The Guardian’s look at this fake fall: an eerie beauty

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<p><figcaption class=Photo: Susannah Ireland/AFP/Getty Images

Forests are turning orange across Britain. Dry leaves grow on forest floors and swirl on street corners. Hawthorn and rowan, elder and holly berries are all ripening and the ferns are fringes of gold. It’s beautiful from afar. But the air is still warm and summery.

And all this two or three months too early. Holly berries typically ripen in November or December. Blackberries, traditionally a treat in late August, began to ripen in late June. This turning and falling of leaves is not the usual gradual preparation for winter in temperate zones, but a stress response from trees trying to conserve water. We are now in a false autumn caused by heat and drought. And it feels wrong

John Ruskin coined the term pathetic fallacy to describe how writers associate the weather with human emotions. He meant it pejoratively, and it’s true, it’s a well-worn literary move. But it’s used so often because it traces how atavistically connected even the most urban, screen-bound people are to the physical rhythms of our world. “Life begins again when it gets fresh in the fall,” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby, and behind his assertion is faith in the universe and a deep comfort: When all else fails, nature becomes you Follow a cycle that goes beyond the level of thought.

There is, therefore, something deeply unsettling about such a graphic alteration of familiar rhythms. Droughts are of course not unknown in the UK, and far worse versions have been seen in too many parts of the world. However, they are increasingly occurring in the context of a climate emergency and unprecedented heat. And the very beauty of a fake fall has an emotional impact, a deep eeriness, something mysteriously suggestive of evil or danger; in this idea of ​​evil is also an assertion of moral failure.

Cultures around the world include rites of weather reconciliation; A sense of responsibility for nature – and the belief that we will be punished if we don’t – is as old as mankind. One of the reasons the romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 1798 poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is so haunting is the directness with which it relates the downing of an albatross – the destruction of innocent wildlife – to a horrific change in weather brings: no rain, only blazing, deadly sun. We may not understand the mechanism, but on an instinctive level it feels right.

And similarly, it wasn’t really surprising to hear that birds have problems. Young swifts have been seen falling from the sky in London. Fewer – and too early – nuts and berries mean some animals won’t survive this winter. Hopefully, older trees with their longer roots will survive, but young trees may not, with all that means for further warming. There will always be some uncertainty about the causes of certain weather events, but we can’t deny that we haven’t looked after the albatross. Now we must hope we do enough to ensure these eerie golden days don’t become an autumn of autumns.

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