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Feeling the Heat in Punxsutawney

February 2, 2013

We are honored to post this essay by Jenny Lisak, an organic blueberry farmer from western Pennsylvania who has experienced the impacts of fracking, and of climate change, directly. Jenny Lisak has compiled the List of the Harmed, now up to over 800 families, individuals and groups of families harmed by the life-cycle impacts of gas drilling.

Punxsutawney, PA: Punxsutawney Phil may be wiping the sweat off his brow when he comes out of his den. It’s 53 degrees at 10:30 pm, Jan 29th, 2013, in Punxsutawney, PA. The weather has been chaotic, and this year has seen many records, including the still-standing streak of 334 consecutive months of above average temperatures. July 2012 was the hottest of any month on record in the US. Over 9 million acres fell to wildfires. We experienced a record arctic melt, severe droughts, and the largest hurricane to form in the Atlantic Basin in recorded history, though we were lucky enough not to experience a direct hit by Joelle, one of the strongest winter storms ever recorded, which thankfully spun out over the Atlantic.

Wintertime Heat

Yes, we’re definitely feeling the heat in Punxsutawney, and in the past 30 years we’ve all noticed some serious changes. It seems to be more and more common to have spells of 60 degree weather throughout the winter. The   early springs are not without an unpredictable killing freeze like last year’s, which wiped-out all the early fruit bearing trees’ blossoms (and the fruit that would have followed). Every year our blueberries get ripe earlier and this past year they ripened a full 3 weeks early, before the farmers’ markets were even open.

Uptick in Ticks

There was a time when ticks were virtually nonexistent in this part of PA. I’d never seen a tick until the late 80’s, despite practically living in the woods and fields. The tick and the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium it carries are now the bane of those that enjoy the outdoors. We have observed a steady increase in the incidence of tick-borne diseases due to their northward movement and winter activity. With the weather and climate they prefer ever increasing, the lone star tick will soon be making an appearance.

Biggest Threat to Wildlife

Phil might someday be dueling with his prairie dog cousins for prime location – experts tell us that climate change is expected to alter the distribution and abundance of many species. A National Wildlife Foundation study says many animals are struggling to adapt to the new climate conditions caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Animal and plant species are shifting their ranges to colder locales and these shifts are taking place two to three times faster than anticipated. “Climate change is the biggest threat wildlife will face this century,” the study reports. Other studies predict dire extinctions if the temperatures continue to climb.


If we were really taking note, we might see that the grand prognosticator Punxsutawney Phil is doling out a severe admonition to us in his low -key manner. According to a marmot expert, groundhogs in Maine were emerging about 17 days sooner in 2010 than they were in 1998. If Phil could really talk, he might be pleading with us to get it together now – before there is no more future to predict.

Our carbon dioxide-generating, methane emitting, climate-changing, fossil fuel-based economy is the problem, but it IS something we can change. Over-consumption and the greed of fossil fuel corporations are what dictate our weather, not our local forecaster Phil.

Phil can hibernate from the world, but we cannot. It’s time to see the adumbration, the foretelling shadow that warns us: WAKE UP before it’s too late.

Punxsy Phil Says Stop Climate Change

Punxsy Phil Says Fight the Frack: Stop Climate Change.  Art by Emma Lisak.


Braun, David. “Disease-Spreading Ticks on the Move as Climate Changes.” News Watch. National Geographic, 7 Sept. 2012. Web.
Caldas, Astrid. “Climate Change, Extinctions and Edges.” The Huffington Post., 21 Nov. 2012. Web.
Clark, Patterson. “Groundhogs and Global Warming.” The Washington Post. N.p., 29 Jan. 2013. Web.
Dolce, Chris. “NOAA: July 2012 Was the Hottest Month on Record.” The Weather Channel. N.p., 8 Aug. 2012. Web.
Hooda, Samreen. “Sandy Is The Largest Hurricane To Ever Form In The The Atlantic Basin (INFOGRAPHIC).” The Huffington Post., 30 Oct. 2012. Web.
Marmot.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web.
Masters, Jeff. “Mighty North Atlantic Low Bombs to 930 Mb.” The Weather Underground. Dr. Jeff Masters, 26 Jan. 2013. Web.
McLaughlin, John F., Jessica J. Hellmann, Carol L. Boggs, and Paul R. Ehrlich. “Climate Change Hastens Population Extinctions.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. N.p., 30 Apr. 2002. Web.
Temperature Extremes and Drought.” National Climatic Data Center. N.p., n.d. Web.
Weather and Climate Effects on Lyme Disease Exposure.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web.
Wildlife in a Warming World: Confronting the Climate Crisis.” National Wildlife Federation. N.p., 29 Jan. 2013. Web.
One Comment
  1. February 2, 2013 9:38 pm

    Thank you, Jenny, for writing this. People are so light and playful about Punxsutawney Phil, but don’t want to hear the reality of the climate we are facing, the true cause behind it and its dire consequences. I was privileged to have heard your son Jameson speak at the Stop the Frack Attack rally, to have witnessed his honest heartfelt plea to act for the sake of a safe and viable future. I’m attaching the short video I made, which I know you saw, so that others can hear his message. I know you were proud of him. I pray for the best for your upcoming blueberry crop. Take care.

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