Climate Dispatches: Care for wilderness and care for climate
What do I have to do to help people care for the wild spaces I love? Previous generations took actions to protect our forests and wilderness. Those who came before us took the time and care to appreciate, respect and conserve outside places. How can we honor their values, and what are we doing to preserve the legacy they left us?
Our soil, forests, and open spaces are important to all of us, and what we do to them affects all of us. That’s why we pack out our trash. And we take care of the trail we walk, run, and play on, staying only on the marked trail to protect the vitality of the ecosystem it is a part of. We learn the seven “Leave No Trace” principles so others can enjoy the natural environment. The Pacific Crest Trail website says it best, “One person’s food waste left to biodegrade is a significant eyesore for the next person coming up the trail, not to mention what’s at stake for the natural environment. Certainly, human waste is ultimately much more harmful to the environment in the long run if not disposed of properly.”
I recently went on a run with friends, and we brought a bag with us to pick up trash that we saw along the trail. That we see trash here drives me to sadness. The trail is where I feel at home, clear my mind, and enjoy nature. And there are so many people who have worked hard to help build and protect these trails for us to enjoy. We express our gratitude to them each time we make even small efforts to contribute to the well-being of our lands. And when we advocate in our community to spread awareness of the damage that accumulated carelessness can cause; we contribute even more.
There is another, bigger kind of accumulated carelessness that is threatening our natural environment — climate change. Scientists have told us for years that our continued dependence on burning fossil fuels is producing the change we see in our climate — erratic rainfall, reduced snowfall, seasonal temperature changes, and storm volatility. As a result, our forests and wilderness have become the victim of drought, wildfire, invasive insects, species shifting or extinction and more. If we do not act with urgency and ambition to address climate change, these effects will become worse and endanger our water supplies, our outdoor recreation-based economy, our health and our enjoyment of the outdoors.
Just as those who came before us organized and built political will to get our state and federal governments to conserve our forests and wilderness, we have to get involved to protect them from the worst effects of climate change — while we still can.
I got involved by joining Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which is a non-partisan, nonprofit, grassroots organization that trains and supports ordinary citizens to be effective climate advocates, build political will in their communities for climate action, and lobby Congress for climate solutions. You might ask why I thought it was important to get involved and help fight climate change with what I can.
Like many of you, I saw Congressional leaders failing to take action or making poor climate choices that endanger the well-being of my community, and I felt helpless. Now, as a CCL volunteer, I am sharpening my knowledge of climate science and climate policy. I am learning how to spread awareness of climate change and the solutions we have to address it, how to communicate effectively with diverse members of our community, how to build respectful relationships with our members of Congress so they listen to what we have to say, and how to write columns like this one!
You can get involved, too. It’s simple to sign up by going to the CCL website: citizensclimatelobby.org. How you get involved is primarily up to you. It can be as simple as filling out a form to send a comment to your member of Congress, or you can do outreach in the community by tabling or giving presentations, or you can be part of a lobby team that meets with our member of Congress or other public officials. There’s something for everyone to do that matches skills, interest and available time.
Our climate is suffering and, as a vast consensus of scientists is telling us, time is short to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Our beautiful natural environment — our legacy from our forebears — and our communities need us to act.
Jenna Beckingsale lives in Truckee and is a volunteer with the North Tahoe Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. You can find her skiing in the winter, hiking in the summer, and running every time in between. She is passionate about mountain preservation and thinking green
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