The author is a local freelance writer and editor of UpstateLIVE.com. This is part two of his article about the impact of climate change on our region. Part 1 ran in the June 18 edition.
Identifying the correlation economists draw between success and money, another area ecologist suggests another measure would help aid businesses with assessing the state of the environment.
“Success is measured in the amount of money we create, the amount of stuff we buy, production levels, but it doesn’t take into account the amount of ‘good’ that we are creating,” said Dr. Curt Gervich, an ecology professor at Plattsburgh State. “Our economic system doesn’t measure success through indicators that allow us to think about our impact on the Earth.”
Dr. Gervich teaches ecology at SUNY Plattsburgh. One of the lessons learned in his class is that of sustainable development. It’s a concept that dates back to the 1980s. As defined by the Brundtland Commission of the United Nations in 1987, it is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” He promotes an interactive learning environment for his students, such as introducing a fishing simulation where teams attempt to build a successful business. Students learn that if they fish too aggressively, they deplete the population.
In conjunction with sustainability, Dr. Gervich’s students also discuss the subject of adaptation.
“We can’t tell the future,” said Dr. Gervich, “so I talk about Climate Change Adaptation. How do we adapt to this changing climate. I talk about it in terms of creating resiliency. It’s the idea that we can adapt to change. Climate Change may just be one change that we need to adapt to. …Doesn’t matter if we talk about employment, climate, weather, terrorism, disease. The things that we would do are likely the same. So, I tend to not talk about climate as a singular issue to solve, it’s one in a mess of issues that we need to figure out [and] develop resilience to.”
The other side of the debate, though recognizing the planet is warming, does not necessarily agree that the global climate is changing for the worse.
“Just because we have an extreme weather event, it doesn’t necessarily mean that global warming is to blame,” said James M. Taylor of the Heartland Institute, speaking from a podcast released by the think tank shortly after Hurricane Sandy slammed the New York City metropolitan area in October 2012. “Just about any extreme weather event that we measure, we see that as our planet has gradually warmed, as we recover from the little ice age – which ended a little over 100 years ago – we’ve seen fewer of these events, and they are less extreme.
What we do have is more media, which is prone to sensationalize with these events when they do occur. And we also have more people, such that if a hurricane strikes, in this case the Northeast, there are far more people and much more property value that’s being affected now than what was the case 60 years ago.”
Taylor is also managing editor of Environment & Climate News, a national monthly publication devoted to sound science and free-market environmentalism with a circulation of approximately 75,000 readers.
“During the 1950s, during just a two-year span, there were a number of strong tropical storms that slammed into the Northeast at that period, said Taylor. “So, when folks now say that ‘We’re having weather events now that never occurred before’,’ This is a new thing’, ’Don’t try to say it’s not Global Warming or that this isn’t the new normal’. Well, actually, just because our memories don’t go back to the 1950s, we’ve been blessed with climate, with weather, during the past several decades that has been remarkably benign. Beneficial to civilization. Beneficial to human welfare, as our planet has warmed.”
Climate change is not a new subject, nor a new topic to debate on Capitol Hill. As early as the 1988 presidential race, it was a question asked before vice presidential candidates Dan Quayle and Lloyd Bentsen. Since that time, solutions predominately remain a topic of debate, something that frustrates college students who were not even alive then.
“I think most of [my students] feel pretty powerless in their ability to do anything about it,” said Dr. Gervich. “[They] feel pretty jaded about what they see our national leadership doing also. People feel like there’s a major problem out there and no one is doing anything, [but] my students also don’t know what to do about it.”
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.