Friday, 20 April 2007

observations on the changing climate

I grew up in Maine. My hometown has two thousand people, many square miles of farmland, and many more of forest. In my youth I wandered for hours in the woods behind my house without ever seeing another person—though there were signs. Mossy old stone walls, rutted tracks overgrown with birch saplings, the occasional rusted bit of barbed wire with a tree growing around it. The people there mostly work in offices now, but their childhoods were like mine. They have a deep connection with the land, and understanding of how things change over the years.

I live in Toronto now. The juxtaposition is jarring. I probably walk past two thousand people on my way to class each day. Neighborhoods stretch for miles, office buildings scrape the sky. Torontonians are much more easily convinced that human beings are causing climate change. Why? Because human beings make up so much of their environment. Buildings come down and new ones go up. People see the crush of humanity, the grime of city streets. They see the lush green of the parks trampled to mud. In my hometown, there’s a lot of dirt, but none of it is grime. In my hometown, people see the power of nature, and those among us who still farm rely on it for their livelihoods. Nature is still majestic in my hometown. The sublime lives. The eighteenth century is present in the attitudes of the people. In Toronto, the eighteenth century is present in the stone buildings now dwarfed by steel towers.

No wonder people in cities tend toward liberalism, humanism, and climate change more easily than folks who work the land for their very lives.

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