Out of the Polar Vortex

Snow Melted First over the Septic Tank

The ambient temperature is 45 degrees, a 73 degree swing since early Thursday morning. Warming is part of the polar vortex, just as the cold was. Temperatures are forecast to return closer to normal after tomorrow.

I had planned to prune trees today but am concerned about rapidly changing temperatures. If the sap starts flowing the purpose of waiting until winter to prune would be defeated. Maybe next week will be better once temperatures stabilize below freezing for a week or so.

Feb. 5 is the Iowa Environmental Council’s lobby day in Des Moines, followed by the Sierra Club’s lobby day the 6th. I noticed IEC scheduled 30 minutes for discussions with legislators. That’s about right because very little gets decided in one-on-one lobbying sessions, regardless of whether one’s legislators are supportive of climate action. What’s needed for change is a broad coalition and a dominant issue.

With the polar vortex we are living in a changed climate. Mitigating its effects is beyond the scope of the Iowa legislature. What can be done?

“In my view, the actions we take over the next 2-3 years are critical,” State Senator Rob Hogg wrote in an email. “The need for climate action has never been more urgent. Please take action personally and in public. Invite more people to get more informed, more involved, and do more.”

Hogg was trained by Al Gore as a Climate Reality Leader in 2008. He enumerated ideas with which to approach legislators for climate action, including “energy efficiency, renewable energy, electric vehicles, forests, prairies, soil conservation, and pre-disaster hazard mitigation to safeguard our people and our property.” Each of these items has its own constituency and many of the groups supporting them will be at Tuesday’s lobby day. What will get done?

There is a stability of operations among IEC members that works against substantial change. Some organizations, including some to which I belong, seem caught in a rut around a specific solution to the climate crisis. These formal, recurring events seem ineffective to me. I wrote about a 2015 trip I made to a similar lobby day in the Iowa City Press Citizen here. I’m not sure what, if anything was accomplished.

Some advocates believe climate denial among members of the legislature and elsewhere stands in the way of changing human behavior regarding climate change. I believe it is something different.

“I’m convinced that the greatest threat we face isn’t climate change denial,” climatologist and geophysicist Michael Mann wrote. “It is the weaponization of ignorance and apathy that is at its core…”

The weaponization of ignorance and apathy is something better to work on than any pet project. How does one do that when calcified lobbyists and citizen advocates petition the legislature for such issues? We need a more diverse group of stake holders than are in the IEC. Something bigger needs to happen to bring people together. I don’t know if the polar vortex is big enough even if it should be. What I know is if we wait to address climate change until it is too late the question will be moot.

This polar vortex is drawing to a close but it’s easy to predict there will be others. Many will have forgotten the polar vortex as they get absorbed in the big football game this afternoon. It is up to us to remind people of our common interest in sustaining our lives in a turbulent world. If we don’t, who will?

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