Author: Richard B. Primack
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
“An unnervingly close-to-home perspective [on] the dynamics and impact of climate change on plants, birds, and myriad other species, including us.”—Booklist 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. Warming temperatures have pushed blueberry flowering three weeks earlier, and in 2012, following a period of record-breaking warmth, blueberries began flowering on April 1—six weeks earlier than in Thoreau’s time. In Walden Warming, Richard B. Primack uses Thoreau and Walden, icons of the conservation movement, to track the effects of a warming climate on Concord’s plants and animals, with the notes that Thoreau made years ago transformed from charming observations into scientific data sets. Primack finds that many wildflower species that Thoreau observed, including familiar groups such as irises, asters, and lilies, have declined in abundance or disappeared from Concord. Primack also describes how warming temperatures have altered other aspects of Thoreau’s Concord, from the dates when ice departs from Walden Pond in late winter, to the arrival of birds in the spring, to the populations of fish, salamanders, and butterflies that live in the woodlands, river meadows, and ponds. Demonstrating the effects of climate change in a unique, concrete way using this historical and literary landmark as a touchstone, Richard Primack urges us to heed the advice Thoreau offers in Walden: to live simply and wisely. In the process, we can minimize our own contributions to our warming climate.