Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Rural people may notice climate change more, but they also have the grit to 'keep going' and adapt

Scientists know that the climate is changing, but it doesn't take data for many rural people to see it. Nikki Cooley, who grew up on a rural Diné Nation reservation in Arizona without electricity, said that the piñon pines don't smell like they used to in summer, and the wind sometimes feels like it's blowing the wrong way at the wrong time of year, Dan Zak writes for The Washington Post.

Cooley, who now co-manages a tribal and climate change program in her home state, said she isn't the first to notice. "If you talk to elders, who are some of the most revered people in our tribal communities," Cooley told Zak, "they’re like, 'We told you so, we have been saying this.'"

Yale and George Mason universities' report
Countless scientific reports back up Cooley's tribal elders, but it's hard for people to know what to do about climate change, which means it often gets ignored, Zak writes: "How do we live? Day by day, mostly. Many of those days are spent trying to be stable, happy, prosperous. Americans are increasingly certain that human activity is causing global warming, according to a report published Tuesday by Yale and George Mason universities, but who has the willpower or the luxury to always think generationally, geologically — to the end of this century, to the uncertainties beyond?"

Climate change is something to ignore at our peril, Zak writes, noting the increased wildfires, the wonky weather messing with crops, the increased invasive species and other creeping, subtle symptoms, many of which disproportionately hurt poorer, rural areas, especially in the U.S.

Alice Majors, a poet in Alberta, recently released a book called Welcome to the Anthropocene, referring to the name many scientists have given to the current epoch, in which humans are changing Earth. In one poem, she suggests that rural people, closer to nature, are in a better position to notice the shift: "Immured in cities, we forget we live on a planet that is more inventive than ourselves."

Zak suggests that rural people, especially Native Americans, may be also be particularly up to the challenge of enduring the change and working toward a solution. "The Diné know what it means to be driven from land, to adapt, to survive from one epoch to the next, even though things are not okay," he writes. Cooley puts it more plainly. Though knowing about climate change takes "an emotional toll," she says "I have to remember that these people keep going, and have been going since the colonial settler stepped foot on this land."

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