For years we would always tell our surprised guests that no, in fact, we don’t need artificial cooling to grow Phalaenopsis. “But doesn’t it get to over 30°C every day? We were just in Los Angeles, Palm Springs and Las Vegas and it was much hotter!” “Well,” we would patiently explain, “we are very close to the ocean here and it’s quite cool so it never gets much warmer than 23°C and the nights are closer to 15°C.” That’s the way it always was. A little mist system for humidity and keeping cool year-round was no problem.

The change has no doubt been gradual, but three years ago I really noticed it for the first time. Long sunny days with humid nights that held the temperature starting in July and stretching into September. Controlling temperatures became more and more difficult and the percentage of two-spike plants would start falling until cooler autumn nights returned.

We’ve installed a cooling system now. It wasn’t cheap but we feel it’s a good investment. But, frankly, I’m scared. Have we just seen the beginning of global climate change? How fast is this going to happen? Our nursery is only a couple of metres above sea level. Thoughts like that get the brain racing! How many people live within danger of rising sea levels? Answer: 147-216 million (thanks, Google).

I’m a true believer in technology. Man’s ingenuity is boundless. I believe the world can fix this through a combination of efficiencies and carbon capture. I want our business to be part of the solution. We are looking at solar power for our heating and electrical needs. I know greenhouses can become carbon neutral at some point.

I worry more about the political will of our governments to face this head on. The ocean? It’s a comfortable 20°C now all summer. I go surfing without a wetsuit. I never did that when I was a kid. OK, I am a little fatter now so that’s also a factor. But to be serious. We need to elect governments that understand the threat and have the courage to address it.

Toine Overgaag.
Orchid grower in the USA.