We’ve been busy recently talking with a group of people we hoped we wouldn’t have to: Tree Removal Contractors. Sadly we have about 15 trees that need to be removed from our property, all of them over 200 year’s old and over 100 feet tall. To quote one contractor, “Your trees aren’t dying- they’re DEAD!” It happened so quickly, at least in our eyes it did. In the spring they were green but 3 months later they are completely brown. We have been bombarded with the infamous Pine Bark Beetle. It turns out there was not much we, as a couple of homeowners, could have done to prevent it but there is something we, as a human race, may have been able to do, unfortunately we didn’t heed the Lorax’s or the scientists warnings.

As we watch from our TV’s and computers in the dry and parched land being consumed by tornadoes of fire in California we see that 2000-3000 miles away land and homes are being consumed by a deluge of rain or snow or hurricanes and even snow in the South. We had a plethora of Loraxs warning us that our actions had consequences, one of the first was Swedish chemist, Svante Arrhenius, who in 1896, concluded that “industrial-age coal burning will enhance the natural greenhouse effect. He suggested this might be beneficial for future generations. His conclusions on the likely size of the "man-made greenhouse" are in the same ballpark - a few degrees Celsius for a doubling of CO2 - as modern-day climate models.” . We then had US oceanographer Roger Revelle and chemist Hans Suess show that seawater will not absorb all the additional CO2 entering the atmosphere, as many had assumed. Revelle writes: "Human beings are now carrying out a large scale geophysical experiment..." in 1957. But still we did not listen. In fact, we now have people dedicated to contradicting all scientific data that we, humans, have created a world that is not sustainable for human life and we are in effect committing slow suicide.

In the series, EARTH: A New Wild, Dr. M. Sanjayan, leading conservation scientist, describes the effects of wolves being re-introduced to Yellowstone National Park with positive results for the animals, water ways and land. He describes how our short sighted plan to take wolves out the ecosystem there created a domino effect on the entire park. .

What do my dead trees, flooding in Louisiana, scientists, climate change deniers and wolves have in common? Interconnectedness. John Donne wrote about this in the 16th century.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

John Donne

We humans are capable of great things, monuments, literature, civilizations and progress, however, we are also guilty of great arrogance. We tend to have a narrow view of our place in the world, we see our small space and rarely contemplate the effect our actions have on other living beings around us.  Whether we like it or not we have become a global civilization, technology has done that for us, the genie is out of the bottle and continuing to think we can live in our own bubble without affecting others is a detriment to ourselves and to the place we all call home. How much energy we consume, what type of vehicle we drive, the type of home we live in, the type of food we consume are all decisions that affect not just ourselves but an elephant in Africa and a tribe in the Amazon. It seems hard to contemplate that small insignificant actions we take can shape a seemingly unrelated person, animal or environment around the world. What happens to your old cell phone when you upgrade? “As cellphones proliferate they are giving computers and monitors some competition for the dubious distinction as the largest contributor to the world's growing e-waste problem. Indeed, toxin-laden electronics are clogging landfills and polluting air and groundwater supplies from coast to coast.” 

“What if this were heaven? Would you treat it differently?”

Currently we find ourselves in a continual debate about whether Climate Change is manmade or a natural phenomenon.  I would like to propose that we set that debate aside, just stop arguing and trying to prove each other wrong. I understand that it is important to determine a cause before we can solve a problem and I agree that would be better and I also agree with the scientists that Climate Change is a result of human actions BUT I am willing to set my conviction about the cause to work on finding solutions and brokering a peace with deniers in an effort to simply make the Earth a better home for everyone. Why do I think it would be a good idea to postpone the manmade vs natural phenomenon debate in exchange for conversations about how to improve our world? Because doing nothing will certainly not help and may potentially create more damage and because making changes now will not harm us further and can positively change the lives of millions of living creatures.

Imagine your basement has pools of water on the floor, you aren’t sure of the cause but you notice that there is a tiny drip coming from your washing machine hose. You can tell yourself, “A tiny drip like that can’t possibly have made such a large pool of water. It must be some other cause.” OR you can fix the tiny leak and hope that was the cause. Fixing the leak will not hurt your washing machine, it will probably save you a little on your water bill and just might stop water pooling on the floor. No harm will be done by fixing a small leak but potential harm exists if you do not fix the leak. I would like to propose that we start looking at our world through a similar prospective. If you could choose to live in your home with energy coming from a gas generator in the garage and a small amount of fumes seeping under the crack in the door into your living room, would you be ok with that? Or would you be more comfortable with a solar panel that doesn’t leak fumes mounted on your home’s roof? I think I can guess your choice. This is merely one example of many ways we can make a change, create a better world and not contribute to destroying our environment. And yes, one person making one small change can multiply into many. For example, I don’t use paper napkins, I use cloth napkins and have for about 30 years. Often guests to my home comment, “How fancy! Cloth napkins!” and ask why I don’t just use paper napkins. I explain that I am trying to save trees. Some are surprised, some make jokes, and some ask more questions on how I came to this decision. This is how we affect changes, we make a change ourselves and then share with others, some will adopt the change themselves and some won’t but those that do potentially cause others in their circle to take on the new habit.

Let’s work on what we do agree upon and save the argument for later, and maybe we will find the argument doesn’t matter because we all notice the improvement. We can agree that vehicles emitting smog into the air isn’t healthy for us. We can agree that pouring raw waste into our waterways is not a healthy option- it should be treated first. We can agree that eating produce without pesticides is better than ones that contain pesticides. Let’s start with a few things that we can come upon to agreement.

There are 7 billion humans here and so far we don’t have an alternative planet to choose from so we need to make sure we take care of what we have. Fighting isn’t working. It may seem daunting and hopeless, however, as the Yellowstone example indicates we can correct errors and find mutually agreeable solutions. It starts with one, you.

Deborah Baron

Deborah Baron

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  • This brings to mind two Gandhi quotes:

    "The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world's problems." and "Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it."

    I buy 100% wind power and have for more than a decade (no more costly that before). I have made operations and hardware changes that have brought my electrical bill down by 2/3 so there are plus sides to doing our part. We can all do something, even several somethings to make the situation better, often with minimal pain. But we have to make the effort.

    I wish you well meeting the deniers halfway. I'm not hopeful--as I think the whole point of denying is to enable indolence and status quo--but I would love to be shown wrong.

  • I know, some are pretty entrenched in their view. However, there is some good news on that front. NPR interviewed an investor recently and he said most of his clients are investing in green and alternative energy and divesting from oil because those in the money world know that oil is a dying business.