THE KITCHEN PIPES froze solid this Christmas Eve. Several generations of the family advanced theories as to why it happened. The battery on one of our cars had died a few days before the pipes froze. The battery on our other vehicle failed to work shortly after the water came on again. It could have been coincidence but the consensus diagnosis was: It was cold.
That was this winter. Last winter the copper pipes beneath the kitchen sink “exploded.” The contractor and crew who arrived to repair the damage assured us the guilty party was a woodchuck. The animal had excavated its way into the crawl space below our kitchen and allowed sub-zero temperatures to reach our pipes. But there was no sign of a woodchuck or any other wildlife when the crew reached the site of the burst pipes. Maybe woodchucks dislike cold showers as much as I do.
It used to be that a story like this had a communal punchline meant to demonstrate how silly people were to fear what used to be “global warming.” You don’t hear that term much anymore. It’s been re-branded as climate change. It’s probably good to have multiple names for forces so powerful they can disrupt how, where and if we can live on the surface of this planet.
The re-branding of global warming has also opened political and cultural doors among people who might suspect our lifestyle is unsustainable but haven’t wanted to take the blame for reminding their neighbors. Now there are groups in almost every municipality in Columbia County that have begun to reduce their greenhouse gas footprint as well as other steps to slow climate change. Yes, right here.
Reporter Deborah E. Lans has talked with some of the local groups and listed others. (See Page 1.) A statewide program, Climate Smart Communities, supports efforts that include “an inventory of emissions” accompanied by goals for decreasing the use of energy. Some of the communities are eligible for substantial state grants. These are real plans for the community, not the wouldn’t-it-be-nice-if… daydreams of so many of us who would prefer to observe and advise.
It’s quibbling to suggest that Climate Smart Communities is the only way to engage in the effort to rein in the mess we’ve made of the Earth. Likewise, we don’t know whether what we plan might make things worse. But the best science tells us we’re better off trying to fix what we broke.
That will be expensive. According to the House Committee on the Budget, the 2023 federal budget calls for “more than $300 billion in climate solutions and clean technologies to deliver the single greatest investment in combating the climate crisis in American history.” With tax dollar commitments of that scale, it makes sense to know how every lawmaker on your ballot votes on every piece of legislation affecting climate change. This applies to federal, state and local officials.
President Biden’s climate change initiatives are reassuring as far as they go but it appears that teaching climate change has flaws or hardly is taught at all. So be informed. Check your sources and don’t use information you can’t verify. We all make mistakes but don’t rely on social media to create a teaching moment.
It’s been cold. The cold air will return. That doesn’t change the fact that the Earth—its land, oceans and air—continues to warm. So find or start your Climate Smart Community program. Do what you can, but do it now.