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Ground Zero 22/03/2014

Posted by zoidion in Climate, Long Emergency, permaculture, Weather.
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Twin Cities ephemera: Ah, spring in Minnesota: It’s the second full day of astronomical spring, and I went out just before sunup to check conditions and walk what’s left of the Nazca pattern in the compacted, crusty snow. Venus was still visible in the eastern sky, along with the slightly-more-than-half waning Moon in the south: beautiful. And when the sun did come up, it was a marvel once again to note the northward march of the sunrise point.

But yikes! The chill and the wind chill . . . Twelve degrees air temperature: about twenty degrees below average for the date. Rude, especially after the welcome warmth, with sun, on the equinox. (Yesterday, with a cloudy sky and gusty winds, an impending shift was obvious, so I seized the opportunity and some water collected off the garage roof to hand-wash the grime off ye olde Camry: 235,000 miles and still going–knock on wood.)

In a little while, I’ll place my order for several of the perennial vegetables I’ve identified as this year’s additions to the garden. And check on the annuals I’m starting indoors from seed. Then I’ll gather my gear and head over to the garden fair where I’ll be making a presentation about hugelkultur.

That practice is merely one response touched upon in a workshop I recently attended. It was organized by a local organization devoted to developing and promoting permaculture skills and practices suited to the climate of this region.

After taking a few classes over the past few years, but never the full-blown design course, I decided to join the group last year, wishing and looking for–but not finding–avenues to connect with regular folks who have been observing their places and experimenting with ways to help the health of their habitats. By the time I heard about this gathering, my disappointment and discontent had brought me close to deciding not to renew my membership.

But in the course of the evening, I was feeling that there may be some hope–ooh, dangerous word–yet for this group. Or should I say: a place where I may fit in. 

I was glad to see the room–not a large one–nearly full: full of quite animated people, many of whom were audibly ready and willing to grapple with the difficult implications. The overarching topic: Designing for Minnesota’s Changing Climate.

Knowing, I suspect, that the crowd would be largely peak- and collapse-savvy, the presenter very ably summarized the deep challenges we face here. One factor: geography. Near the center of the continent, this region is a complex convergence zone: of coniferous forest, deciduous forest, prairie and savanna biomes, and of Arctic, Pacific and Gulf air masses.

Among the effects of a changed climate regime observed already: an increase of seven to eight degrees Fahrenheit in average maximum winter temperature, an increase by one-third in winter precipitation, and an increase in summer nighttime temperature. One impact: decline and eventual disappearance of some tree species: birch, maple, spruce. (There are mature birch and spruce trees in front of my house, placed there at least twenty years before I came on the scene: Their welcome summer afternoon shade may be gone before I depart the scene, their absence creating more food production potential.)

Populations of pollinators, including some crucial insects, have already been disrupted. Increased disease-carrying tick and pest populations have been noted, along with an increase in mosquito-borne diseases.

Insurance companies have factored in the “new normal”: simultaneous drought and flood disasters in adjacent areas within Minnesota, the tornado that carved through Minneapolis three years ago. Homeowner insurance within the state has increased more than the national average.

Far from any rising sea level, we around here are nevertheless at ground zero of climate change. How can we adapt and survive?

The themes were quite familiar, yet it seems helpful to have the handout sheet (with a few personal comments) for reinforcement of key strategies:

  • Build soil: Rapidly sequester carbon (grasses grow faster than trees) and create buffers; jump-start soil health (e.g., with mycorhizal inoculants).
  • Work with water: Slow it down (reduce rapid runoff during deluge events), spread it out, infiltrate it to withstand drought; clean it, filter it.
  • Focus on perennials: Plant legacy trees (including coppice trees) ASAP; use diverse polycultures; plant high-value foods for people and animals; eat perennial foods.
  • Harbor biodiversity: Assist species migration; provide shelter, food and habitat (e.g., a bee hotel for non-honey bees).
  • Grow locally adapted plant material: Save seed (a critical skill); start nurseries to propagate locally adapted perennials.
  • Enlist animals as our partners; Use goats, for instance, rather than herbicides to rid areas of invasive buckthorn.
  • Create abundance: Go to the garden and grow food; grow and share medicines; turn waste streams into assets; repurpose materials.
  • Create community resilience: Build skills to share; fabricate low-cost tools; build community energy systems; link urban and rural communities.
  • Commit to the places where we live: The era of large-scale casual relocation is closing.
  • Observe and honor the natural world.

I’m ready–somewhat.

Do you remember several previous mentions I’ve made here about occultations? I haven’t seen any mention of them in the available astro-weather literature, but they seem to be reliable indicators of abrupt shifts in weather systems.

They are similar to eclipses, occurring when the Moon passes between a planet and Earth. Based on the handy list near the front of Jim Maynard’s indispensable Astrologers Datebook, the most common occultation is of Saturn: eleven times in 2014. (Watch out in November and December, though: Three occultations of Uranus, signifier of the unprecedented, will be visible, optically aided, in arctic and sub-arctic regions.)

Occultations of Saturn seem to correlate with outbreaks of notable cold waves, and the latest one has followed reliably on the one that occurred about ten hours after the equinox moment. It casts an ominous shadow over this entire season.

Zodiacal signs take a back seat in weather forecasting to planets and their relationship to the meridian and horizon. Thus it is reasonable to focus particular attention on zones of Earth where Moon and Saturn in the ingress (the equinox moment) chart were emphasized. Not particularly here, fortunately.

It’s a rather different story for the eastern North Atlantic and central South Atlantic, where the Saturn / lower meridian line passes through; Iceland and the Cape Verde Islands off the west coast of Africa are included in this area. (Note the bold dashed brown line running vertically through the astromap below, and the dashed blue Moon line to the west.) Unusually cold (in the higher latitudes) and stormy conditions will persist through the season through this zone. Shipping and fishing operations will be extremely hazardous.

ARing2014-astromap-Sat

It will be instructive to compare the current season with 2010, when Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull Volcano erupted for the first time in 190 years on the very day of the Aries ingress, subsequently shutting down air traffic for weeks at a time over a wide area extending through the British Isles. In the astromap for that season, the Moon-on-the-upper-meridian line (solid blue on the map below) passed just west of Iceland. (The Moon in the chart was in very close angular relationship to both Uranus and Neptune.)

ARing2010-astromap

But complacency ought not to be on the agenda. It seems unlikely that the world’s continental areas will be spared the raw zodiacal significance of Moon with Saturn in Scorpio in the season chart: The doo-doo of industrial civilization hits the fan in rather more blatant fashion.

-<zoidion>-

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