Farmers markets are pretty popular. You can strike up personal conversations about food, local farms, and the weather. Last Saturday I spent the morning at the fabulous Brunswick Winter Market – a local market that moves indoors in winter, because Mainers are a hearty bunch but do like to be comfortable. I had my own conversations about using goat milk to make caramels and soap, foraging for wild mushrooms, and dry harvesting cranberries (I didn’t know that was possible!). If you don’t get out to farmers markets, maybe you’ve run into local entrepreneurs at Whole Foods. They set up tables and market directly to customers. These are opportunities to talk to an author/chef about his new seafood cookbook, or enterprising sons about marketing their mom’s salad dressing recipe (yes, I bought both). An article in today’s Washington Post reported that Whole Foods/Amazon is changing their policy for local venders. I hope they don’t stop this practice because it closes the gap slightly in our impersonal commercialized marketplace. I walk away from these encounters feeling excited about small farmers and entrepreneurs, connected to my community, and even protective about this part of society.
Last month I heard a different local story as I sat at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. It was about Newtok, Alaska. Many of the village elders that had traveled almost 4,000 miles from this Yupik village spoke to us in their native language through an interpreter. They talked about the actions they were taking to relocate to safer ground since the rising sea was swallowing their village building by building. We heard how, during the fall storm season, residents must be on constant weather-watch in case the winds change direction and put an area of the village in danger. Emphysema and asthma rates are high due to flooded basements and the prevalence of black mold in homes. They also talked about how current policies restrict assistance and they are forced to piece together funding and actions to help their village. This makes a holistic solution challenging, and forces residents to stay in dangerous situations, waiting.
The elders from Newtok gave me the same connected feeling to my community as the farmers in Maine. I felt proud of them, and protective. Unfortunately, while many people can go to a farmers’ market, these up-close encounters on climate change are harder to find. Personal accounts of climate change have a valuable role in understanding the extent of impacts on real people, and the strength and knowledge embedded in communities. Climate change discussions, as with many policy areas, seem to frequently get lost in high-level debate. It’s easy to not discuss the everyday impact on people’s lives. It’s easier to talk about policies and technologies.
It’s time to connect more … be protective … and take action to help our collective global community withstand and push back on climate change.