Autumn Leaves In Midsummer Signal That Change Is Needed

The falling leavesAutumn leaves in street gutter April 2013
Drift by my window
The falling leaves
Of red and gold

So go the words of the old song Autumn Leaves.

And so go the leaves following the heat wave in Australia last week.

Where I live, in Canberra, hot weather is now usually accompanied by strong winds.

It is those strong winds that are so drying that we have difficulty growing summer vegetables out in the open.

That is why I do so much thinking about how we can use trees and physical structures like fences and cloths to slow the wind and reduce its drying effect on plants.  And physical barriers can certainly make a big difference to the survival of smaller plants like vegetables. 🙂

But physical structures can only go so far.

The hot dry winds put a strain on plants of all types – including trees.  That is one reason that trees are increasingly shedding some leaves in summer.

But it’s hard coming up with physical barriers to protect large trees.

And physical structures cannot be generally used at a large enough scale to slow the bushfires that inevitably accompany very hot and windy weather in a dry landscape. 🙁

Last week I was in Melbourne for the heat wave.  This time, it was not accompanied by the wind that leads to my Kiwi brother-in-law calling it ‘hair dryer weather’.

No.  It was just hot.  Very hot.  Like being in an oven…literally.

And most plants don’t like it hot.  Their leaves get scorched, die and drop off.

And that’s what happened to the trees in Melbourne (and no doubt many other places too).

Trees in cities like Melbourne were not chosen for their ability to withstand heat.  If they were, perhaps the streets would be lined with cacti instead of shade-giving planes and elms.  But they aren’t.

So when it’s hot like last week, the trees’ leaves die and fall to the ground.  If you saw a picture of Melbourne’s streets and didn’t know it was January, you could be forgiven for thinking that the leaves in the gutters meant that it was June.

Imagine what the scene would be like if it had happened under ‘normal’ weather patterns that create these conditions with:

  • wind as well as heat
  • a high over the Great Australian Bight (the usual cause of summer heat in south-eastern Australia)
  • an El Nino creating drought


And the sad thing is that and with climate change it will be so much worse because we will see this extreme heat more often – and probably more severely if it occurs under ‘normal’ conditions.

How will our trees survive?  There’s already evidence that trees superbly adapted to harsh Australian conditions – Eucalypts – are already suffering from climate change.

And how will we survive without trees and food plants?

The answer, of course, is we won’t.

And that’s why we need to take every action we can to #leavefossilfuelsintheground.  (That’s because extraction and burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas are the main causes of climate change.)

And that means:

  • putting the heat on to give permission for everyone to do the right thing and #leavefossilfuelsintheground…by writing letters, signing petitions and speaking to friends and family letters about why you want real action to avoid catastrophic climate change
  • only using renewable energy – by producing our own power from sun or wind, joining a cooperative that produces renewable energy, or buying accredited green energy
  • avoiding car and plane travel (unless it’s an electric car powered by renewable-energy ;))
  • growing our own food (organically ;)) or buying it from local farmers
  • only buying the things we need – preferably from local manufacturers and suppliers

What are you going to do to #leavefossilfuelsintheground?

Just leave your comments in the Reply box below …or send me a voice message by clicking on the tab on the right.

Till next time…be gentle to yourself and our world!