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Yvonne Abraham

On a warm March day, some guilt creeps in

The temperature was in the 70s on Wednesday, as witnessed by these people at Boston Common.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

My salted caramel chocolate pretzel ice cream came with a side of doom on Wednesday.

God, it was delicious.

In the gorgeous North End parks on the Greenway, delighted souls sported pasty arms and upturned faces as the temperature climbed to 77 degrees.

Slurping up my kiddie cup full of melting joy, I was in heaven, like everybody else.

Then came the guilt.

I envy our parents and grandparents, who could feel unadulterated happiness on a freakishly warm day like this. Sure, they probably figured such a day in March would bring frosty comeuppance in April or the certainty of a rainy July, especially if they lived around Boston, this hub of fatalism, where no gifts are free.


But a warm March day means something more existential in 2016, especially to younger people. I’ll let Boston University chemistry student Vanessa Kuria, oscillating on a chair swing in the park, take it from here:

What does she think about this weather?

“We’re all gonna die, our children are gonna die, and our children’s children are definitely gonna die,” she said.

“But I’m also enjoying this day,” she added cheerfully.

How lovely it must have been to live in a world that was clueless about climate change, when a hurricane was just a hurricane and a freakishly warm winter day was simply a blessing from the heavens, rather than a reminder of rising seas and crippling droughts.

One hot day does not a warming planet make (just as a blizzard is no rebuttal to climate science). But it is a preview of what is to come, as environmentalist Bill McKibben argued in his alarming Globe op-ed last weekend.

“This bizarre glimpse of the future is only temporary,” McKibben wrote, citing an average temperature rise of two degrees above normal last week, a dearth of snow, and unprecedented wind speeds in our hemisphere. “Global warming is not a future threat,” he went on. “It’s the present reality, a menace not to our grandchildren but to our present civilizations.” He argues the environment ought to be a huge issue in the presidential campaign and a top issue for voters, and he’s absolutely right.


But on a day like Wednesday, who can dwell on that? Humans are hard-wired for immediate gratification. We’re ill-equipped to imagine a future radically different — and more bleak — than the present. We are not as good at responding to large, slow-moving threats as we are at avoiding immediate hazards. That’s a bigger obstacle to meaningful action on the environment than any climate-science denier.

And that predisposition is only magnified when you’ve been traumatized by brutal New England winters. Who wants to think about the evils of climate change playing out in some distant South Pacific nation when you can escape the concrete of downtown and lie out on abnormally green grass in the North End way earlier than usual?

Then there is the resignation.

“I’m looking forward to palm trees down the Cape,” joked Bryan Smith of Arlington, when I asked if a day like Wednesday makes him worry about climate change (Buzz-kill!).

“It’s out of our control,” Smith said. “You’re going to stop China polluting? We can do all we want in this country, it’s not going to stop progress, no way.”

After an hour of interrupting people’s dreamy al fresco lunches to ask them about the threat of global destruction, I met Cynthia Rozzi, who offered fretful me a bit of perspective. A writer and editor, she is concerned about climate change and does what she can to avoid contributing to it.


“But having said that, I’m going to enjoy a March 9th like this,” she said. “I’m all about it. Do we want to suffer through every moment, every weather change, every hiccup? We need to smile and keep going.”

Fair enough.

After resolving to make a donation to the Sierra Club, I pound down what’s left of my ice cream.

This is paradise!

Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham can be reached at yvonne.abraham@globe.com