Climate change is coming to our own backyards. These days, it’s common for many of us to know someone who has suffered the effects directly. My son lives in Sacramento and for several weeks couldn’t leave the house without a facemask to protect against the smoke from the nearby devastating Camp fire.
Even here in Pennsylvania, in a place that seems impervious to more dramatic climate events, we are experiencing warmer winters, hotter summers, increased rainfall (this year saw record-breaking rainfall in State College), agricultural disruption, the spread of arboreal pests, and an increased risk of contracting tick- and mosquito-borne illnesses. All this is symptomatic of a warming climate that – unless we find ways to get our carbon emissions under control – will surely get worse.
As two recent letters to the editor suggest – Andrew Gscheidle, “Clothes-lining climate change,” and Keith McAndrew, “Weather Complaints,” individuals certainly have a part to play in combating global warming.
My own commitment started with gardening when we moved to this property over 30 years ago. Finding heavily compacted soil consisting of shale and clay, we realized that we would need a combined program of composting, drip irrigation, and rain-water collection to produce healthy flowers and vegetables. Becoming a Master Gardener gave me skills and know-how to carry out what has become an on-going labor of love.
Along the way, we put in a geothermal heating system and an array of solar panels in our front yard. The panels, by the way – in spite of these seemingly endless grey days – continue to produce more energy than we actually use per year.
We do not own a clothes dryer (though I must admit I do think longingly of having one when the grandkids come to visit and it rains and all the beach towels – which have been strewn across the patio furniture to dry – are soaking wet). We also do not own a dish washer and have learned to restrict our dish-water use to one small plastic tub.
We eat white meat and fish rather than beef (which is problematic because of methane production and land use). We reduce single-use plastic by carrying cloth bags to the grocery store and telling the wait-person “no straws” when we go out to eat. I write letters to the editor (as you’ve noticed!) and am working to help organize the second annual Earth Day celebration here in Lock Haven, scheduled for April.
And, yes, to save gas, I try whenever possible to ‘attend’ climate webinars online.
It’s true that we could do better. I drive a 2007 Subaru, for example, which contributes its share of carbon emissions. I’m hoping that electric vehicles become affordable in the near future.
So indeed, individual actions are important. And we shouldn’t have to pass a climate litmus-test to carry them out. We need to know that whatever we can do, within our means, will help, without having to worry that, unless we’re 100 percent environmentally pure, we’ll be held up to ridicule and called hypocrites.
At the same time, it will take more than individual actions to solve the climate crisis. We need the media to take climate change seriously, to broadcast the results of the recent climate reports and – as “Meet the Press” did over the past weekend – to devote entire episodes to the issue.
We need legislators at all levels – local, state, and federal – to look closely at the scientific findings and discuss ways to effectively mitigate and adapt. Let’s look at building codes, energy efficiency, renewables, opportunities to help low and middle income residents by installing community solar.
We need to do it all!