Early spring

_C1_0323.JPGThis is just wrong, y’all.

Trees and other plants from the South to the Great Lakes are coming to life several weeks early. Four days this month have reached record high temperatures, according to the National Weather Service, and we’ve gotten to 80 degrees twice. January had 11 days above 60, while the average is in the 40s. Climate scientists are always quick to point out that climate change doesn’t cause any single weather pattern, instead affecting the probability of certain events. But it’s hard not to wonder if the highest carbon dioxide levels in millions of years have something to do with all of this.

On top of that, these particular blossoms belong to a Bradford pear, an ornamental but invasive species that humans brought here from east Asia. Invasive species like these trees and honeysuckles crowd out native plants and steal away their light and nutrients, which can hurt local bugs, birds, mammals, soil, water and us, and they’re hard to get rid of.

Basically we’ve made a mess, even if it looks nice or feels great.

_C1_0222.JPGThat brings me to these rock piles along Lee Creek at Devil’s Den State Park. I know I’ve shown them here at least once before, and they’re a pretty and neat way for dozens or even hundreds of people to connect in the same space. It’s also something we shouldn’t be doing, come to find out. It’s bad for creek beds and the fish and amphibians and bugs living in and under them, and it’s something park rangers around the country are trying to stop.

Anyway, I don’t mean to be the buzzkill during some really fantastic weather. The point is we humans have a way of leaving our marks big and small. Keep an eye on them.

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Thanks for lookin’.

Dan

June in February

_C1_9670.JPGThis past weekend was ridiculously, bizarrely warm. Fayetteville on Saturday reached 81 degrees, 9 above the record and about 30 above normal for a February day. According to the National Weather Service, it’s more typical for late May and early June.

So that made this year’s Polar Plunge, a fundraiser for Arkansas Special Olympics that involves jumping into Beaver Lake in wacky costume, considerably less polar than usual. Not that the participants minded. The umbrella-jellyfish were my favorites.

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_C1_9624.JPGAfter that I headed to Fayetteville’s Wilson and Walker parks, then took a stroll on the Razorback Greenway the next day. A year into my very slow journey down the trail and I’m finally into Rogers.

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_C1_0162.JPGWe’re a bit closer to normal now, which is for the best, I think, though it’s gloomier. Thanks for looking.

Dan

The week of protest

_C1_9503.JPGHave you kept up this week?

Millions of marchers took to the streets in all 50 states and around the world the weekend of President Donald Trump’s inauguration to protest sexism and sexual assault and shout a full-throated message of inclusion and diversity. A week later, thousands more have protested against the president’s plan to build a wall on our southern border and his Friday executive order that sharply curtails the acceptance of refugees and other immigrants, particularly from horror-filled Syria and other Middle Eastern countries. Meanwhile, more people are fleeing war and persecution than at any time in recorded history.

The Trump administration said the order would help protect against terrorists who could be among refugees’ ranks, though this is vanishingly rare. (It’s worth adding the risk of being killed in a refugee’s terrorist attack is about 0.000003% that of dying in a car crash, according to the National Safety Council and the conservative Cato Institute.) The order certainly made a splash, slamming the door on students, families, allies of U.S. armed forces and others on their way to the U.S., earning bipartisan criticism and sparking worries over whether the executive branch would obey court orders against it.

_C1_9430.JPGOne of the protesters was this woman above, Simone, whose mother escaped the Cambodian killing fields, where more than 1 million people lost their lives at the hands of a dictatorship a few decades ago. She and a couple hundred others turned out in downtown Fayetteville with signs quoting the Statue of Liberty’s plaque and Biblical passages. They urged the White House to keep the door open for refugees and other immigrants no matter their religion or homeland.

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_C1_9488.JPGI’ll add one more thought: Support a newspaper, even if it isn’t the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. I’ve written about the effects of refugee, health care, climate change and immigration policy and will do everything I can to keep doing so — and I’m just one reporter at one paper. This is shaping up to be a defining year of my lifetime and in the country’s history, and even if it’s exhausting for reporters and readers alike, we absolutely must keep trying to learn about what’s going on and what it means.

Thanks for looking, and keep your eyes open.

Dan