Back during my boat dwelling period, there was an April with heavy snow. I can’t remember exactly when the last wintery-spring happened in Stroud, but there was one not so long back. Cold springs are hard, and this one comes on the back of a bitterly cold winter in the UK coupled with hiked energy prices. The direct human suffering this causes is huge, and it’s also impacting on our polytunnel farming and thus on our supplies of fresh food.
Early spring has always been hard and unpredictable. It’s no accident that Lent falls at this time of year. In the past, people would be facing the end of their winter stores while fresh crops had yet to appear. Depending on how good the previous harvest was, and how long the winter turned out to be, this could be a very hungry time of year. There’s something to be said for making a religious virtue out of the problem of being obliged to fast.
However, this is not about needing faith in a world of uncertainty. These are problems of our making. Humans have caused a climate crisis that greatly increases this kind of unpredictable weather. Greed is why we have an energy crisis in the UK, it’s all about deliberate choices, not inexplicable acts of God. We should be able to keep people warm and fed, and yet we can’t – and at the moment that’s mostly something that we, as a country have done to ourselves. Splitting from the EU was a serious mistake and has enabled politicians who don’t seem to understand how anything works.
We aren’t set up to live like our ancestors. We don’t grow our own food, or have the means to store it. Like many people, I don’t have a garden or a cellar. Most of us rely now on complicated systems of distribution for our food. We rely on companies for our heat and light – which should be cleaner and more sustainable than burning things at home, but that’s only true if the energy companies play fair. Being in a flat, I can’t have my own wind turbine or solar panels.
I’m very much a fan of shared solutions to problems. However, that only really works when there’s kindness and benevolence in the mix. When the food growers can’t afford to heat their polytunnels, and when we’ve broken the system that brought us supplies of food from other countries, what do we do?
This spring is cold in the UK, and unkind, and we were not ready for it.