Discussion Series

By Al Alessi

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Last December famed marine biologist Roger Payne and noted actress Lisa Harrow shared a multi-media presentation in the mezzanine of the Norman Williams Library. It interspersed whale songs with poetry and scientific data. The beauty of Lisa’s voice and the haunting sounds of the great whales only served to accentuate the dilemma of that scientific data.

Most, if not all, of those in attendance were already in the choir, so to speak, but the data did spike dire warnings. It would appear that plankton, at the very bottom of the sea’s food pyramid, are at significant risk. Dr. Payne’s love for decades has been the great whales, but the great whales, indeed all of sea life, depend on plankton. And in case you forgot, we do too: around 2/3rds of our breathable oxygen is generated by plankton.

Dr. Payne also expressed what Dr. James Hansen shared just a month or so later, that all of the data predictions made over the last several years are worse. Events that were predicted by 2050 are now re-estimated at 2025, and the quantity of the change is worse as well. Take melting of the Greenland ice mass, for example. Not only have we reached specific benchmarks sooner, but we’ve blown past them with far more melt than what had been predicted originally, say in 2000 or 2005. There are feedback loops at play that make the net result worse than had been estimated.

We at Sustainable Woodstock were motivated to hold a session in January to expand a bit on that session. We discussed having a deeper discussion group, really an exercise of the intellect, to determine our ways forward from this new heightened perception. There are some great sessions going on, many sponsored by Sustainable Woodstock, with practical considerations – solar, Tesla home batteries, weatherization, and so on, and those will keep going on.

However, some of us wanted to begin talking about the broader and even philosophical questions that a planetary 6th extinction (which the elimination of plankton would invite) engenders. We’re losing ground, even as we solarize (not that we should stop!). What do people in our little area, which feels so far removed from the existing and predicted worst effects of climate change, do? It’s incredibly complex.

From water usage, to coastal plain refugees, to food self-sufficiency, to how we affect the rest of the world by our local choices.

We’re not looking for quick answers in this group, the immediate answers are solarize, weatherize, carbon tax and grow more of your own food. This group, which has been meeting the 2nd and 4th Tuesday at the Norman Williams Library 6-7:30pm (July and August we’ll meet just the 4th Tuesday), is trying to tackle how we transition to a new society with these global changes already underway. What stands in the way of changing faster? How do we ween ourselves from a materialist perspective? How can we best make decisions that reflect our understanding of the huge tidal wave of change that is heading towards our shores? Please join us, and bring your mind.

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