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Climate change: Coming to a local theatre near you!

By Karen Elias

While wildfires rage in California and hurricanes cause major flooding in Texas, we may feel — here in NE Pennsylvania — that we’re protected from the effects of climate change.

The truth is that, though the effects may be more subtle here, they’re still real.

The Effects in Pennsylvania

Here’s the short list.

Since 1900, temperatures in Pennsylvania have risen 2 degrees F., making for warmer winters and hotter summers.

Last year was the wettest in our state’s history, and our rain events are becoming more frequent, and more severe.

Agricultural and dairy production has also been disrupted by flooded fields, increased run-off, and reduced crop yield due to heat stress.

One of the most alarming effects is the tripling of Lyme disease over the past decade in Pennsylvania, making it the state Departmentof Conservation and Natural Resources’ (DCNR) number one workmen’s compensation claim.

Cases of West Nile virus also reached an unprecedented high last summer due to conditions that are increasingly receptive to vector-borne illnesses.

As temperatures warm, black cherry trees are waning in Pennsylvania, while the highly invasive kudzu vine, known for running rampant in southern states, is beginning to reproduce here.

And according to a recent National Audubon Society report, two thirds of America’s birds are facing extinction due to climate change.

Eighty species are listed as vulnerable in Pennsylvania, including the Brown Thrasher, Cerulean Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Eastern Whippoor-will, Fish Crow, Field Sparrow, Pine Warbler, Red-headed Woodpecker, Scarlet Tanager, Worm-eating Warbler, Wood Thrush, Northern Goshawk, and American Black Duck.

On a personal note, I welcome the Eastern Towhee every year.

Hearing its song for the first time in late spring, I stand still and convince myself that we’re communicating across the species aisle as we sing out “Drink your tea!” in a human-avian call and response.

My world would be smaller and sadder without the Towhee’s welcoming song.

What We Can Do

Before you do research on electric cars or make a decision to give up your clothes dryer, here’s something simple that you can do, and at no cost.

Have a conversation about climate change. “Most people actually want to talk about climate change.

They’re afraid that they don’t know enough or that someone is going to get mad at them,” says Dr. Peter Buckland from Penn State’s Sustainability Institute.

“I think one of the best things that every person can do … is to have a conversation about climate change that has nothing to do with who is in the White House or whatever.”

An opportunity for our community to come together to think about the climate crisis will happen next Saturday, Nov. 9, when we’ll be presenting a climate theatre event on the local Millbrook Playhouse Main Stage beginning at 7 p.m.

As part of a worldwide initiative called Climate Change Theatre Action 2019, members of the community will present a series of eight short plays, in readers’ theatre format, designed to poke us, provoke us, and (hopefully) stoke us to explore climate issues from a variety of dramatic perspectives.

Designed to coincide with the United Nations Santiago Climate Conference (COP 25), we’re using stories to raise awareness about climate change in our community. We’re calling it “Act Like Our Lives Depend On It!: An Evening of Readers’ Theatre.” Donations will benefit the Climate Reality Project.

The plays present a variety of perspectives.

One of the playwrights, who has written a comedy, believes humor makes universal truths more palatable.

Another asks us to think about all the ways our small, seemingly insignificant acts can have a big impact.

Many of the plays focus on our unsung environmental heroes and declare that climate change requires a heroism of endurance, of everyday work.

We believe we’ll all come away from this event more awake to the world around us, more ready to ask questions about our collective future, more willing to talk with one another about how we can survive, and thrive, on this small blue marble that we call home.

Please join us on Nov. 9.

Karen Elias is a writer, photographer and activist. She taught English at the college level for over 35 years, is retired and living in Lock Haven.

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