Friday, April 29, 2011

Signs of the Apocalypse?

Ok, so that title is really just tongue-in-cheek. So many environmental reports seem to only say, "Doom! DOOM!" and that just makes people feel hopeless. I do think that individual actions have a bigger impact that most people give credit for. (If I didn't feel that way, why on earth would I have set this challenge for myself?)
That being said, here in the near-arctic (the arctic circle is about 120 miles north of Fairbanks) we are seeing some of the first signs of global climate change. Not in big, dramatic ways for the most part. But still noticeable. Permafrost is melting, causing huge building and construction headaches. Not to mention crazy pictures of wonky forests. But you know what I see? Spiders. Our climate is too cold for too much of the year for many spiders to be able to withstand it. The ones we do have are tiny--as in, small enough that even I am not scared of them most of the time. But yesterday I opened up the door to let the pets out and saw a half-dollar sized spider of a species I've never seen around here before. I called Shane over (mostly in a "Make it go away! Ewww! Shane! Get it out of here!" kind of way) and he'd never seen one like it, either. I bet if we asked an arachnologist, they would say that the species isn't native and that it's only appeared in the last decade or so. Now, I'm of two minds. I really, really hate spiders and love that there aren't too many around here. (A lot of the ones that are here in the summertime have come up on shipping trucks from the lower 48.) On the other hand, we have enormous mosquitoes. The kind that make southern tourists blink and say, "Wow. I thought ours were bad!" So anything that will destroy the mosquito population is a good thing. But the fact that this means our climate has warmed up so much? Very bad. I'd much rather deal with the mosquitoes than the effects of climate change.
Speaking of mosquitoes, now that most of the snow has melted they're out in force. Time to haul out my mosquito slaying techniques once again. This mostly involves eating a lot of garlic, since they don't like the taste and will stay away from you. Also, when they do buzz around I will wait for one to land and then crush it dead. Tried and true techniques.
I found out yesterday that the main road near my apartment is going to be shut down for part of the summer. Even more impetus to ride my bike as often as possible, since driving out of my neighborhood will be a hassle. I even checked to see how far away some of my activities and friends' houses are. It was really just reassurance that it won't take too long and I won't be too tired when I get wherever I'm going, since I already know the best routes. Btw, when you use Google directions there are icons on the side for driving, mass transit, biking and walking so that it will map out the best routes for you. Since Alaska tends to be one of the last places to get stuff like that I know that if we have it, your town probably does too. (Seriously, my dad is still amazed that we get mail in under six weeks now. When they moved our family in 1989, that's about how long it took the average package to work its way up from the lower 48.)
I'm constantly dismayed by how little there is about living sustainably in Alaska, though. A few news articles here and there about people trying to heat homes using mostly solar or sustainable fishing practices and that's about it. In some ways, I feel like I'm doing this on my own, even though I know there are plenty of people here who live on budgets, eat locally, buy locally, or are subsistence hunters/farmers. There just isn't much to read about how to go about doing this here. If someone did write a manual about local eating for Alaskans, it would probably just say this: "It's not possible. Leave the state." Sigh.

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