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Local activism can lead to global impact

Photo credit: Michael Schroeder

By Jeff Falk

Lebanon, Pa -If not now, when? If not us, who?

 Climate change affects everyone. That makes it a global issue.

 But climate change is also a grassroots concern. That makes it a local issue.

 We are all responsible for climate change. So, if everyone matters, every one of us – each individual – possesses the power to make a difference.

 But when efforts are cooperative and coordinated the impact becomes multiplied and magnified.

 Climate change, or global warming, is one of the greatest challenges facing humankind, in the history of the planet. Humans are the biggest cause, by far, for the gradual change in our climate, which directly and indirectly affects weather patterns, sea levels and the seasons of the year.

 “It’s both a world and local issue,” said Dr. Michael Schroeder, professor of history in the department of social sciences at Lebanon Valley College. “We all live on the same planet. What happens in the oceans affect us here in Pennsylvania. Is a sun rise a global or a local occurrence?”

Local Activism, Photo credit: Michael Schroeder

 The impact of climate change across the world is well-documented – the melting of glaciers, the rising of the oceans, the increased severity of storms and weather. Here in central Pennsylvania, its ripple effects are a bit more subtle, but no less impactful.

 Locally, we have definitively seen an overall rise in surface temperatures, a slight shift in air quality, longer growing seasons, a proliferation of invasive insect species and a rise in our own water levels.

 “There’s an old saying, ‘If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail,’” said JoEllen Litz, Lebanon’s environmentally conscious county commissioner. “Doing nothing is not an option. We have to take steps to correct the ozone layer now. We each have to make an effort to do something. We don’t want to give our children a climate change problem. It really comes down to being a responsible adult.”

County Comissioner Jo Ellen Litz

 Reducing our carbon footprint, exploring conservation methods and simply using less are all part of a personal mindset that can go a long way towards change. That individualism can be manifested through acts like recycling, turning off lights and water when not in use, the installation of solar panels and rain barrels, purchases of environmentally friendly vehicles, a greater commitment to renewal energy and by simply planting trees.

 “I’m not an expert. But I have tried to educate myself on climate change,” said Litz. “Education is a big component of it. As involved as I’ve been with the environment, climate change didn’t always make sense to me. I think local governments, knowingly or unknowingly, are taking steps to combat the causes of climate change.”

 But there is greater strength in numbers.

 Groups and organizations such as community-minded clean-up crews, local conservancies and Penn State University extension programs exist solely to provide services, education and support related to our environment. Other concerned-citizen groups advocate the cause of climate change by contacting their state and national representatives.

International Coastal Cleanup in the City of Lebanon in Sept 2018, sponsored by the Quittapahilla Creek Garbage Museum.

 “The answer in my mind is public policy,” said Schroeder. “You can pick up a pen and write your local or national representative. That’s the most important thing you can do. In the big picture, ordinary citizens need to come together to affect a change. Simply insisting that their government change its policies and facilitate a transition to a cleaner energy future. Doing it on their own might help, but the effect is miniscule.”

Michael Schroeder at the Batdorf Restaurant (now Rotunda Restaurant & Brewery) with climate scientist Michael Mann of Penn State during his visit to LVC to give a talk on climate change, Feb. 2018

There also exists this less scientific and more spiritual school of thought that says the earth, its atmosphere and its ozone layer are gifts. And that all gifts are meant to be respected, nurtured and cared for.

 “We have to be good stewards of this earth,” said Litz. “It’s a directive of God. We have so much to be grateful for. If we all work together as one big team, we can do anything. We as people are resilient and we can overcome things, and that includes climate change. But we have to understand it first.”

 Time is of the essence, and the time to act is now. 

 For centuries, humans have consumed with little thought about the consequences. It is only recently that we have begun to see concrete results from our new-found climate change awareness.

Lebanon ,Pa. Local action to use more solar energy

 “The window for acting is closing, if it hasn’t closed already,” said Schroeder. “There has to be a sense of urgency. We haven’t seen a decline in greenhouse gasses yet. Solar and wind have reached a point where they can compete with oil and gas. Now the only thing lacking is government implementation. There’s real progress in terms of technology, but it just hasn’t been implemented yet.”

 For both cause and cure, simply follow the money.

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