09 May 2012
Changing the World by Thinking Globally, Acting Locally
Think global, act local. Before you dismiss that bumper sticker slogan as an idealistic cliché, you might talk to Sophie Leiter. Sophie is a member of the Change the World Kids, a group that really gets what it means to translate big global issues into local action.
Looking over the badly scarred bank of the Ottauquechee River near the disabled Taftsville Bridge, she shook her head slightly as she observed, "This devastation from last year's storm was caused by global climate change. We can't let this continue. We have to take a stand."
And the Change the World Kids are taking a stand. Last Saturday, they assembled at the Taftsville Bridge to participate in a worldwide project called Connect the Dots organized by 350.org. The goal was to link people around the world who had experienced some form of climate-related catastrophe, not only highlighting the damage caused, but also emphasizing the need to take action to prevent further disaster.
For any who might still be unclear about the linkage between climate change and Irene's arrival in Vermont, here’s a quick primer. Because hurricanes are fueled by warm ocean waters, the significant increase in ocean temperature over the last few years has meant that they are becoming more frequent, more intense, and more dangerous. Indeed, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports a doubling in category 4 and 5 hurricanes since the 1940's, and their model suggests that there will be another doubling during the 21st century.
So the bottom-line for Vermonters is that we can expect warmer oceans to continue drawing more powerful and longer lasting hurricanes further north. And because the warming oceans also increase atmospheric water vapor, the storms will carry more rainfall inland when they strike. No longer can we consider these as "100 year events" in our part of the world.
In typical fashion, the Change the World Kids are not only sending a message about this important issue, they are also taking action – locally and globally. For example, here in town, they have installed dozens of clotheslines without charge to help people reduce their use of energy-gobbling clothes dryers. And in Costa Rica, they have planted more than 100,000 trees restoring rainforest to areas that had previously been cleared. Fully grown, those trees will absorb 2400 tons of carbon dioxide each year!
So now this younger generation is asking all of us to join them in taking action to reduce our carbon footprints. Zane Fields, one of the CTWKs who returned for the Taftsville Bridge photo after a morning of cleaning up the river banks put it simply: "It would be great if everyone could just do whatever they can do. Every little bit can help."
For those who connect the dots between Irene's devastation and our own carbon generating behavior, these young people have a lot to teach us about thinking globally and acting locally. A good start might be to act on their motto: “No one can do everything, but everybody can do something."
by Christopher Bartlett