Monday, February 17, 2014

Walden Warming: Climate change comes to Thoreau's woods

Posted by Richard B. Primack 

In his meticulous notes on the natural history of Concord, Massachusetts, Henry David Thoreau records the first open flowers of highbush blueberry on May 11, 1853. If he were to look for the first blueberry flowers in Concord today, mid-May would be too late. In the 160 years since Thoreau’s writings, warming temperatures have pushed blueberry flowering three weeks earlier, and in 2012, following a winter and spring of record-breaking warmth, blueberries began flowering on April 1—six weeks earlier than in Thoreau’s time.  

For the past 12 years, my students, colleagues and I have been investigating the effects of climate change on the plants, birds, and insects of Walden Pond and the surrounding area of Concord. By combining Thoreau’s observations from 160 years ago with modern observations, we have used Concord as a living laboratory to study the impacts of a warming world. In a new book due out in early March, I describe this scientific adventure. And in the final chapter, I try to imagine how Thoreau would react to the modern challenge of climate change, and what his advice would be for dealing with this crisis.

Find more information on the book here.

1 comment:

  1. Richard Primack will be speaking at the Thoreau Institute in Lincoln, MA on Thursday March 27th about his new book, Walden Warming.

    Don Henley said, “this is an important book that should be required reading for everyone who cares about the future of our planet, and especially for those who remain skeptical about the threats of climate change. What better place to chronicle the effects of global warming than in the cradle of the American environmental movement – Thoreau’s Walden Woods.”

    Please join us at 7pm for wine/cheese reception made possible by the Concord Cheese Shop and the free lecture 7:30 pm. A book-signing follows.