Columbia Memorial Health (1) Careers

EDITORIAL: What’s Earth got to do with it

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THERE’S BEEN A PROBLEM with the toilet in our office. For a few days last week it wouldn’t flush. Using the plunger didn’t improve the situation. It’s happened before. Visiting nature isn’t an option, either. We’re located in what you could call an exposed property, no woods nearby. You get the picture.

There’s no mystery about our problem. Any plumber can explain that after a heavy rain the water table in our neighborhood sometimes rises so high that there’s nowhere for the water in the toilet to go. A few dry days and the system is back in service.

We see the impact of floods on the landscape when what’s left of a hurricane or the rare tornado swoops by. Those kinds of weather events may become more frequent as the influence of our mistreatment of the air, land and water rearranges our climate in ways we we can’t yet imagine. But being human, most of us aren’t going to get worked up for too long about the big events. It’s the small annoyances that spur us to action.

But where do you start in terms of addressing global problems at a local scale? If you’ve got the money, you could buy an all-electric car. We do have charging stations around the county, some of them funded by the state Climate Smart Communities program. But there’s a long way to go before “filling” your electric car battery is as convenient as topping off the tank of your internal combustion vehicle.

You can put solar panels on your roof or your yard and reduce your electricity bill without releasing carbon dioxide. That assumes you don’t have to cut down a lot of trees so the sunlight reaches your roof and that you can pay for a rooftop of panels. Or there’s another way. It’s called community solar and it’s ramping up in Columbia County right now. You may already have received direct mail about it. The deal is that a commercial company builds a solar farm on private property and you buy what are called solar shares. When the solar farm is operating, customers will see credits on their electric bills from their current electricity provider that represent savings on the electricity you have used.

Sounds too good to be true? You can check with the county. It should work, but even this scale of solar power won’t “solve” the problem of climate change. That hasn’t stopped regular people who don’t have money to burn from taking steps close to home to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. There is no single thing that on its own will turn back the climate clock. At least there’s no single thing that wouldn’t also make life very unpleasant for all of us human beings.

The solution, if there is to be one, will come from those of us who embrace the small tasks like contacting your town or village Climate Smart Committee. Ask what you can do to help. Almost every town in this county has a Climate Smart Community committee. If your community doesn’t, go to a Town Board meeting and ask why? Convince a friend to go with you. The more people who participate, the more that gets done.

If we’re lucky, most of us reading this will continue to experience climate change as an increasing string of disruptions that roil the food supply and squeeze the economy in all sorts of ways. All that is well under way, which means it’s time to get excited about all we can do to fix the small irritants of the climate change we face right now before it’s too late to bother.

Happy Earth Day.

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