“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”
“In Iroquois society, leaders are encouraged to remember seven generations in the past and consider seven generations in the future when making decisions that affect the people.”
“It’s all Al Gore’s fault anyway,” he grumbled. “Now everyone seems to be taking this global warming thing seriously.”
My friend was a climate change skeptic, or more precisely, he felt that climate change was a natural progression of glacial cycles and that humans were too puny to effect the earth’s climate. Anyway, he would say, it was a moot point as far as he was concerned, since he’d be long dead before either human-caused or natural climate change happened.
I have to wonder what my friend’s kids think about that, but I guess I feel a greater responsibility to the future than he does. He’s old enough to be of the ’60’s generation that wanted to “…live for today” and maybe he even bought into the ’90’s “greed is good” philosophy.
While I am firmly convinced that human activities impact climate change, I’m less interested in arguing whose opinions or models or technical evidence is correct, than I am in seeing if there’s not something we can do now to make our lives better and make things better for those that come after us.
From everything I have learned, one of the best things we can do to improve our quality of life is to bring more nature into our lives. Over the years, we have planted many trees on our property and had to remove a few. The Douglas Fir came from a seedling sent out as some kind of newspaper promotion in the late ’70’s, and is now eight feet tall. The Burr Oak filled an empty spot in the tree lawn about thirty-five years ago and has grown to twenty feet. The English Oak of about the same height was planted to celebrate the birth of our son nearly thirty years ago. The Crabapple and Limber Pine went in over twenty years ago during a remodel of the house and are both huge now. The American Linden replaced a diseased Boxelder tree twenty years ago and has grown to thirty feet.
These plantings, along with the pre-existing trees and shrubs and other newer vegetation, have made our yard a very comfortable, natural setting. Our yard is often full of birds, and attracts a variety of small animals. Bees and other insects seem to thrive and our garden produces an abundance of veggies by the fall.
I think everyone could make natural improvements to their spaces that would make them more pleasant for humans and critters while providing more buffer against climate change. It shouldn’t be left to some national organization or government to take the only mitigating steps. If we can improve our individual lives now, improve them for the future, and possibly avert global disaster, it seems like a reasonable thing to do.
I also support national or governmental actions to avoid catastrophe. Reducing our reliance on carbon-emitting technologies, modifying our agricultural practices, enhancing our natural areas including oceans and reefs, and generally being good stewards of the planet have to go a long way towards making our lives, and those that follow us, better.
I’ve seen recent studies that show our global progress towards reducing carbon emissions is extremely poor. Sure, we’re adding wind and solar power, but we’ve also decommissioned many nuclear energy plants and replaced the power they provided with coal, oil or natural gas. Oil and gas have their own controversies around ‘fracking’ and the North Dakota pipeline. Nukes have nearly non-existent carbon emissions and have historically been safer and less environmentally-damaging than coal plants, in spite of the assumed impacts of Chernobyl and Fukushima.
We seem to lack the ability to look long-term and weigh the consequences of our decisions today. And, today, that keeps us as a nation from actually doing something that would address climate change.
However daunting we find the global problem, we can each find ways to make small steps to improve our lives and our communities. It doesn’t take a national election or an ordinance by the city council.
Go plant a tree. Later generations will thank you for the shade, at least until the glaciers arrive.