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Springtime in New York

by Jay Walljasper - January 15, 2008

I'm just back home after a lovely springtime visit to New York City, where I stopped in at the Green Guide office to swap ideas with my fellow editors. Afterwards, I spent the day strolling sidewalks filled with happy people out celebrating the sunshine in their shirtsleeves.

I say springtime because the weather felt like April even though the calendar announced it was mid-January. The mercury hit 64° F, nearly beating the all-time record high for that day. I even sat down at a sidewalk café to snack on panini and cheesecake.

Such glorious weather, of course, heightens anxiety about global warming (which I believe should more accurately be called global climate disruption). There's something eerily unnatural about gallivanting around a northern city without a coat at a time of the year that, statistically at least, ought to be the frostbite peak.

I did feel a few pangs of guilt about enjoying this fine day, but soon decided that it was pointless. It's an unavoidably human trait to break out in smiles at wonderful weather--no matter what the cause.

No amount of environmental education is going to convince people to feel bad about a premature taste of spring. And to think it should only reinforces the longstanding stereotype of environmentalists as fanatically gloomy people who want to impose a regime of sacrifice and strict sober-mindedness upon us.

The increasingly unseasonable temperatures we are experiencing almost everywhere call for us to embrace a measure of ambiguity in response--welcoming the warmth even as we feel the need to do more about remedying global climate disruption.

At the end of a long day walking all over New York, I was lucky enough to combine both of these goals into a memorable experience. My feet painfully reminded me that they deserved a rest, so I looked around for a taxi to drive me to the nearest stop on the F train, which would whisk me back to where I was staying in Brooklyn. Then suddenly, a pedicab--the American name for a bicycle rickshaw--came into sight. Hailing the driver, I jumped in and relished riding comfortably down Avenue of the Americas in the open air on an almost balmy evening in the back of a vehicle that emitted no carbon, made no noise and contributed in no way to sprawl.