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The weirdest things we’ve noticed this spring » Yale Climate Connections

It’s spring, and climate change is in our sinuses. The Yale Climate Connections editorial team sat down to catch up on spring updates — solar panels, allergies, and cats on leashes — and discussed how we’re preparing for a summer of extreme weather. 

This roundtable discussion has been edited and condensed.

Sam: I thought it would be a nice time to talk about spring: How we have seen it change and how we are feeling the impacts of that change? And if we want to take time to talk about the flowers that are blooming, that is also allowed.

Sara: Can I talk about my solar panels, too?

Sam: Oh, yes, of course. Yes. 100%. Do you want to start with this update about your solar panels?

Sara: The update is that I got solar panels! I’m obsessed with them. It’s a really great time of year to have solar panels up and running. The days are getting longer, so we’re producing a lot of energy, and we’re not running our air conditioning yet, so we’re producing a huge amount of energy relative to the amount that we’re using. It is super exciting and feels really good.

Pearl: Was it planned on purpose to have them installed now?

Sara: No. A bunch of municipalities in my area set up a program called Solarize the Triangle, and that meant that people living in the area could get a group discount on solar panels. So we got the group discount, in addition to the federal tax credits. And so the timing of getting the panels installed just had to do with the deadlines of the Solarize the Triangle program.

Sam: And you will get a federal tax credit back next April from the Inflation Reduction Act?

Sara: Yeah, so we’re going to get a 30% federal tax credit, which in our case works out to about $4,000. 

Sam: Nice. It was so exciting when I got $4,000 for the used EV in April. I was like, “I’m rich!” Just kidding, I put it all in savings. It’s going to the car loan. But still, it was very exciting.

Sara: That’s awesome. Yeah, it was just really exciting to actually get the solar panels and to have that tax credit and the Solarize discount, because 20 years ago, occasionally I would see solar panels, but I thought it was something for really wealthy people and didn’t imagine myself as a person who would ever have solar panels. But now that the prices of solar have come down so dramatically, plus these tax credits, it just really made a lot of financial sense to do it.

Sam: So it’s spring, you’ve got solar panels, you’ve got native plants popping up. What else is going on in your area in the spring?

Sara: We had a ton of pollen, I gotta be real. And we know that spring allergies are getting worse because of climate change. I was definitely feeling that this year. It was so intense. Sam, you’ve been feeling some of that in Wisconsin, too.

Sam: Yeah, I definitely have tree pollen allergies. Last week, I felt like there was a lag in my brain, like I was receiving information but I was responding to it five minutes late. I wanted to just sleep. My nose wouldn’t stop running. 

But I think I have worked out the medicine regimen. And also, it’s very annoying, but I’ve been taking a shower right before bed, I have washed my sheets, and I run an air purifier in my room. And so it seems to have calmed down a little bit. I went for a walk with a KN95 mask on. And it was probably good for my allergies, but I didn’t like it. So now when I come back from a walk, I do a saline rinse of my nose. 

I’m not excited for even worse allergy seasons in the future. 

Sara: Me neither. I, too, have gotten into the routine of washing my hair every night, washing the sheets, air purifier. And it does help.

Sam: Pearl, have you noticed that spring seems different in ways than it did when you first moved to Rhode Island? 

Pearl: Spring feels like it’s arrived sooner this year, for sure. My meter for spring is I have this bush outside my window and it has these beautiful pink blooms, and it is in full bloom now.

I do like spring. 

Sam: It’s my favorite season. 

Pearl: But I also have this sense of dread of what comes after spring. Not to bring the mood down. I just think of how hot it’s gonna be, and we don’t have AC here. I am also thinking about all the potential wildfires. The wildfires last year definitely scarred me. So I’m enjoying spring now, but I do have this kind of sense of foreboding about what is to come. 

Sam: I’m a big, big proponent of “If it’s nice, you must enjoy.” 

Pearl: Yes. I mean, it’s great. I can work outside now.

Sam: I can’t remember if I told you, but speaking of enjoying it, a few weekends ago we had our first 80-degree day. That weekend it was really nice, and I saw five cats outside on different walk devices. Two were on a leash, two were in backpacks, and one was in a stroller. 

Sara: What!?

Sam: This guy was outside of his apartment. He was sort of leaning against a signpost reading a book and had his cat on a leash. 

Pearl: Wow. 

Sam: So that cat was having a great day outside.

Sara: Is this a big fad in Madison?

Sam: I have no idea. That was the first time that I have seen so many. It was wild. 

Pearl: So many leashed cats!

Sam: Sara, we did a radio story a long time ago about how armadillos were expanding their range into North Carolina. Have you ever seen an armadillo in North Carolina?

Sara: I have not. I would love to see an armadillo. But I think that they are farther west. So I just have to wait, I guess, for them to keep expanding their range? They seem like the kind of animals that would dig in the garden

Sam: OK, so maybe you don’t need that. You have the deer already. 

Sara: Right. This morning I woke up and looked into my backyard, and it was like the Serengeti: Four enormous deer were curled up and sleeping in the backyard.

Pearl: They must have looked so cute, though.

Sara: But also they eat so much!

Sam: It’s been a really bad tick season here. 

Sara: What have you noticed?

Sam: I was up at my friend’s farm last weekend, and she was talking about how it’s been really bad.

Pearl: My two dogs are tick magnets. I just doused them with lavender oil hoping that would help. 

Sara: I’m no tick expert, but one thing is they’re very temperature-dependent. So the warmer it is, the more active they can be. And we’re having these shorter winters and spring starting sooner in general, and that means the ticks start their life cycle.

Pearl: What are they for? Like, what is their purpose? 

Sam: I feel this way about mosquitoes as well. But also whenever somebody’s like, “We should just get rid of all mosquitoes,” I become very nervous. I don’t think we should get rid of them all. 

Sara: Spiders eat ticks. 

Sam: Oh, yum.

Pearl: Yeah, and chickens.

Sam: Well, we don’t have a lot of time left, but I think it might be useful to talk a little bit more about what Pearl mentioned with the dread of summer. Are there things that you’re trying to do to enjoy spring to be more ready for summer?

Pearl: I’m definitely trying to mentally prepare myself: Figuring out boundaries, work-life balance, you know, the usual. Because last year was very intense with wildfire season and then hurricane season. So yeah, just trying to figure out how to balance all of that better this year. I have a therapist now that I can talk to, which I think is very important. 

Sam: Same.

Pearl: So those are kind of the things I’m doing and just trying to be outside as much as possible because I find that really helps bring my mood up and reduce my anxiety and enjoy where we live. I try and enjoy it as much as possible because you kind of never know what’s going to happen next.

Sara: I am trying to spend time in the garden. And I really enjoy planting things, especially before the deer come and eat them and my plants are trashed. But I also really enjoy playing clarinet, which is not season or weather-dependent. And I try to do that every day, just to do something that’s completely unrelated to climate change and that celebrates artistic expression and some of the best things that people can do.

Sam: It’s good to have something that isn’t weather-dependent. 

I had a long weekend a few weeks ago. And it was the perfect combination of relaxing but still doing activities, because I also, I’m bad at relaxing. I feel like I don’t like to waste time, which I think also has a weird relationship to climate change. Because I’m like, “I need to enjoy this now because it’s here.” 

Sara: Yes.

Sam: So I think that was a good reminder that it’s good to take the time to relax. And I can work on calming the part of my brain that is like, “Why aren’t we doing 5 million craft projects right now?” 

Pearl: I hear Sam’s voice every time I take a day to just kind of chill out and relax. She said, “Resting is also climate change action.” So your voice is forever imprinted in my brain. 

Sam: Yes, if I am sitting on the couch I’m not creating any emissions. I am being a good member of society by resting. 

Pearl: I also am spending less and less time on social media. That’s helped me a lot because obviously, everything that comes into my feed now is about climate change. 

Sam: My social media is just like, “I saw a flower today!” I went to the arboretum a couple nights ago. I went to check on the crane nest in the pond and there’s two little eggs in the sandhill crane nest. So we love a little bit of dose of baby animal in the spring. 

Pearl: Absolutely.

Sara: I feel soothed just hearing about it. 

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