Challenges of Climate Change
Communities around the globe are now being pummeled by an ever-increasing number of environmental disasters: violent storms, floods, fires, unprecedented heat waves, melting glaciers, and disappearing species. We’re also being warned, via scientists’ reports and newspaper articles, about crises soon to come—including the draining of man-made lakes and aquifers vital to sustaining human life.
In this issue of our journal, Persimmon Tree devotes both “Short Takes” and this Forum to our readers’ and contributors’ thoughts on the increasingly evident consequences of what is now generally called “climate change” — much of which, most scientists agree, has been brought on by human action . . . and inaction.
The comments below are drawn from personal experiences and deep concern, and we thank all the contributors to the Forum. We invite all those who would also like to contribute to this Forum discussion to send a comment, via the “Leave a Comment” opportunity you will find at the end of the Forum.
I lived for 45 years in Oregon – I looked forward to summers in my garden and volunteering at the Washington Park Rose Test Garden. But I moved to Vermont after too many summers of breathing intense smoke from the wildfires burning the forests.
In Vermont we’ve set dozens of records recently for cold. Minus 15 degrees in a winter setting a record for warmth. For summertime heat and drought. Our ski resorts focus on making snow when we have mostly warm winters like this one. The maple sugar industry knows that climate fluctuation plays havoc with the production of maple syrup. It is time to demand that fossil fuel industries don’t keep taking record-making profits, to elevate climate chaos to the disaster that it is…as we watch a rapid succession of 100-year floods, hurricanes, forest fires, droughts, blizzards, and other extremes on television.
I am not religious, but I can see a metaphor when I make one. Humanity was given a beautiful, bountiful home called Earth. By whom is irrelevant. We can’t improve our home planet, but we definitely can trash the place. We have, and we do. I can’t imagine what Daddy might have done if one of us kids had set fire to the house or left the water running in the bathroom sink overnight. Apparently, Earthlings don’t fear consequences for spoiling their home or disrespecting its provider.
Marcia Calhoun Forecki
Council Bluffs, Iowa
I dream of a world in which carbon footprints are easily quantified. I dream of a world in which responsible people consider their choices and how those choices impact the environment.
The Super Bowl provides a prime example. What was the carbon footprint generated by the thousands who descended on Glendale, Arizona to watch this sporting event? What if there had been a mechanism for carbon capture? For those who attended, will seeing the game in person matter as much as the cost to the environment?
The answers to these questions will determine our future.
from Self Portraits of Woman After Sixty, by Kelly DuMar
In Mercer County, 2022 set records for hottest days, with July 18 hitting 100.22 degrees, and a record number of days with temperatures 86 degrees or higher. Too hot to play pickleball or take a walk around the block.
Various class members remembered ice skating and ice fishing on the various lakes and ponds in the area, but no more.
When asked what we could do to mitigate the effects of climate change, someone yelled “Stop bringing disposable water bottles to class!” “Recycle when you can, grow your own vegetables.” “Be a role model, discuss climate change without arguing.”
Some take the transport bus to class, some drive Teslas, others carpool.
Education was the group’s consensus. Being aware of the problem is the first step in making a difference.
Robbinsville, New Jersey
Sometimes I think smugly of all the things I’m doing to save “this Fragile Earth, Our Island Home.” I recycle, drive a Prius, eat meat rarely. Since Covid, I have (but perhaps for the wrong reasons) dramatically reduced my carbon footprint by shunning cruises and avoiding air travel. I vote for candidates who support environmental issues, and I contribute to nonprofits committed to saving the planet and its creatures.
This is obviously not enough. My daughter’s home was flooded in September 2021 when Hurricane Ida caused a nearby river to overflow its banks.
What’s a mother and grandmother to do?
Wilton, New York
Self Portraits of Woman After Sixty, by Kelly DuMar
Forty years ago a school I was working in took kindergartners outside to see the rain because they never had. And does anyone remember the storms of 1982? Santa Cruz was declared a disaster back then too.
History is a good lesson.
Santa Cruz, California
Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
For the Children
How long since we, in the middle of the middle states, watched a day-long snowfall that sticks, that piles up? Morning flakes occasionally appear, not worthy of measurement, just a “coating.”
Extremes of temperatures, fire, and flood leave their legacy of dry river beds, rising seas, and loss of homes, vegetation, fish, wildlife. Springtime blossoms are appearing in February. Some celebrate. I worry. For the children, for the joy of creating from the land, snow creatures and sandcastles.
Is it too late? Have we lost the edge—of cliffs, forests, beaches—of time? We plough on, constrained by politics, fanaticism, ennui.
It doesn’t snow here much anymore. Just flurries. Nothing sticks.
Norma S. Tucker
Santa Monica, California
Self Portraits of Woman After Sixty, by Kelly DuMar
We know that trees breathe for us—inhaling and storing carbon dioxide and exhaling oxygen, keeping the air healthy and pure. When they’re killed, they release their poisonous gases which increase the greenhouse effect. So to offset the damage caused by local logging, we plant trees—acres of ponderosa and white pine, Douglas fir, stands of aspen and cottonwood, sequoia and cedar. We know our attempts are meager in the larger realm of global warming, but we also know that every tree we plant helps us breathe a little easier.
Global Collapse with Happy Faces
I now live in Bolivia. Again, I have read that so-called Third World countries were taking the brunt of global climate change, and—lo and behold!—here we be: inside the very tempest of Earth’s rage.
Hailstorms that rip the paint off adobe walls. Tile roofs caving in. Rains ripping to shreds the leaves of trees. Way too cold winters, way too stifling summer days followed by way too frigid rains. Floods. Droughts. Earthquakes. Poverty. Emigrations. Electrical outages. Invasions of mutant insects. Crops ruined. Cities without water. Gas shortages. Social turmoil.
And all the while, still, I hear that—despite the earthquakes and forest fires, the hurricanes and tornados in the U.S.—many of my colleagues still casually refer to a possible planetary breakdown in some distant future!
Madrid (Not Winnipeg)
Filomena appears softly, whispering her name quietly. Snow starts to fall. Light, tinkling, a gentle exordium.
I awake on the morning of January 9 to a world gone missing. Colors, barriers such as walls, gates, and doors, have vanished; they’ve become the snow itself, a flawless blanket. Never still, altering its shape and reach as the day progresses, it welcomes the falling white particles as the fierce wind scatters them. A stern meteorological rebuke.
The city is stupefied by the scale of the calamity, incapacitated, a world disarranged.
We take photos with our phones. I share one with friends. This is not Winnipeg, I say, this is Madrid.
Filomena assaults humans and also trees. Distraught maintenance workers speak of thousands damaged, some irreparably. The weight of snow has destroyed their center of gravity to rip branches from trunks, trunks from earth. Trees still standing are chastened by their injuries, white gashes on startling display. Residents leave flowers.
This is not Madrid.
Comunidad de Madrid, Spain
Climate change has devastated Mexico and South America’s farms and forests, spawning violent gangs and drug cartels that prey upon farmers, small business owners and indigenous communities. The victims flee, showing up in increasing numbers at our U.S. border looking for safety and stability. Repeatedly we were told stories and shown cell phone pictures of incredible acts of terror by the cartels, police, and military. We learned how parents tried to protect their children with desperate choices and acts of courage. It was very hard to sit and listen. Though we told them we could not help them get into the U.S., they desperately wanted to tell their stories. There is a lot of confusion here, calling them immigrants rather than refugees. I told them we would share some of what they’ve said to create clarity, but also to acknowledge our common humanity. Who of us would not leave home to find safety for our families?
Santa Ana, California
Self Portraits of Woman After Sixty, by Kelly DuMar
And you tell me over and over and over again my friend,
Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.
P. F Sloan
and burning in Amazon rainforests to plant
more crops. Brazilian regimes vacillate
between farmers and trees.
Loggers clear-cut Congo River’s forests
to feed construction and themselves.
A near neighbor bulldozed a grove
of hundred-year-old ash and cottonwood,
sawed them into sections, loaded giant
slices onto a sawmiller’s truck.
Backhoe lifted, piled leftover branches
around old barn to burn, gained the farmer
places to plant corn.
Huge ash grew on a knoll across my lane.
Branches spread east and northwest,
threatened to tumble. We imagined a clear path,
sawed the tree and stacked it as firewood.
Cleared and piled leftover brush for a bonfire.
We burn ash wood for heat, never dreaming
we are part of global warming.
Every tree logged, legally or illegally,
contributes to planet-warming. There’s
record heat and drought in multiple locations,
major flooding on rivers like Yellowstone,
Missouri, Mississippi. How do we heat,
feed the growing world, yet
get off this vicious circle of ruin?
Wake Up Call
to a medley of gentle sounds.
Myriad birds chirped their messages,
voices mingled in comforting songs.
Our day began in peace, in safety.
Gentle music from the forest
told us the world was in order.
Begin your life again today!
Gradual, slow, mysterious at first,
annoying, erratic weather patterns,
fearful droughts, and fires emerge.
Waste fills oceans. Reefs die.
Innocent or ignorant, at first blinded
as destruction invades earth and sky.
Denial easier. The future upon us
too terrible to believe. Too difficult to change.
Fewer birds, animals, insects survive
while arrogant humans claim invincibility.
Earth says, “Wake up! Have another virus or two.”
Maybe endless, lethal pandemics.
Headlines no longer rare
impoverish our response
cast in the spectacle of doom
rapacious insatiable greed exploits
profits at whatever cost
cost is irrelevant
But not to the earth, sky, and water beings
the dramatic eloquence of the devastating storm
the voices of the raging flood
rising sea levels
tell us in no uncertain terms
Listen! Pay attention!
“We are speaking in our own languages!
Hear our voices cry out!”
The world needs light, ‘ilaka’wit
Our kin in the natural world suffer with us.
Each one carries medicine
Each one is a teacher
“We are making ourselves known,”
they say. Will you listen?
Can you hear them speaking?
Each one has personal power, their gift,
They witness all we do as humans.
They can live without us
but we cannot live without them.
Without earth, without water.
We will value each other, they say.
What do we say?
Miscú·kwece. I understand by hearing.
Listen! Use your tim̉íne, your heart,
your waquiswit, your spirit.
Don’t ever give up.
Self Portraits of Women After Sixty, by Kelly DuMar