Recently, I had a very disturbing conversation with a friend living in rural British Columbia. There was desperation in his voice as he spoke of the disintegration of the natural systems around him.
Living in urban British Columbia we do not see the effects of our changing climate. Sure we feel the drought conditions as the water restrictions make our lawns brown, and most of us watch the forests burn across the province from the comfort of our living room. It is the little things that my friend notices that are frightening.
We have seen more bears and cougars coming into the Capital Region than normal and we freak out. My friend has lived alongside black bears for years. He has watched them, learned from them and his concern for them has never been more urgent.
Their food is gone and the weather is still warm. They have yet to dig their dens and they are hungry. They stand looking longingly at the fruit trees, that have fed them in years past, they shook the sparse fruit free weeks ago. The hawthorne berries which normally provide them their final boost before hibernation were picked clean by flocks of migrating songbirds. As he put it the birds started at the top and worked their way to the bottom, leaving nothing.
The salmon berries and huckleberries, key to the bear’s diet, are long gone. The crop looked good this summer, but after no rain and a week of screaming hot days in late July, the berries shriveled and were gone. The result was a shocking lack of purple hued bear scat, the fertilizer and a vehicle of reproduction for many varieties of plants.
There was simply no fruit this year. The apple, pear, and the wild cherry trees just didn’t produce. My friend does not remember a violent wind when the trees were in bloom and can’t recall the pollinators either. He has seen the result though, no fruit.
The salmon, normally head up the nearby creek in mid-October, this year they hit the creek with the first rainfall in early September. Now, there are only a few salmon struggling under the unusual conditions.
The bears behaviour is unusual. They are so focussed on finding whatever food they can, they don’t even see the humans around them. They don’t have the energy to care about the dog or the cats, they just make the same walk day after day hoping their luck has changed. It hasn’t, and it is getting worse.
What happened to the fruit trees? What is going on with the salmon? Why did the songbirds that normally only snack on the hawthorne berries, feast in a frenzy? What will come of the bears?
These are the things we don’t see in the city. The details of the delicate systems are in trouble. My friend summed it up me in a cold, somber voice, “normal has disappeared Adam.”