Opinion | When Climate Breakdown Hits Home: ‘Our Small Town Now Has a Rush Hour’

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There are quite a few efforts to protect the harried fauna and their forests and rivers, but they seem to be failing. The onslaught is overwhelming, dizzying, insidious. There is massive resistance, manifest in the success of the development. It need not always be organized into industry logging and construction lobby groups because it is built into the system — a consequence of the primacy, momentum and inevitability of growth that seems to almost be part of human psyche. — Vince Barnes, Edmonds, Wash.

In northern Idaho, our summers are filled with the thick, lung-burning smoke of nearby wildfires. In the fall we have heavy amounts of early snow that wreak havoc on the trees, causing them to fall on roads, cars, houses and people. It’s warmer in the winter, and dry. There has been a widespread outbreak of salmonella in our bird population. Our lakes are dirty from the runoff.

These changes touch every aspect of our lives, yet many people in this area continue to deny that climate change is even real. It has made me question the morality of my community members, and ultimately society itself. Even for someone who desperately wants to reverse these issues, there isn’t much a single person can do. To live a life shopping at specialty grocery stores without plastic waste is a privilege. — Hayley Clausen, Hayden, Idaho

In the affluent north, many try to live more sustainably, but habits are difficult to change. We compost and take our bikes but continue to eat beef and go on weekend trips to European cities (before the pandemic, and probably after it). There is a double bind: The very causes that enable comfortable lives are the very same things that undermine them. Similarly, at a higher scale, politicians are keen to talk about sustainability and climate awareness but continue to preach the gospel of growth and, in Norway, to pump out oil from the North Sea. People are loath to leave consumerism behind. Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Oslo

In June 2018, Houghton County, Mich., suffered a “1,000-year” flood. We are still rebuilding and repairing roads and trails that were damaged. Many whose homes were destroyed decided not to rebuild. We are rebuilding roads and railway grades to help prevent future floods. Looking back at pictures from that time, it’s amazing to see how far our community has come. I think people in our county finally recognize the seriousness of climate change. Many assumed our pleasant peninsula would be spared the worst effects. The flood shattered that belief. — Jaikob Djerf, Houghton County, Mich.

For years, people in my community have ignored education campaigns and scolding letters to the editor and continued putting plastic bags in their curbside recyclables. Only when crews stopped taking recyclables contaminated with plastic bags did people stop. It took about a month to change everyone’s behavior.

Then Covid hit and people were forced again to change their ways, this time on a much larger scale. We proved ourselves adaptable, resourceful and even capable of finding silver linings, one of which was rediscovery of the great outdoors.

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