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Climate Change Affects Our Health, Our Homes, Our Families and Our Future

Posted May 03 2012 1:26pm

Climate impacts day It's easy to dismiss climate change as a big, confusing, uncertain issue that affects other people living in other parts of the world. But as the blogposts in this month's Green Moms Carnival show, the build-up in our atmosphere of heat-trapping "greenhouse" gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) is hitting very close to home, seriously impacting our health, the health of our kids and families, the food we eat, even our pets. Read these posts, then continue to Connect the Dots on Saturday, May 5, Climate Impacts Day, when thousands of communities around the world will call for urgent action to stop climate change.

Why We Care About Climate Change

Karen warns at Best of Mother Earth t hat "we can look forward to extreme temperatures, super infectious diseases spread by insects that thrive on warmer temperatures, poor air quality and more. This is frightening!"

Sounds stupid, right? That's what Beth at My Plastic Free Life thinks, especially after reviewing the film "The Age of Stupid." "Set in the year 2055, after the effects of global climate change have basically wiped out most of humans and other animals on earth, a lone archivist records a message, illustrating it with a handful of the billions of stories he’s collected in a massive database he calls the Global Archive, before transmitting the entire collection into outer space as a cautionary tale to future civilizations," reports Beth. "The big question: Why didn’t we save ourselves when we had the chance?"

Lisa of Retro Housewife Goes Green is wondering the same thing, especially since she lives in Oklahoma's Tornado Alley, that part of the country that has seen a significant uptick in tornadoes and other extreme weather events over the last few years. "Oklahoma was a poster child for extreme weather last year, we had a record drought , broke the state record for most snow to fall in 24 hours , broke the record for coldest day , had the warmest July on record for the whole U.S., record windspeed , record wildfires , the largest earthquake reported in the state , and more." Writing while facing another possible tornado just a few days ago, Lisa says, "This all hits home with me as I listen to the thunderstorm outside that has rocked the state and even dropped some damaging tornadoes. And I also think back to last year and all of the extreme weather, including the horrible drought that hurt the state so very much and caused me some sleepless nights worrying about the wildfires my dad, a volunteer firefighter, was out fighting."

On the Big Green Purse blog, I highlight impacts that directly affect my kids - like worsening poison ivy. Most people don't realize that poison ivy and its nasty cousins poison oak and sumac, are all getting much more dangerous because the plants are growing faster and bigger, and the toxic oil in their leaves is becoming more intense, thanks to hotter global temperatures. I offer some ways to avoid poison ivy and to deal with it once you get it, since in the short-term we'll have to contend with it showing up more often in our yards and parks.

Choc strawberry Lori at Groovy Green Livin' sounds the alarm on an impact I care about almost as much as poison ivy: the availability of chocolate!

Chocolate is a heat-sensitive crop , Lori's research shows. Even a small increase in temperature will affect the crops. A report Lori cites shows why there are big problems to come for the cacao tree:

…an expected temperature rise of more than two degrees Celsius by 2050 will render many of the region’s cocoa-producing areas too hot for the plants that bear the fruit from which chocolate is made, says a new study from the Colombia-based International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

"Warming temperatures and changes in the precipitation pattern will mean rapid declines in growing conditions over the coming decades. Not good news for the cacao tree and in turn bad news for chocolate suppliers and lovers on a global level."

Sugaring-with-mommy-2011-224x300 Abbie at Farmer's Daughter reports on the impact climate change is having on another beloved food: maple syrup. "In my lifetime alone, the maple sugaring season has moved from March to February. Maple sap runs when it’s below freezing at night and warms up during the day. If we wait to tap trees until March we will have missed our chance. It is clear that spring has moved to earlier in the year and we have to adjust, tap early, or risk not being able to make maple syrup for a whole year...It’s a New England tradition, my family’s tradition, and yet I worry that some day we may lose it entirely." Abbie is especially concerned about projections that indicate we could lose maple trees and maple syrup entirely by 2100.

Chocolate and maple sugar are two foods we may not be able to produce any more if climate change worsens. But what about the impact producing some foods has on making climate change worse? Katy of Non-Toxic Kids and Moms Clean Air Force identifies three significant ways factory farming contributes to global warming and suggests some very simple yet highly effective choices you have that can make a real difference.

Tiffany at Nature Moms loves traveling but worries that climate change could destroy some of our most beloved national parks before her family has a chance to visit them. "Climate change is melting the glaciers that make an appearance in some (national parks), which not only affects the beauty of these areas, it also means less water is making its way down to lower areas. Plants and animal life that rely on this water start to become endangered or extinct. Water sources that hikers need to survive start to dry up, making the area inhospitable. Scenic waterfalls dry up earlier and earlier and may eventually be gone for good. Can you even imagine Yosemite without its grand waterfalls??"

Do you have pets? Ronnie at Moms Clean Air Force does, and she thinks climate change is making them sick. "I’m worried that my pets (two dogs and one cat) are gravely suffering because our planet is getting too warm for them." Ronnie reviews some of the available scientific research, but her own observations are most convincing. Her dogs are thirstier, hotter, and getting ticks much earlier than usual. She's pretty sure her cat has contracted feline asthma as a result of the increased air pollution associated with climate change.

Stephanie at Good Girl Gone Green bemoans the impact climate change has on much bigger animals: polar bears. "When I think of polar bears, I picture a piece of ice with one stranded on top," she writes. "Some might say it is a depressing way to think of them, but what is even more heartbreaking is that polar bears may not be around in 50 years. Extinct. Poof. Gone."


What can we do?

Given the reluctance of some people to accept that climate change is actually happening, it's important to be able to explain why it occurs. Dominique Browning's Moms Clean Air Force interview with climate scientist Dr. Heidi Cullen provides a clear explanation and offers suggestions on how you can deal with so-called climate "deniers."

Harriet of Climate Mama works with the Climate Reality Project to raise awareness. For Climate Impacts Day, she's organized family and friends to visit the proposed site of a natural gas pipeline that would carry gas derived through hydraulic fracking through a state park. She and her colleagues are also holding a "teach in" on fracking to raise awareness between this controversial practice and links to earthquakes and water pollution as well as climate change. 

Anna at Green Talk admits that in her household, wasting food is one way her family contributes to climate change. She's not alone. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “The amount of food waste generated in the US is huge. It is the third largest waste stream after paper and yard waste. In 2008, about 12.7 percent of the total municipal solid waste (MSW) generated in America was food scraps. Less than three percent of that 32 million tons was recovered and recycled. The rest - 31 million tons – was thrown away into landfills or incinerators." Why does it matter? "The decomposition of food and other organic waste materials under anaerobic (without oxygen) conditions in landfills produces methane , a greenhouse gas (GHG) 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Landfills are the largest human-related source of methane in the United States, accounting for 34 percent of all methane emissions.” Her solution? Only buy what you intend to eat. And compost!!

For more ways to reduce food waste, check out the suggestions in this guest post from Aviva at The Scramble . Making a list and labeling left-overs are two simple steps that can lead to big savings and far fewer throw-aways.

Mary at In Women We Trust acknowledges that, in the face of overcoming a challenge as daunting as stopping climate change, it's easy to feel like you've hit a "great green wall." Mary is inspired by people in eleven nations in Africa who are working together to stop the Sahara Desert from creeping further south and turning all of Africa into an arid wasteland. "They aren’t doing it to lower Green House Gases," acknowledges Mary. "They are doing it to survive, but at the same time, it is helping to lower GHG levels. Even the most die-hard denier can’t argue with the saving of a continent – especially when it’s producing such quickly appreciated results."

At Big Green Purse, I've focused on the many ways consumers can use less energy as an important way to generate less carbon dioxide. They range from smart energy-saving driving tips to the top ten ways to save energy and money at home.

Never let it be said that, despite the seriousness of the challenges we face from climate change, we don't keep our sense of humor! Deanna at The Crunchy Chicken offers a tongue-in-cheek run-down on the top five benefits of climate change. My favorite? #3: "Tropical weather without vacation prices." Says Deanna wryly, thanks to climate change, we'll have tropical weather all year long wherever we live - no need to tough out ten months of dreary winter or spend a fortune on a Caribbean vacation in January!"

 Finally, thanks to Moms Clean Air Force for this cartoon and reminding us that the carbon emissions from our vehicles contribute significantly to climate change. In case you can't commute in a toddler-mobile, here are some other ways you can burn less gas !


What impacts worry you? What solutions do you have? Please take a minute to let us know. Thanks!

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