water filled the low areas, and the sleds that
had been parked at the bottoms of sledding
hills across the county bobbed around like
flotillas of small boats at harbor.
The sight of floating sleds made the
adults say, “It’s crazy!” all over again.
The kids just gave up. Let the record
show that in February 2013, the children
of Trumansburg, New York, gave up on
winter. As a season, it was no longer reli-
able. You could wake up in the morning
Let me put a finer point on this. My
kids, who are in middle school, know that
winter is supposed to be cold and that Janu-
ary pond ice should be thick enough for
skating. They possess snowman-making
techniques, snow-fort construction skills,
and an elaborate ethos about exactly what
kind of snowballs can and can’t be used
for ambushing the friends of one’s sib-
ling and what body parts are and are not
o=-limits (no ice balls, never in the face).
Let the record show that in February 2013, the children of
Trumansburg, New York, gave up on winter.
to a wonderland—snowflakes dutifully
falling, the front yard all white, perfect,
hushed, squeaky — and by the time school
let out in the afternoon, the miraculous
world had already reverted back to brown,
gray, mushy, yucky.
“Don’t get excited,” said Faith to Elijah
right before Valentine’s Day when he
looked out the window at first light and an-
nounced a fresh snowfall. “It won’t last.”
My children were born just before and
after the turn of the century. They are
old enough to reminisce about the days
before winter went bad and became the
crazy uncle in the seasonal family. Faith’s
fashionable friends discuss the clothes
they used to wear—month after arctic
month—when they were little and the
snow was piled high from November to
March. Kids today, they note with disin-
terested interest, just don’t have the same
relationship to their snow pants.
I think I’m on to something here, and
I’d like to make a prediction. I predict
that the cohort of kids who are now ten
to fifteen years old are going to have a
very di=erent worldview than those born
just a few years after them. My kids and
their friends and everyone roughly their
age will, in fact, be the last human beings
to remember a stable, predictable procession of seasons.
They have methods for assessing the slide-ability and pack-ability of any given snowfall. They know which methods of tucking
snow pants into snow boots work and
which leak. They have strong opinions on
gloves versus mittens and the proper way
to make a snow angel. And yet, for the last
two years, they have had almost no opportunity to exercise this knowledge.
Meanwhile, a friend calls to tell me
that her otherwise very bright granddaughter, who is of nursery-school age,
is having trouble learning the names of
the seasons. They make no sense to her.
“But grandma, you said that winter was
cold!” Winter, when she said it, wasn’t.
And there was the added problem of the
forsythias. They bloomed this year during a warm spell that spanned the twelve
days of Christmas. April showers bring
May flowers. When the nursery rhymes
no longer match the empirical evidence,
what’s a three-year-old to think?
Here are two more stories for the
record. Because of climate change, Elijah
gave up on Little House in the Big Woods.
He liked the first half. But the episodes
involving horse-drawn sleighs and maple-syrup snow cones were too painful. He
refused to read on. “It’s not that way anymore, Mom,” he said matter-of-factly, and
set the book aside.
I was stunned. But then it happened
to me. While rereading the poem “
Cor-sons Inlet” by A. R. Ammons — “I went
for a walk over the dunes again this
morning / to the sea, / then turned right
along / the surf” — which had once been
the subject of my own master’s thesis, I
found that I couldn’t go on. It’s not that
way anymore, Archie. And how come, in
1965, you didn’t see it coming? Corson’s
Inlet, a last undeveloped stretch of beach
in New Jersey, was destroyed during
I set the book aside. Matter-of-factly.
Not to say that our hearts have all
turned to stone around here. Here’s my
other story: After days of wild, record-breaking weather, our village winter festival was canceled because of rain and
flood warnings. When I told Elijah the
bad news on the walk home from school,
he began to cry. I told him I was sorry.
He said, “I’m not upset about the fes-
tival. I’m upset because the planet’s dy-
ing. I know this is all because of global
This is what I heard myself say: “Look,
Mom is on the job. I’m working on it. I’m
working on it really hard, and I promise
I won’t quit.”
And then I cried. And not only be-
cause my son believes himself to be
alive on a dying planet, but because all
the generations of parents before mine
have been unable to deal with the facts
and mount a response of su;cient scale
to solve the problem, meaning that all of
us now have a monumental task before
us. I cried because keeping my promise
makes me arise before dawn to get on
buses, puts bullhorns in my hand in far-
away cities, may yet land me in jail, and,
in these and other ways, takes me away
from my children so that I can prove
them wrong. A
Sandra Steingraber is the founder of New
Yorkers Against Fracking.