Throwing up my arms over climate change


I recently spent four days with my brother at my parents’ place near St. Pete Beach in Florida. Initially I hadn’t been looking forward to leaving Ian and Grace for that length of time, but the trip was to celebrate my father’s 70th birthday and I couldn’t really get out of it. Of course, I also knew that once I arrived, the sun, sand and endless stretch of beach bars would help obliterate any guilt or reluctance I had to travel without my immediate family. At any rate, we spent a fantastic four days together, and every afternoon around four my brother and I would head back to the beach for three hours of boogey boarding and swimming before cocktail hour and dinner with my parents. At one point I looked at him as we were both bobbing over the water, the sun glinting off the waves, casting a silver shimmer across the horizon, and said, somewhat cheesily, “Aw, we’re making a memory.”

“Yes we are,” Ryan said. “Yes, we are.”

Sometimes I think people who live on the ocean have life completely figured out. I would rather be on the water than almost anywhere else and remain convinced to this day that if I had grown up around it I would be an expert surfer. Why, I wondered idly, floating over waves, staring up at the endless azure sky, do I even bother living in the northern part of our country at all?

After several days in Florida, though, I am always reminded that a little bit of it goes a long way – I have minimal self control when it comes to rum, sun, salt water and ice cream and never manage to leave anything less than a freckled, bleary mess, albeit a well-rested one.

There is the possibility, I know, that Ian and I might move somewhere south eventually. He suffers from some autoimmune issues that cause him quite a bit of pain, much of which is alleviated in warmer climates. I’ve grown accustomed to this idea, and have had to force myself to not mourn the changing of the seasons prematurely. After all, we aren’t moving in the foreseable future.

I love living in an area where the seasons change. I grew up in northern Michigan and, with the exception of a couple of years in North Carolina, have always lived in northern climates. Yes, I am one of those wackadoos who even loves winter. I embrace the rhythm and pacing the changing seasons bring, the way food, clothing, exercise and even hobbies change with the weather – it would feel like a sacrifice to give that up.

More and more, though, I wonder if winter is even going to be around as I grow older. Will I be able to take Grace cross-country skiing, like my dad did with me, the snow fast beneath our feet, our noses and cheeks covered with frost while our bodies work up a sweat beneath slate gray skies? In twenty-five years, will seasons even change disernably…will spring distinguish itself from summer, the way it is this year, all early blooms, cool evenings and greening mountains in the distance?

Reports like this one from Saturday’s New York Times make me feel especially hopeless. This article is pretty heavy on data and parts per million of carbon dioxide so you should just go read it but the upshot of it is that the earth is getting hotter faster than anyone could have predicted and we’ve probably passed the point of no return when it comes to reversing the damage climate change is causing.

I do not want to live in a crazy hot world.

I’m tired, though, of reports like this one coming out without being accompanied by a recommended action plan. Okay, so – we are living in dangerous climate times. What in the world are we supposed to do about this? On an individual level I already recyle, watch my meat consumption, grow my own vegetables (well, many of them), never drive more than two miles a day and mostly, don’t drive at all, and yet all of this action is completely obliterated whenever I fly on a plane. The U.S. has finally reigned in some of its over-the-top contributions to this particular problem, and China and India are now in the lead, but we CERTAINLY are still contributing.

Climate change news coverage makes it feel like disaster is just around the corner, and inevitable, but unless some sort of action plan is recommended I’m coming pretty close to throwing my hands up in the air and moving on with my life without worrying too much about it. If any sort of action plan ever accompanied these reports, like “Okay, Americans, we can stave off or fix this problem if all of you commit to the following: only 2 plane trips a year for recreational purposes, meat consumption only twice a week, and drive no more than 150 miles a week” I would be SO ON BOARD and I actually think a lot of other people would be as well. Okay, maybe not the hard-core capitalists and creationists, but still, a lot of people – enough maybe to make a difference. We know the situation is dire, but we can’t all be scientists or policy makers! Help us do what we can, and we’ll do that while you try and stop people from blowing the fucking tops off mountains and burning piles of coal in third world countries!


This isn’t a problem people set out to create during the Industrial Revolution, and it didn’t enter into our consciousness, I am sure, when cars were first invented. Now, we know it’s a problem. There are large numbers of us willing to help fix it, but we need guidance. Recommendations. Scientific explanations about what we should do, and why, and not just some hand-waving and groaning over the disappearing bee population or melting Arctic. I mean, if I’m willing to make some pretty significant sacrifices, and there isn’t much I love more than big steaks and for no-reason car rides, then my more tree-hugging, yogurt-making counterparts certainly are as well.

Help us know what to do before it is too late, and we are all living in the equivalent of Mississippi, except probably without water or sustainable crops.

Also, while I’m at it, if you same scienc-y types could explain whether or not the Mississippi River is still suffering from drought after epic rains, I would appreciate that as well.

3 thoughts on “Throwing up my arms over climate change

  1. Well, apart from the fact that I’m a hard-core capitalist, running my own business and trying to make a profit… 😉

    Listen. The climate is changing. There’s no doubt. The climate always has changed. It will continue to change. There are many things we can do to be responsible stewards of this earth, and to keep from damaging it, but think about this.

    When I lived in South Texas, I knew people who farmed along Garcitas Creek. They constantly were turning up anchors, cannon, pottery shards and such from the time of LaSalle. LaSalle died in 1687. During his time, the farms of my friends were bays. Ships sailed over them. The Spanish Shipyard was where the Alcoa plant is now – far inland from the coast.

    When I go up to my favorite place in the Texas hill country, one of the things I do is collect fossils. The entire place is limestone, and it’s filled with fossilized clams, snails, whelks. At one time, IT WAS SEABED! Now, the Gulf is 300 miles away, give or take.

    Here’s a last little detail – in 1895, Houston received over 30 inches of snow in a blizzard. That’s more than the folks on the East Coast received last winter in one of the most-hyped “blizzards” of all time.

    There are scientists rightly concerned about global warming who publish interesting papers and make reasonable recommendations. There also are people with very specific political agendae who are making millions of dollars off hyped-up environmental fears. In 2011, they were telling us the drought was the beginning of the end, that the new dustbowl was coming and life as we know it was about to disappear. Today? The ponds are full, the rivers and bayous are flowing and the wildflowers look marvelous. Yes, some areas need more rain. It will come.

    My advice? Stop reading the Times quite so much, spend more time enjoying the world and remember – there are people out there who would love to scare you to death so that they can control your life.

    As for the Mississippi – it’s all good. It’s late spring, the living is fairly easy, the fish already are jumping, and the cotton is on its way to high. 😉

    (I just re-read this, and decided to let it be. I’ll claim the perspective of watching this world turn for 67 years as my defense.!)

  2. I understand your frustration and feeling overwhelmed. When I heard about the carbon levels last week it made me sad and angry. What can we do? Lots of things! Drive even less, take public transportation, walk, bike. Eat as locally as possible and in-season. Eat less processed food. Consume less–how many pairs of shoes/clothes/gadgets/things does one really need? Buy in bulk and bring your own re-usable containers to the grocery store. Grow some of your own food. Don’t buy from companies that hurt the environment. Get politically active and contact your local, state and federal representatives about environmental issues and encourage them to act. Talk to friends and family and coworkers. I think people do care about climate change but feel like deer in the headlights, knowing you/they are not alone and being brave enough to act and talk about it will, I think, encourage others.

  3. Shoreacres – thank you for reminding me to step away from the New York Times and enjoy this beautiful world we have. Conversely, Stefanie, thank you for helping me feel less alone, and less crazy for being upset by the carbon level report. I will continue to work for a healthier world.

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