My father-in-law is a scientist – a very good scientist at a large research university – whose research and work focuses on the intersection of plant/insect responses to changing climate conditions. He will occasionally send an email about his work or about a recent headline regarding global climate change, and this past week he sent a few alarming articles along with some of his own comments:
I’m very sorry to be such a downer; I wish as much as anyone that this would all go away. But the science is undeniable. And the choices before us now are to “mitigate, adapt, or suffer.” Human society will do all three, but the sooner and more effectively we do the former, the less we will experience the latter. And not so much us, but those with few resources around us (it’s a matter of social justice) and those who follow us (it’s a matter of intergenerational justice).
I’m a localist. I believe that how we perceive reality is primarily shaped by what lies within walking distance of us. I believe relationships develop when real people gather around a real table and share real food with each other. I believe change happens when real people in real places address a real problem with real shared action.
Yes, we live in a globalizing world and I don’t deny the necessity of global awareness.
Yes, we live in a digital age and I don’t deny the impact of technology on every aspect of our lives.
Yet…we’re bodied creatures that occupy real space in local places. So I’m with Wendell Berry when he writes:
Global thinking can only be statistical…Global thinking can only do to the globe what a space satellite does to it: reduce it, make a bauble of it. Look at one of those photographs of half the earth taken from outer space, and see if you recognize your neighborhood. If you want to see where you are, you will have to get out of your space vehicle, out of your car, off your horse, and walk over the ground.
On foot you will find that the earth is still satisfyingly large, and full of beguiling nooks and crannies.
As a localist, it’s difficult to hear about massive global issues – especially a crisis like global climate change. Our own individual contributions (to both the problem and the solution) seem so small and insignificant. And whether we want to believe it or not, the problem is enormous.
NBC writes on the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, specifically noting that:
- the issue is not global warming, but climate change.
“Some places will have too much water, some not enough, including drinking water. Other risks mentioned in the report involve the price and availability of food, and to a lesser and more qualified extent some diseases, financial costs and even world peace.”
- global climate change is getting worse.
“We are going to see more and more impacts, faster and sooner than we had anticipated.”
- the hardest and first hit are those already most vulnerable.
“Climate change will worsen problems that society already has, such as poverty, sickness, violence and refugees, according to the report…While the problems from global warming will hit everyone in some way, the magnitude of the harm won’t be equal, coming down harder on people who can least afford it, the report says. It will increase the gaps between the rich and poor, healthy and sick, young and old, and men and women.”
- the window for constructive correction is quickly closing.
“We have a closing window of opportunity,” she said. “We do have choices. We need to act now.”
In light of a massive global crisis, what are we to do, especially if (like me) you think real solutions must originate locally?
Here are 11 local practices that, directly and indirectly, can serve as a starting place for addressing the global climate crisis:
- Know your neighbors.
- Know your neighborhood businesses.
- Spend more time outside than you spend online.
- Spend time connecting to people in your place rather than placeless pixels.
- Minimize the distance your food travels to get on your plate. (You can eat kale, carrots, and onions but you cannot eat grass.)
- Choose a lower rung on the food chain.
- Maximize the life cycle of all products you use.
- Wherever possible, begin your use of a product in the middle of its life cycle (i.e. buy used).
- Dread driving; love biking or walking.
- Control your climate through your wardrobe, not central air/heating.
- Because real sustainability can only happen through community, invite others into all of the above.
Thoughts? Pushbacks? Other local practices you’d suggest?