As a small child, probably when I was seven or eight years old and living in the shadow of the White Mountains on the other side of Franconia Notch, I have a memory of meeting a young African woman who was visiting the Congregational Church. It was her first trip to the U.S. and my first encounter with someone from such an exotic and foreign place.
What is most vivid in my recollection, in addition to recalling her beauty, gentle demeanor, and quiet voice, is that it was winter. The snow was deep. The days were short. There was a chill in the air. She had never seen snow. Never felt such bitter temperatures. Never had the necessity to own or wear a wool coat.
Growing up in New Hampshire one lives with the cycles of nature through four seasons. Occasional extremes. A nor’easter. One or two summer days that are unseasonably hot and humid. Winter days when the temperature dips down into the single digits. Yet note, I used the word occasional.
When I was in New Hampshire this summer there were times when it was uncomfortably hot and humid. For several days it poured. Heavy, warm rain. I began to think it would never stop raining. Now it doesn’t seem occasional. This summer I met someone who lives in a beautiful home on the side of a mountain with breezes and shade and in August she installed air conditioning in two rooms.
The climate is changing. According to a report by the Environmental Protection Agency, most of New Hampshire has warmed two to three degrees Fahrenheit in the last century. Throughout the northeastern U.S., spring is arriving earlier and bringing more precipitation, heavy rainstorms are more frequent, and summers are hotter and drier. The sea level is rising, and severe storms cause floods that damage property and infrastructure. In the coming decades, the changing climate is likely to increase flooding, harm ecosystems and winter recreation, disrupt farming, and increase some risks to human health.
Now the question is: What can we do? The first step is to educate ourselves about the environment and become more intimately involved with nature. We are fortunate in Laconia to have Prescott Farm and Environmental Educational Center. Prescott Farm offers programs that connect you with nature and wildlife, food, and gardening, providing an opportunity to learn about New Hampshire crafts and customs.
Last week Jude Hamel, the executive director of Prescott Farm, in a talk at a Friends of Prescott Farm breakfast held in the barn, said, "Looking to the future, Prescott Farm has an even more important role to play. We know that environmental education programs will almost certainly play a bigger role in schools and in our communities as we collectively work to find solutions to the challenges that threaten our environment and the well-being of so many species, including our own. Going forward, Prescott Farm’s educators will be out front, encouraging connections to nature and inspiring adults and children to take greater responsibility in their own lives to reduce and prevent further irreversible damage to our planet."
I learned to bake bread in a class at Prescott Farm. Unfortunately, I signed up too late for an opportunity to make soap just weeks before the holiday season. What a thoughtful and special gift for friends, a bar of homemade soap. I’m certain these opportunities will be offered again during this holiday season. Don’t wait too long to register!
We also have the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in Holderness. It was at the science center when I first watched a raptor devouring lunch (not a pleasant experience) and learned about the work of Eric Masterson, the New Hampshire birding expert. On a cruise around Squam Lake, I observed all that is being done to save our vanishing, and beloved, loons. Imagine not hearing their distinctive voices or see these handsome, elegant birds floating on the lake.
We are so tied to our engines, our mobile devices, our cathode-ray tubes beaming images onto screens, or whatever the technology is these days. We careen and zoom from one thing to the next often forgetting about our fragile planet. The plants, animal, fish that sustain us are living as well and require water, nurturing and a climate that isn’t extreme.
This week groups of young people are meeting in Milan, Italy in an initiative launched by the U.K. and Italian prime ministers. The youth event is called Youth4Climate: Driving Ambition and takes place Sept. 28-30. If the adults aren’t paying attention, there are young leaders and activists who are. These young people are concerned about their future. As we should be.
Think about what you have done to connect with nature today. Think about what you have done to protect the earth.
Listen to Elizabeth on the Short Fuse Podcast found on Apple or Spotify, follow her on Instagram @elizh24 or send her a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is an author and journalist. Her books include Ned O’Gorman: A Glance Back, a book she edited (Easton Studio Press, 2015), A Day with Bonefish Joe (David R. Godinez, 2015), Queen Anne’s Lace and Wild Blackberry Pie, (Thornwillow Press, 2011).