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Monday, October 12, 2009

Blog Action Day: Climate Change

On Thursday, October 15, bloggers all over the world are writing about climate change and its affect on different parts of our lives--food, politics, art, and so on. No surprise, I will write a bit about the consequences for wildlife and their habitat. I am in Mexico at the moment, working on a steam-powered computer and a vintage browser, so please forgive my lack of links to references.

I've heard debates about global warming for what? ten years?, but all the doubts that it was happening never made sense to me. I read Natural History magazine and other bits and pieces of science news. The botanists have known for quite a long time that the climate is changing. Spring comes earlier in the northern hemisphere--the plants wake up sooner. The birders and ornithologists knew it also--migratory birds return earlier. So it is not news to anyone paying attention that the natural world is changing rapidly due to climate change. Today, the die-hards either say it's natural and not our fault, or else that we can't do anything about it. Neither is true. How can we radically alter the gas ratios in the Earth's atmosphere and not expect consequences? And if we can make these changes, surely we can unmake them.

Here's a few examples of what a hotter world looks like. Trees are dying in western forests from multiple causes, among them hotter summers with less water. My guess is that different species of trees or shrubs will take their place. The birds, insects, reptiles, mammals, etc. will change accordingly. The flexible ones will remain (raccoons, deer) and the ones that are finely attuned to one ecosystem will perish or (optimistically) follow it to new locations. Glaciers are melting faster than they are being replaced. The western US, mostly arid to begin with, will become drier in summer as the streams and springs fail from lack of snowmelt. Lack of snow cover in the winter will affect many species of plants. They are vulnerable to freezing and dehydration when the ground they are dormant beneath is bare.

Enough of the bad news. The point is not to sink into depression, but to be further spurred to action. For the sake of the birds at your feeder, the deer you see on your camping trip, the frog your kid caught on the farm, start doing what you can. You know the drill: drive less, buy less, eat locally grown food, and, most especially, let your senator, representative, mayor, state senator, governor, etc., know that this is a top priority for you. Put their phone numbers into your cell phone or post them next to the land line and start calling.

Tell them you know it's going to cost extra to fix this and you are willing to pay more for utilities that use green power, for public transportation, for investments that reduce use of coal and oil. Tell them that, yes, you get it, reducing our carbon footprint is going to be hard on the economy. Tell them to do it anyway. What do you think our economy is going to look like if we don't get a handle on this?

Do what you can. That's all any of us can do. Each day or week or month, try to add one more change to your life, one more email or phone call, one more adjustment that helps reduce your impact. That's what we gotta to do. And then look up from the bad news and enjoy the wonderful world we inherited.

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