It’s February 2nd, 2024 and it sounds like Punxsutawney Phil was once again rudely roused from his hibernation by a crowd of strangers, including a clutch of men in top hats and 19th century garb, hoisted aloft (not on a prey animal’s bucket list of adventures, I’d guess) and put through the ceremony of prognosticating an early spring or a long winter by virtue of the eyes designed by evolution to look for predators in the distance, not straight ahead at self-cast shadows. Phil did not see his shadow, it turns out, forecasting an early spring. An officiant read as much from a scroll and I can only hope Phil was then allowed to settle back to sleep in his burrow, visions of strange, loud men in tuxedos and top hats quickly fading into dreams of all the clover and dandelions he was going to chomp on come springtime.
I hope this and more for Phil. He deserves it.
I am also looking around on February 2, 2024, not from Pennsylvania where Phil resides, but the Chicago area. I see the bulbs we planted in the fall sprouting up, a sight we usually see in the spring, not the beginning of February. The fact that there is no snow covering them is alarming, even for those of us who are not cold weather superfans. The fact that I can look out my office window and just see grass in our back yard at all is beyond odd for this time of year. My son was building a musical instrument on our front porch yesterday, the first day of February, just wearing a light coat. Cooking dinner yesterday, I reached for the coconut oil, reliably solid this time of year. It was mostly liquid, just a few little islands of solid matter in it.
We don’t need Phil to tell us it’s going to be an early spring, but maybe it’d be a better forecast to tell us it will be a weird spring, no matter where you live. That is becoming more predictable than anything.
It will be a spring with tornadoes in places that rarely — if ever — experienced them and in unexpected seasons. It will be a spring with early flowering blooms with pollinators missing them in understandable confusion and leaving their luscious plants unfertilized and producing fewer seeds and fruits. (It also means an earlier release of pollen, extending the time of suffering for those with allergies.) It means more ticks and thus Lyme disease because they didn’t die off during a deep freeze.
It means so many things.
Today, of course, I am also thinking about the classic film, Groundhog Day, directed by Harold Ramis. That makes sense. In it, Bill Murray’s cantankerous, cynical character gets stuck in a time loop and has to relive the same February 2nd over and over until (spoiler alert) he genuinely reforms, falls in love and becomes a better person all around. Only then can he break out of the maddening repetition of the same day and the same outcome each morning when he wakes up. He has a second chance (and third and fourth and fifth and on and on…) until he finally gets it right.
We aren’t afforded such a luxury as all these chances, though. We have, instead, had warning after warning after warning, we have seen climate change all around us with devastating wildfires and deadly smoke becoming the new normal and climate wars on the horizon but seemingly immobilized by the enormity of it all.
Whether spring is early or late, it’s unprecedented but we are more willing to accommodate a new normal that will harm so many humans and other species than to do anything substantive about it.
We can do so much, though. It is not futile. We can lower our dependence on driving. We can be more plant-based. We can reduce, reuse, repair and recycle. We can waste less and compost more. We can plant native species. We can use the power of our dollar to not support businesses that are exploitative and support small, sustainable businesses as much as possible. There are so many things and they all add up immeasurably.
Remember during the early days of Covid, when it was scary but we could hear the birds and the air was clean and fresh? When we’d take walks, reconnect with our purpose, cook more, work on our gardens, explore new hobbies at home? This also meant GHG emissions, less water pollution and air we actually enjoyed breathing.
Maybe that was our Groundhog Day moment. Instead of being trapped in a dishonest time loop of repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results, maybe the early days of lockdown were our one last chance?
I don’t believe that, though. Every day, we have a new chance to change the outcomes and every day, we must do our part to step up for this challenge. Little things are big: Many of us taking seemingly small actions and insisting on climate responsibility of the corporations who are offloading the costs of their business practices onto citizens adds up.
Whether Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow or not, we deserve future springs, as do the pollinators, as do all the species, as do those who are not born yet. Let’s break out of this time loop.
It’s time. It’s now.
Marla Rose is co-founding partner of VeganStreet.com.