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Take local steps to combat climate change

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When I read "the sea is boiling hot" in Lewis Carroll's famous poem "The Walrus and The Carpenter," I imagined a hot tub near the ocean. I never thought it literally would be our ocean or our beloved Maui burning to the ground.

I wonder whether Carroll was thinking about climate change when he wrote it. climate change models appeared in The American Journal of Science in 1856, and "The Walrus and The Carpenter" was published in 1871. The journal contains information about experiments conducted by Eunice Newton Foote, an American scientist who foretold climate change when she proved that carbonic acid placed in glass tubes would warm when exposed to sunlight. Her experiments led her to correctly predict that the Industrial Revolution would result in warmer temperatures and negative impacts on our Earth.

That was more than 167 years ago, the ocean is now "boiling," and the damage to coral reefs and marine life is undeniable.

Why are we not demanding of our political leaders immediate enactment of policies to slow the devastation? Why aren't we begging our neighbors to make small, climate-friendly changes in their lifestyles?

For the past 15 years, my husband and I have snorkeled the same reef on the Big Island of Hawaii. What got my attention and called me to action was recognizing that the reef I love has more dead spots than ever before, making it look like a coral boneyard. Beyond that, we are not observing the entire genus of fish that I noted on my snorkel maps from our earliest trips.

On a recent trip to the Big Island, I had a revelation about what it might take to get the average person's attention. This past May, a friend and I watched as tourists stood on coral, tramped through tidepools, and destroyed the young kelp necessary to a sea turtle's diet. When I asked one of them to use the designated entrance a few feet away, she responded, "I didn't step on it, I roll my belly over it to get into the water." Then I watched her damage the young kelp as she rolled her belly over it.

A few days later, I noticed a tourist emerging from an undesignated exit, bloody and banged up from bumping against the coral. I mentioned to another group of novice snorkelers that their vacation wouldn't get ruined from an injury and an expensive trip to urgent care if they used the proper entrance to the sea. These tourists thanked me and entered the water without injuring themselves or the marine life. That's when my friend and I realized it works better to appeal to a person's self-interest. We felt as if we had cracked the code.

I'm no different. I, too, am more concerned about this particular Hawaiian ecosystem because it is so close to my heart. Climate change is remote, for the most part removed from day-to-day routines. It's painful to hold the complexity, destruction, and devastation—until it impacted the reef that makes my heart happy.

The sea is boiling hot; my reef will be impacted; fish, dolphins, and whales will be harmed. Those people who live in island nations have long known this emergency was here and have sounded the alarm with ferocity, but until now it was their problem, not ours.

It is our problem, and it is our responsibility to take action. Taking action means understanding our impact when we: buy fast fashion, take that cruise on the mega ocean liner, and refuse to enact a nationwide plastic ban. Long overdue change begins individually and collectively as we demand immediate policy to avoid more irreparable harm.

It is time to ignore and marginalize the climate deniers—those same folks and corporations that profit from the status quo and are invested in, for example, oil and gas. Our voices must be louder than their profits!

How much more bloodied, banged up, and economically impacted do we all need to be to enact real and meaningful policy today to staunch the devastation of climate change in the middle of a climate emergency?

Small local actions are the way to create long-term impact. A few ways you can start:

• Make public comment in support of our Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary: sanctuaries.noaa.gov/chumash-heritage.

• Join The SLO Beaver Brigade: slobeaverbrigade.com.

• Ask Atascadero City Council to deny a permit to store RVs in the Salinas River floodplain, which damages a fragile habitat.

• Research the Dana Reserve project and decide if the developers' profit is worth the environmental impact; then email your thoughts to the SLO County Board of Supervisors. Δ

Dona Hare Price is a local Jewish activist, an avid snorkeler, and writer. Send a response for publication to [email protected].

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