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Climate change is real and we all must deal with it right now

Date: 5/15/2014

By G. Michael Dobbs

As a kid, the most frightening moments in science fiction films I occasionally watched were those that depicted the end of the world. For some reason that theme pressed a button or two in my youthful mind.

While the recent report on climate change doesn’t say the world is going to end, it does say the way we live and where we live is going to be deeply affected by the weather, unless we change our choices.

Here is an excerpt: “Climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present. Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington State, and maple syrup producers in Vermont are all observing climate-related changes that are outside of recent experience. So, too, are coastal planners in Florida, water managers in the arid Southwest, city dwellers from Phoenix to New York, and Native Peoples on tribal lands from Louisiana to Alaska. This National Climate Assessment concludes that the evidence of human-induced climate change continues to strengthen and that impacts are increasing across the country.”

Although a number of scientists have been speaking about these changes for years, too many people in government and business have adopted arguments that minimize the research that has been done. Too many of us simply do not want to consider changing the way we live and we seek excuses to justify continuing our behaviors.

We can’t afford that luxury any longer.

In my own household, I’ve switched to a car with better gas mileage. I try not to drive unnecessarily. We’ve switched to energy efficient lighting and bought a modern natural gas furnace. We recycle everything we can.

This is not enough, though.

Over the last 65 years or so, we’ve drastically changed so many elements of our lives. Consider that so many fruit and vegetables are available fresh all year-round because we use the energy to transport them to markets thousands of miles away.

I’m trying to create the time to install a garden in my own backyard since now I have no trees and plenty of sunlight. If city ordinances allowed I would also consider having a few chickens.

Farms in Massachusetts have declined in size but increased in number, according to the University of Massachusetts Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment. There appears to have been an increase in vegetable and melon production. Growing more of our own food would decrease transportation costs and de-centralize food production in this country. We will suffer as the climate changes in key parts of the country where the bulk of our food is produced. 

Think how we no longer want to live in the community in which we work. We are willing to commute as far as we can in order to live in one place and work in another. That simply can’t be the case in the future.

The average commute time in the United States, according to U.S. Census information, is 25.4 minutes and about 76.4 percent drive alone. In our new world, we will need to use less fossil fuel by living closer to work and by telecommuting. Do we need more mass transit and need to use it more? Yes.

Life is about trade-offs, so perhaps it would be a worthy swap to try to reverse the effects of climate change by not having that house in the burbs. The much talked about commuter rail connection to Boston could have a multi-layered effect by getting people who are already spending time in a car trying to get to their jobs in the Boston area to live further away and using mass transit to get them to their office.

We’ve seen an increase in the use of solar energy, but we need far more. If I had the money, I’d erect an array in my spacious backyard that was cleared courtesy of the 2011 tornado.

So much of what is being discussed can be addressed through both lifestyle choices and political changes. My biggest fear isn’t that individuals won’t make alterations in their lives, but that we will suffer as a nation because politicians will support the short-term profit practices of large corporations.

We have done this to ourselves. Can we reverse the trend? I think so, but that means people will actually have to seek solutions across party lines and think in the long term. All of us will have to make some sacrifices.

Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.