Last week’s report on climate change seems to have something to frighten nearly everyone. Storms will intensify but periods between them could be hotter and drier. Things we relied on for food may not be available – but buying food that is out of season here and flown in from a distance may soon be a ridiculous luxury.
Already in this century we have witnessed massive destruction by water, by wind and by fire – and the planet is just getting started.
Greenhouse gas emissions are soaring, algae blooms in freshwater lakes, carbon-based fuels are selling at enticing prices, there are regulatory cutbacks and wholesale skepticism at the federal level. What’s a City to do in the face of these?
In some ways, Evanston is doing a lot.
Residents have incorporated the three Rs into their daily lives – reusing items that still have some life, reducing waste and recycling nearly everything else.
Rotary International has planted 150 trees in Evanston parks over the past several months as part of its pledge to help the City replace 3,500 parkway trees lost to disease in the past few years.
The Rebuilding Warehouse is a many-layered model of sustainability, teaching the skill of deconstruction to those who are in need of a good job and offering for sale beautiful and useful items reclaimed from this careful practice.
Other local organizations and businesses, including schools, faith congregations and Northwestern University have integrated sustainability into their regular practices.
The City continues to work on sustainability measures. Staff members have made efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in the buildings and vehicles it owns and operates. Bike lanes and bike-sharing stations encourage residents to leave their cars behind. The City has arranged electricity aggregation using 100% renewable energy, offered curbside recycling for decades and shown us how to manage stormwater runoff and minimize pollution from yard and snow treatments .
On Dec. 3 the City’s Human Services Committee will discuss the Climate Action and Resilience Plan, and it will likely be before City Council on Dec. 10. Among the goals of the plan are carbon neutrality by 2050, zero waste by 2050 and 100% renewable electricity by 2030. Developed by a 17-member working group appointed by Mayor Stephen Hagerty, the plan identifies critical actions that need to be taken in order for Evanston to play its part in avoiding cataclysmic climate change and key strategies to ensure Evanston is prepared to deal with climate hazards. The full plan can be found on the City’s website, cityofevanston.org. The group has identified “climate impact” and “climate hazard” and charted how they will affect us in the coming decades.
So, it might seem that we are getting well prepared to face the burning future. We have fresh water – the world’s most bountiful supply – at our doorstep. But winds blow from afar. Pollution blown from thousands of miles away eventually makes its way to us, sometimes held aloft in the jet stream and circling the planet for days or weeks before making its final descent.
Fish that die in warmer ocean waters deprive some of making a living, others of food. The same is true of crops withering in parched soil. Diseases and bacteria festering on another continent will find ways to hitchhike to this one.
Hotter, colder, wetter, drier: this is climate change. Those who ignore it do so at their peril.