outside and sweat and think that it’s 19 days until Christmas, recalling formerly bundled up Winters in the area that haven’t quite been what they have been. The sweat worsens under stress, providing a personal heat wave with the realization that this – like so many other things in 2017 – is not normal. The thought recurs, a feedback loop of realization and feeling of the earth reacting to our existence on it. This warmed Winter seems so pronounced in California, where higher temperatures mean huge fires in our backyards and backbreaking sweat in the coldest time of year. We wear the abnormality of Winter on our brows.
But, back in colder climates, this may not seem real. It might not be as cold as it usually is but 50º – Or 40º! – is a more tolerable chill than 30º or 20º. When visiting family in mid-November, greeted by a New Jersey that was only 45º, it was colder than California but it wasn’t as cold as it usually was at this time of year. People were complaining about an already aggressive Winter and that they were already ready for the warm weather. These reactions inspired a mental double take, that there’s sometimes a feeling of putting the planet’s feet to the fire until it eventually explodes instead of listening to others who are saying that, yes, this warmer weather is indeed happening.
It’s also strange because we’re all experiencing a warmer Winter than normal. Just because it’s still “cold” (But not as cold as it usually is!) doesn’t mean it isn’t warmer than usual. Just because you wear a jacket doesn’t mean that you’ve been absolved of responsibility of thinking about what you’re doing. It’s exactly this time of year, when consumption and materialism bless us all via “the holidays,” that we should be most aware of the dangers of warmer weather, thinking deeply about everyday actionable steps we can take to heal the world. Like everything in life, this takes some work but it isn’t an impossible task.
It might seem “nice” to not have to bundle up but know that this comfort, this warm Winter, is a harbinger of much worse things to come. Whenever the thought occurs that it’s “warmer than normal,” cross-examine the self: what’s being done, personally, to combat the situation? How can this problem be tackled starting from one’s own private Idaho? It’s not us against the world but us working with the world.
Remember, we’re visitors here: the planet predated and will outlast us. Like a campsite, like an Airbnb or hotel, leave it as you’d want it to be left for whoever visits next. Unfortunately, we’re doing a poor job and the “warm Winter” we’re comforted now will soon scorch the skin of those in the future.