Editorial: We must adapt to survive climate change

Posted 9/16/21

What we can learn from the plight of a small, marsh-dwelling bird?

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Editorial: We must adapt to survive climate change


Our front-page story this morning chronicles the efforts of aspiring and expert wildlife biologists to study the increasingly endangered Saltmarsh Sparrow, a species that has thrived in salt marshes for thousands of years but now faces extinction due to rising sea levels.

There is a lesson for all of us to learn from the plight of this small creature.

Like the sparrow, human beings are only able to thrive in one habitat. While they require low-lying salt marshes for reproductive purposes, we require dry land for all manner of survival.

Just as the image of a nest of recently-hatched sparrow chicks being slowly overtaken by an unstoppable, rising tide should conjure images of horror and pity, so should we be horrified at the prospect of our own environment being swallowed by the sea, bit-by-bit, with each passing year.

There is a frustrating dichotomy that occurs when observing a place like Warren deal with the impending and ongoing climate crisis.

On one hand, it is encouraging to see a community take the threat so seriously through the exploration and implementation of capital projects to make its roads and wastewater treatment facility more resilient, and by exploring forward-thinking development plans that face the problem head-on and propose tangible, albeit incredibly arduous solutions.

Warren, like much of Rhode Island, does not have the luxury to deny the reality of sea-level rise, nor its dire implications. That is what makes the indolence of other regions throughout this country and the international community so maddening.

Scientific progress in fields such as green energy and pollution control are encouraging, as is the Biden Administration’s pledges to create more ambitious goals for the curtailing of greenhouse gas emissions. But on the whole, there must be more of an awakening in awareness to the sheer scope and effort that will be required to respond to the enormity of the climate challenge.

While 48 percent of Americans see climate change as a critical threat to our wellbeing, 35 percent of Americans, on average, still see climate change as merely an “important, but not critical threat”, according to recent national polling.

About 17 percent of Americans (depending on the demographic) see climate change as either not an important threat at all, or have no opinion about it. At this stage in the process, where severe weather incidents have become the norm, rather than the exception, those numbers reflect how much work must be done to illustrate the grave consequences that lie ahead if we do not alter our behaviors.

As we can learn from the Saltmarsh Sparrow, the Earth doesn’t care about your past biological success. Once the tide begins to rise above your nest, reactionary measures may not be enough to save us.

2022 by East Bay Newspapers

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Meet our staff
Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Media Group team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaymediagroup.com.