By Bill Lawyer
<The Stone Age did not end because humans ran out of stones.
The Rye Garden Club and the Little Garden Club of Rye presented a program on Climate Change last week to a full house at the Rye Free Reading Room. The focus was on what needs to be done so we can pass a livable planet earth on to future generations. The discussion began with science, but ended with passionate expressions of concern and some doubt as to whether we have the will to do enough.
Rye City Councilmember Sara Goddard, who drafted and helped implement Rye’s Sustainability Plan, introduced Kathleen Biggins, one of the founders of C-Change Conversations, a nonprofit based in Princeton, N.J. The “C” stands for climate, but it also alludes to the homophone “sea change.”
That term, originally taken from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” denotes a substantial change in perspective, especially one that affects a group or society at large, on a particular issue.
Ms. Biggins’ “sea change” occurred while attending a national garden club meeting in Washington, D.C. She was fascinated to learn about the Garden Club of America’s National and Legislative Conference and what they were doing about climate change. Their approach is to bring only science-based information to the consideration of whether the climate is indeed changing, and if so, what can and should be done about it.
C-Change Conversations has put together a 45-minute slide show that they bring to communities to stimulate conversation on climate change all over the Northeast — frequently with the support of local garden clubs.
Biggins started out by describing what she called the “three gorillas in the room.” The first is the population explosion, which she noted many people don’t see as a problem. Experts had long warned of the consequence of too many people, yet life has continued to go on. But the price we pay for life going on has been an explosion of use of energy resources to provide the food, transportation, and infrastructure to support world population growth.
The second gorilla: Historically, the use of fossil fuels resulted in great quality of life, particularly in terms of food, health, and the ability to live a comfortable life. And while many don’t think other forms of energy will be sufficient to maintaining high quality of life, Biggins quoted several of the world’s major producers of fossil fuels who acknowledge that reliance on fossil fuels is unsustainable.
And then there’s the third gorilla — the altered and divisive political climate. When the federal clean air and clean water acts were passed in the early 1970s, both political parties joined in becoming environmental stewards but that bond seems to have frayed.
Biggins noted that over 90 percent of all environmental scientists agree that the increasing rise in temperature since the 1970s has brought about a situation where any further increase in air temperature and the melting of glaciers will be different than any of the previous swings of the environmental pendulum.
She presented a long list of research regarding weather patterns that would drastically change in the coming 20 to 40 years — and emphasized that the impact would be equally bad on land, sea, and in the air.
During the conversation phase of the program, one audience member voiced her frustration that the situation was hopeless. She didn’t know what the average person could do to bring about another sea change.
But Biggins, along with a substantial portion of audience members, passionately countered that there are many things that can be done — by individuals and by organizations — particularly by seeking assistance from supportive public officials at all levels of government.
She noted that more and more people have realized that the cost of inaction is much higher than action. For example, The New York Times reported on February 5 that Saudi Arabia, a major hub of oil production, is planning to invest $300 million in solar energy to reduce its domestic reliance on fossil fuel.
In conclusion, Biggins came back to what she said at the beginning of the program: we have to remain hopeful.
Speaker Kathleen Biggins flanked by Rye Garden Club President Julia Burke, left, and Little Garden Club of Rye President Cheryl Adler.