Thursday, January 8, 2009


I just read The Transition Handbook by Rob Hopkins. You can read the most important, community action focused parts here and here. (Actually, if you spend enough time on the website pretty much 90% of the book is out there for free, but I have to say I like having it all bound into one ready resource.)

Yesterday I read the Handbook in its entirety and out of 200+ pages of information, the fact I can't escape is the global warming issue:

"If we break through the 1C barrier as now seems inevitable, we'll see a Mount Kilimanjaro completely bereft of ice, the almost complete collapse of the Great Barrier Reef, and a number of island nations submerged by rising sea levels. A 2C rise would cause dreadful heat waves and increased drought around the world.

The reality is that the carbon dioxide already released will continue to push up the temperature for years to come (a phenomenon known as thermal inertia) by at least 0.6C, meaning that we are already committed to a 1.4C rise whatever we choose to do now. The warming we are experiencing now is the result of greenhouse gasses emitted in the 1970s."

Just in case you think 1 or 2C is no big deal, 1C is roughly 33F and 2C is roughly 35F. Think of winters in Parma where the coldest temperature is 50F. My daughter is currently one year old and, at the rate of climate change today combined with the lack of a comprehensive plan to arrest it, she will see a 50F winter in her lifetime.

I don't know about you, but 50F for an average winter temperature sounds kind of nice. Especially as we experience a bitter cold front. Unfortunately, global warming does not mean we will all be drinking pina coladas under Ohio's first palm trees. No matter how much we might like palm trees, this kind of temperature increase is not benign. Our growing season will completely change and nature will be in a crisis of confusion as plants bloom before pollinators migrate.

Sadly, this is already happening.

For instance, the famous writer Henry Thoreau was also a devout naturalist and kept meticulous records on blooming dates for over 600 species of plants. His records are now being used to track how global climate change is impacting the life cycle of plants.

"[Scientists]Primack and Miller-Rushing compared three years of their results with those of Thoreau, focusing on the 43 plant species with the most complete records. They learned that some common plants, such as highbush blueberry and a species of sorrel, were flowering at least three weeks earlier than in Thoreaus's time. On average, they found spring flowers in Concord were blooming a full seven days earlier than in the 1850s--and their statistics clearly showed a close relationship between flowering times and rising winter and spring temperatures."

"Observations from Thoreau and other naturalists reveal that plants are reacting to temperature changes more dramatically than short-distance migratory birds, suggesting that climate change could divide plants from their pollinators. Spring's acceleration is far from orderly."

(Quoted from Smithsonian Magazine October 2007 issue)

So what can we in Parma do in the face of such overwhelming change? Well, it's helpful to keep in mind that big change is really made up of small changes. The old adage 'a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step' comes to mind. This blog is a small change, one tiny step toward a bigger change. If we take enough small steps, then the big ones will happen on their own.

More specifically, we can garden, we can learn about our local ecosystem and ways to support it in times of crisis. We can identify what plant and animal life is the most adaptable and foster that adaptation or limit it if necessary.

I am not powerless. You are not powerless. Together we can do much

1 comment:

  1. You can turn the heat down to 60F during the day while at home, and wear a hat and several layers of clothes, a down vest, and Polartec 300 weight top and pants if you are chilly. At night, turn the heat down to 50F and get a thick down comforter. If you are wimpy, to take a shower use an electric space heater in the bathroom for a few minutes before getting in the shower. Take an exaggerated Navy shower. Soap up and wash standing up and use just a tiny bit of warm water to rinse off. If you really want to save, do some Internet research to learn how the Japanese save energy, including using the same bath water and insulated dormitory sleeping rooms with the rest of the house unheated at night. Cheers, Cliff Wirth