In climate crisis, hope can be found locally

Justin Shannon, a then-student at Paul Smith’s College, empties a bag of lime onto Benz Pond amid snow, wind and freezing temperatures in February 2020. Shannon was on site with a group of his classmates. The act of liming ponds is an old practice meant to reverse the effects of years of acid rain. It has become less common in recent years, since acid rain is not as harmful as it used to be. (Enterprise file photo — Aaron Marbone)

Climate change is scary. It’s easy to be discouraged when you look at the headlines and see extreme weather events all over the world. Ice storms in Texas. Wildfires in Canada. Heat waves in the Mediterranean. Even right here in the Adirondacks we are seeing climate problems.

Not long ago, floods took out roads and bridges in Long Lake. Plus, Dr. Curt Stager, a climate scientist at Paul Smith’s College predicts that we’ve lost nearly a month out of our typical winter season as it warms.

It’s normal to feel climate anxiety from things like this, but it’s important to still have hope. Luckily for us, the Adirondacks is a place that has a history of climate success, which is something not a lot of places can say. Less than 50 years ago, acid rain was a big problem in the Adirondacks. Acid rain is caused by fossil fuel emissions and has harmful effects on trees, soil, and entire watersheds. People realized that there were less fish, trees were dying, and loons were disappearing from our lakes, so they decided to do something about it. Regulations were put in place to reduce pollutants from infecting our soils and watersheds, and now not only is acid rain nearly gone, but its effects are gradually wearing off and the Department of Environmental Conservation has stated that our waterways and their inhabitants are healthy again.

This is a story that gives me hope, but the people that worked to solve this issue didn’t just hope everything would work out. They took action. Taking action and finding climate solutions is the next step.

It’s great to turn off the lights when you’re not using them, but take it a step further. North Country residents can contact a clean energy company to see if their property is compatible with a renewable system. Plus you can make simple purchases to help, such as switching to more energy-efficient lightbulbs, or you can switch your home’s electric provider to Saranac Lake’s own Northern Power and Light, who offers clean, renewable hydroelectric energy at a cost equal to what would be paid to a different, less renewable energy provider.

Composting at home is important, but see what you can do beyond that. See if your town has a composting system or a local hauler, such as Blue Line compost. You can always encourage others to compost, too.

Absolutely buy only the eco-friendly items at the grocery store, but also grow what you can at home, and shop at local farmers markets. Did you know that after summer ends, the Saranac Lake farmers market moves into the Hotel Saranac, providing locally-grown produce to our community through the end of December?

It’s one thing to post about global warming on social media. It’s even better to show up at climate marches and support businesses and individuals that do climate work, such as the annual Youth Climate Summit, happening this Nov. 8 and Nov. 9 at the Wild Center. Human-caused climate changes aren’t going to stop right away. But it’s important to do everything we can to keep our home healthy and sustainable. Don’t wait for the next generation to do everything, either. It’s important that we all put in the work towards a greener, brighter future.

To the young people like me who are worried about climate change but don’t know how to take action: you don’t have to wait until you’re grown up to do something. Join an environmental club at school, or start one if your school doesn’t have that already. Talk to your local leaders about climate justice and impacts. Gather your friends and plan a Youth Climate Summit to talk about these issues with other teens that want to make a difference just like you. Get yourself the kinds of friends who will coordinate a trash cleanup with you and have a blast doing it.

And to the adults reading this: I’m 16 years old. It will be years until my peers and I can vote. From my generation and future generations to come, please vote for people who believe in climate change and are working to implement a plan to make positive environmental change, both locally and nationally. Listen to people who know climate change is real and who make it a priority. We’re counting on you, too.

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Jenna Audlin is a student at Saranac Lake High School. She authored “The Adirondack Explore More Challenge,” an activity book for kids and their families as they explore in the Tri-Lakes. She is passionate about protecting the environment and is a proud part of The Wild Center’s youth climate program.


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