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Climate change is altering the face of the planet. The Neue Zürcher Zeitung asked writers from zones far and wide for first-hand accounts of how it is affecting them. Read also Leo Tuor on thawing snow in Surselva, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on a stifling Christmas in Nigeria, Romesh Gunesekera on how the rain foiled the plans of the perfect farmer, and Kiran Nagarkar on the smogs of Bombay, and much more... All the stories here.


Miracles every day

Author George Saunders describes the strange state of the climate in post-Gore America.

Syracuse, New York, where I live, is famous for its brutal winters. We're having one now. Although it's been a strange year, weatherwise, given "global warming" and all. (Thanks Mr. Gore, for inventing that!) Yesterday it was a nice mild summer day, about 150 degrees - I'd just come inside from mopping up the puddle that was formerly Keith, our postman - when suddenly, I could feel it in my bones, that good old "Ah, winter's a-coming!" feeling.

And I was right.

Suddenly the temperature dropped - three hundred degrees in one hour, a local record! It was so lovely, I couldn't resist putting my work aside and donning special clothing purchased from NASA and taking a stroll through this "winter wonderland." It was gorgeous: the neighbourhood cats, converted to ice-cats in mid-stride, four pert little robins literally frozen to death on a clothesline, little beaks open in mid-peep.

I guess I'm just a sucker for the "pastoral." Across the street, here was old Mrs Clark, bending to pick up her newspaper, grouchy look frozen on her face, reaching back absent-mindedly to scratch her - it was really too bad. I liked Mrs Clark. I mean, yes, she was always complaining - about Mr Clark, about the president not signing the Kyoto treaty, the kids running across her lawn, the way our lawmakers embrace pseudo-science to protect the big oil companies: a real malcontent - but still, you hate anyone to be instantaneously frozen, especially right out there where you can see them, cluttering up your beautiful winter view.

Although autumn's wonderful too. I remember last autumn, when it was so unseasonably warm and the cars were all liquefying. What a beautiful sight, when my SUV (red) and my wife's SUV (yellow) melted and blended together to make a bubbling autumnal orange heap of molten metal! It was too bad about the six trick-or-treaters who, running insanely to escape the blazing heat, blundered into our "vehicles" and were incorporated into the "bubbling feverish ooze." See you next year, kids, in the thirty seconds between summer and winter!

But then again, who can resist the allure of springtime? Last spring a "mini-hurricane" lifted our house off its foundation, and what a wild, lovely ride we had, flying over the city, observing the beauty of the new-blooming roses and orchids and the dear friends being slung willy-nilly into the sides of downtown buildings, and the river overflowing its banks and flooding entire sections of town.
So let the global-warning nuts complain all they want. I love nature, just as it is, however it is.

Hang on, the doorbell just -

Well, what do you know? It was a glacier! And on top of it, two starving-to-death polar bears, and a disease-ravaged penguin! Take that, eco-freaks: Mother Nature is alive and well, delivering fresh miracles to us every day - if only we have the eyes to see.


The story, written in English, originally appeared in German in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung on March 29, 2007.

George Saunders, born in 1958 and raised on the south side of Chicago, studied geophysics and creative writing. He has worked as geophysical engineer, doorman, roofer, convenience store clerk, country-and-western guitarist and slaughterhouse knuckle-puller. Currently he is assistant professor at Syracuse University's Creative Writing Program. His books include "In Persuasion Nation", "A Bee Stung Me, So I Killed All the Fish" and "The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil." He is married and has two children. - let's talk european