I’ve often heard people say that making the changes necessary to address climate change will cost trillions of dollars – and that we shouldn’t make that kind of financial committment unless the rest of the world agrees to do the same. It seems to me that’s like a game of ‘chicken’; we’re all moving head on to disaster and no one is willing to change direction. Well, thankfully, not everyone thinks that way. I’ve met some people on my travels that are making changes without waiting for anyone else to do the same.
One was Eric who I met while walking just east of Monterey MA. He was on his bicycle and, I later found out that he almost always travels by bike. He sold his car a few years back and now he gets around by bike or mass transit. He is a locksmith in Boston and he even carries his tools to various jobs on his bike.
That shows dedication since the roads and streets around Boston are not always accessible by bike. When he does need a car, Eric rents from a local car rental.
I met Paul just east of Springfield. He stopped to talk to me after watching me negotiate a dangerous intersection. Paul works with equiculture.org, an organization that is working to adopt and rescue draft horses and to put them back to work on farms. Paul made a good case for using draft horses as part of a fossil-fuel free agriculture. Of course, in the scope of human history, draft animals have been the norm. Agricultural machinery powered by fossil fuels represent only he blink of an eye in agricultural history.
Finally, I visited the Berry Farm outside Chatham NY. The owner, Joe Gilbert, showed me how they are getting their energy from the sun – both photovoltaic and passive solar. The farm has an impressive solar array that generate enough electricity to power 15 homes. The passive solar panels are used to heat water which is then used to heat growing beds in several greenhouses. He also said that , by using a heat exchanger, that same solar heated water is used to cool the greenhouses in the summer.
So these are some people who are not sitting on their hands waiting for someone else to make the first move. They are taking the initiative now. And isn’t that kind of initiative a big part of what makes America an exceptional place?
I met Jeff while I was walking along the Charles River path in Cambridge. He is a self described conservative Republican.
Jeff: So what are you up to?
David: I’m walking across the country to raise awareness about climate change. I think it’s become too partisan in the past few years. Prior to 2008, Republicans like John McCain and Newt Gingrich were working with Democrats to find solutions to climate change. Now it seems that no Republican can get re-elected if he/she even mentions that climate change might be a problem worth considering. The discussion of climate change is almost non-existent in the political arena.
Jeff: But you know the Democrats have done their part to stifle the discussion of climate change. They keep saying that the debate is over.
David: I agree with you that’s a problem. From a scientific perspective the debate should never be over. We will always need scientific debatet closer to the truth. But I think people have confused scientific debate with the need to act on the evidence we have. A recent study of over 10,000 scientific papers found that about 97% of those papers agreed that climate change is a real problem and that it is human caused. That seems like enough evidence that we should be addressing ways to remedy the problem.
Jeff: So you’re a liberal?
David: I think it’s too bad that we have labels like ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’. If I told you I was a ‘liberal’ you would assume many things about me all at once and you would assume you know my stands on a large number of issues. But it’s not as simple as that.
Jeff: It’s the same with the term ‘conservative’. I am ‘conservative’ but that doesn’t mean I agree with all of the ‘conservative’ positions. Unlike many ‘conservatives’, I do think that climate change is a problem.
I like what you’re doing. I’ll talk with some of my friends about it. Good luck to you.
Sam was a great host the first night of my trek. I owe him alot for helping me to get started and teaching me about Couchsurfing.org.
Sam and I had a good conversation the night I stayed with him. Here is a summary of the conversation:
Sam: So why do see climate change as a problem?
David: One of the biggest consequences of climate change is that the polar ice caps will melt and there will be several feet sea level rise making many large population centers around the world uninhabitable.
Sam: When is this supposed to happen?
David: From what I have heard, this may occur as soon as 20 or 30 years from now.
Sam: There is one of your big problems. It will be impossible for people to concern themselves with something that does not happen for 20 or 30 years. People will only address a problem if there are immediate consequences. They need to start seeing the consequences of climate change before they will do anything serious about it.
David: But if we wait to take action until there are more serious consequences of climate change, it will be too late. Many scientists have said that we need to reach our peak of fossil fuel burning within the next few years and begin drastically reducing our fossil fuel burning from that point on. If we don’t seriously reduce our fossil fuel consumption in the next several years, we could see ‘runaway’ climate change may result in many parts of the earth becoming completely uninhabitable. Ultimately that would mean we could not sustain human civilization as we know it. There would likely be mass starvation because we would no longer have the capacity to grow food to sustain us. I’m worried about climate change because I’m worried that I will be leaving a huge problem for my children and grandchildren and future generations.
Sam: You really shouldn’t worry so much. Things have a way of working themselves out. What seems like a big problem now will not be a big problem in twenty years. Just consider the times when scientists were worried about an asteroid heading towards the earth. The asteroid changes course in the last minute and does not hit the earth. The same thing will happen with climate change.