I struggled with a subject for this month’s piece. Earth Day is in April 22, and once again, there will be events and activities worldwide calling for folks to Save the Earth!
Of course, we are not saving the Earth. Moreover, unless a larger object hurtling through the galaxy blasts it apart, it will be here a lot longer than we can comprehend.
We need to stop worrying about “Saving the Earth” and get laser focused on saving our own sorry selves and the life support systems we rely on: clean air, clean water, living oceans, etc.
The IPCC says we have 12 years to get our shit together and reverse the carbon emissions or our planet, our life support systems, will begin to fail. Those systems are already failing in places. Native Alaskan villages are eroding away, and the number of days that residents could hunt on safe ice are far fewer. Coastal storms are worse, and flooding more intense.
The danger is not universal, indeed some areas are supposed to get ‘better’ meaning more temperate climate, I guess. Or perhaps cropping patterns will shift so areas that once grew low value crops can grow higher value crops. So, maybe Sonoma wineries will move to Washington displacing Washington apples, because wine is a higher value crop. Conversely, agricultural production in the Midwest will decrease significantly – and that is where many staples (including hogs and cattle), are grown, meaning possible food insecurity, but likely higher prices.
The fact that anyone is trying to play any of the disruption off as good news seems patently irresponsible. Do the spin masters really believe those in the lower tier of the USA -- where temperatures will become life threatening, and water scarcer, and hurricanes stronger and more frequent -- will just hunker down and love their new life?
It’s reasonable to think they will move. Nature Climate Change reported in their April 17 2017 issue, “With up to 180 million people directly at risk to sea level risein the world and over 1 billion living in the lower-elevation coastal zone(s), understanding the ramifications of these potential migrants on destination communities is a priority for climate change research.”
What if we become a destination community? After all, Washington looks pretty spiffy in these maps recently published by Science Magazine.
How will we receive climate refugees? How do we make sure we are ready to welcome them? How can we hope for the best and plan for the worst? More precisely, how can we ensure affordable housing, sufficient water, clean air, and a stable economy? How can we make the Tri serve our needs, and the needs of newcomers while not making our own lives miserable?
One thing we can do is work on moving our existing population out of cars and onto feet, bikes or busses. Lessening our traffic congestion, improving walkability and pedestrian safety can improve everyone’s quality of life, even if the worst impacts of Climate disruption never materialize. I invite you to join this important conversation locally. We’ve got people promoting lower speeds in residential neighborhoods 20sPlenty for Richland. (We’re starting in Richland, but other community champions are welcome)! The wonderful folks at Wheelhouse Community Bike shop can get you pedaling around on two wheels (or probably three or four, if you prefer). Folks are starting a co-housing group, FB BalsamRoot Commons, where folks will have in a private home in an intentional community sharing and have some resources like gardens, tools and a community kitchen. Another group is working to start a Community Land Trust to make sure we have affordable housing for people at various ages, stages and income levels – including the ‘missing middle’. The Tapteal Greenway and Friends of Badger will continue working to protect open space and access to nature. The local Tri-Cities Citizen’s Climate Lobby is working to protect us all through policy change.
So, as Earth Day approaches, don’t despair. Make change. Get involved.
Photo by Diego PH