Am I Hardcore? Or Sensible?

A fellow member of my UU congregation, who had bought and read my book DEEP GREEN, came up to me on Sunday and said he had liked the book but “Man, you are really hardcore!”

In response, I offered him some pointers and words of reassurance. It actually sounded like he had done a lot to reduce his eco footprint. And far as my being hardcore, I disagree. If anything, I have not been hardcore enough, in terms of communicating an appropriate level of urgency in an effective manner. Writing my book was a step in the right direction.

A trend I see picking up speed lately is that local and regional governments are treating climate change as a real thing, as an actual emergency. (If you don’t believe in climate change, then call it weird extreme weather, drought-flood extremes, sea-level rise, or whatever you want to call it. If you don’t notice any of these things happening, or if you don’t think human activity is at least in part responsible for them, then this post and this blog are probably not going to convince you.)

Recently, the State of Florida appointed its first Chief Resilience Officer. (This is good, as my adopted home state stands to be the most affected, the soonest, by rising sea levels.) Her name is Julia Nesheiwat, and Governor DeSantis appointed her in August. You can read all about the CRO role and Dr. Nesheiwat’s background here. “The CRO is tasked with preparing Florida for the environmental, physical and economic impacts of sea level rise,” says the news release from the Governor’s office.

Dr. Nesheiwat has built a reputation for organizational and administrative capability. She has been a State Department diplomat. She served in the military. And she did her doctoral thesis in Japan, on coastal resilience in the aftermath of Fukushima. (As someone who has herself lived and worked in Japan, and knows the kind of effort that entails, however richly rewarding the experience, I was personally impressed by this. Not to mention amazed to find such a deep Japan connection with a fellow resident of Florida who is dedicated to resilience. Wild coincidence, wild world. Unlike me, Dr. Nesheiwat is actually a native Floridian.)

After reading about Dr. Nesheiwat, I agree with Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, quoted in the Governor’s news release, that “Governor DeSantis made a wise choice. Dr. Nesheiwat is a proven resiliency leader in critical areas where the public, private and academic sectors intersect. Her years of environmental experience, with an emphasis on water and natural resources, will serve the people of Florida well.”

Back to the original subject of my post: “Hardcore Green.” Things are getting hardcore, and discussions are getting real.

This past year, some citizens in Ormond Beach started organizing a series of meetings called “Civil Discourse.” The leaders set a different topic each month, and it’s often to do with the environment: septic-to-sewer conversion; water; and so on. There are usually one or two expert guest speakers kicking off the discussion, and then audience members can raise their hands to make comments. Last night’s topic was sea-level rise.

By 2100, Florida could see an EIGHT-FOOT rise in sea level. But that’s years away; let’s talk about soon. Our immediate local area can expect to see, within a few years, non-storm-related flooding in the streets on a regular basis if no action is taken.

So what’s the point; what am I saying here? What are we supposed to do about it? Well, ultimately, some of us might have to move, might actually lose our houses without compensation, and I am prepared for that. But such a dread scenario is far less likely to come about if we get smarter about development practices, landscaping standards, land-management practices, agricultural practices, transportation planning and so on while we still have time. And this “smarter” needs to be happening at every level, from the official, policy level right down to the personal/household level.

And, along with (and as a step toward) reforming our wasteful and harmful practices, we can be putting our heads together and having constructive conversations, which is what happened last night when about 35 citizens (who included activists, academics, and one city government official) gathered at the Ormond Beach Library for Civil Discourse. Not only having constructive conversations, but building networks, social connections.

Humans are fundamentally social animals; I have long felt we are more like ants than we’d like to admit. The solutions to our problems are more likely to emerge from “putting our heads together” than from one flashy, silver-bullet solution.

This post is ongoing. I will write you another installment soon.

In the meantime, some questions for you: What’s happening in your area in terms of climate change, extreme weather, etc.? What do you see, what are you experiencing? And how are the people around you responding? Do you feel like you and other people are responding appropriately to the level of urgency of the situation as you perceive it?

Does your state or province have a Chief Resilience Officer or equivalent? How about your city? (My city doesn’t yet, but many other cities in Florida, and in other states, do.)