Climate change is a global issue.  In the 1980’s, people spoke of global “warming.”  Some scientists made predictive models about how the Earth’s natural and agricultural habitats would change as warmer temperatures shifted north.  One model predicted the disappearing of Sugar Maple up into New England by 2050.  The disappearing would be driven not by the sudden death of mature trees, but rather by the inability of tender seedlings to get established in slightly warmer and drier forest floor conditions. 

Scientists are still refining models.  As with all models, the predictions vary with what factors are included and what assumptions are made about their relationship to each other. So, the models have built-in uncertainties both in the effects of warming on global wind and weather patterns and in the response of  plants, animals, fire, and flooding to those effects.  Further, model predictions often are statistical — dealing in overall probabilities, not offering guaranteed outcomes for specific places. 

Regardless, some 40 years past those early models, we don’t need a model to recognize the reality that change is being wrought by global warming — take, for example, the melting of Greenland’s glaciers.  At the same time, despite their uncertainties, models have their uses in helping us understand the probable pathways of change and guiding us to intelligent responses.

Yet, at its heart, our response to global climate change is not a scientific issue. The issue, if we have the courage to grapple with it, is personal.  The issue, if we have the will to deal with it, is political.  It will require both faith that our individual actions make a difference and vision to act together for the common good in a world of scientific uncertainty coupled with powerful economic interests that benefit from short-sighted attitudes towards profits.

I’m just one person…It won’t really matter if I leave that light on or turn up the heat rather than putting on long underwear.  

It’s hopeless.  Those politicians are owned by oil and gas companies; they never will listen to us.

It’s only hopeless if we give up hope.  I am hopeful thinking of the words of Dennis Meadows who said, in regard to sustainable development, that it’s not a destination; and what is important is what you do along the way.  

There have been and there will continue to be losses due to climate change. But we can all do something.

It’s so cold in this house as I write that no matter how much I bundle up, my hands won’t warm.  How about a warm cup of tea to clasp and sip from periodically?  Thirty years ago, I knew someone with a little in-cup heating element that kept the coffee on his desk warm.  That certainly would use much less electricity than the space heater I am using in lieu of turning up the house furnace.  Right now, it’s embarrassing and disheartening to admit that seeking out a little heating element seems an overwhelming venture into the unknown.  What are those gadgets really called and can you still get one?

It’s time for this dinosaur to enter the modern world.  A quick internet search reveals that the item I am looking for is a “portable immersion heater” and they are readily available at a reasonable price online and in stores.

If only all the changes I need to make were so easy.  Yet, it is the changing of the mindset that is the real task. And heating a teacup instead of a house isa beginning.   This is a way of opening myself to the path of faith…faith that what I do matters.  And then, when holding that faith, actually doing that little thing.  (And the next.)

And right here, my cynical voice cuts in with a sarcastic, “Yeah…right.  What about the big picture?

Yes, what about the big picture?  Was marching in a climate change demonstration with a sign really enough?  It was indeed uplifting to be in crowd of like-minded people.  But what next?  Letter-writing? Getting into politics?

In one sense, politics is about getting and using power, often behind the scenes. In a communal sense, it about working together, often publicly, to get things done. Public is a hard word for introverts.  And, yet, if we (all of us) don’t put ourselves in the public eye, somewhere, how will we deeply participate in forming and refining the new visions needed to promote life on Earth in a world of global climate change?

Charlotte Pyle writes mostly about bits of nature and the human connection of those who observe nature, live in it, enjoy it and wish to protect it. Her piece, “For the Love of a Good Tomato” was published in the book, Wildbranch:  An Anthology of Nature, Environmental and Place-based Writing (2010). In 2016, she was one of writers selected for the Edwin Way Teale Artists-in-Residence program. She currently writes a quarterly column for Eastern Connecticut Forest Landowners Association and is working on a biography of a Wisconsin Oneida Elder.