Stem Fest 2012: Missing Tulips Point to Global Climate Change

Stem Fest 2012 T-shirts are on sale all week at the annual Tulip Time Festival in Holland, Michigan

Spring is in the air in Michigan. The birds are chirping, the bees are buzzing and the tulips… well, they’ve already bloomed. Their premature blossoming is causing trouble for the annual Tulip Time Festival in Holland, Michigan, and could point to a more worrisome trend of global climate change.

After an unseasonably warm March that saw temperatures soar to the mid-80s, trees flowered early and gardens everywhere got an unexpected splash of color. While few are bemoaning the mild winter (the 4th warmenst on record according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration), it left coordinators for the Tulip Festival scrambling for a way to celebrate the annual tulip blooms in the first week of May lacking much of the main attraction.

Their solution, a humorous one: Stem Fest 2012.

Black t-shirts and buttons were ordered depicting the flowerless stems and making light of the situation in hopes that festival goers would do the same.

While the Tulip Time Festival coordinators’ view of the situation is refreshing, the reasons for the predicament are troubling. The festival has been a staple of the Holland community for 83 years, and only recently have there been questions about timing.

It may seem like a small problem with an easy solution, have the festival earlier, but as the climate changes and ranges shift north, these small problems will begin to add up and affect not only people but wildlife as well. This year, the tulips bloomed early, but were the bees around to pollinate them? When the bees finally appear at their normal time, how much sustenance will be available for them? It’s a frightening cycle with potentially disastrous results.

Stem Fest 2012 might be a good way to make light of a tough situation, but the implications of global climate change are truly a cause for alarm.

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