Nora and I tromped down the hill together this morning, kicking through a deep layer of new white snow on our way to chores in the barn. We filled water buckets, cleaned out wheelbarrows-full of manure, refilled mangers with hay, fed a bottle of warm milk to the youngest calf. Outside the world was white and hushed, inside it was alive with the chatter of a seven year old, the munching of horses, the occasional bleat of a sheep.
We were cold by the the time we came home to our cups of tea and hot chocolate, but already, at the beginning of our day, we had done something together that was essential at least to the ten or so animals we cared for, and we had done it well and carefully. We had chatted with our neighbor who was milking cows and noticed the feel of snow on our eyelashes. By eight in the morning one child had done real work, tending, feeding and caring for the source of part of her own sustenance.
I would do this with her anyway, whether I held this huge responsibility to the future, or not. Whether I felt the need to find ways to live that contributed less to climate change or not. But, knowing that local organic food uses less fossil energy means that our wintery chores this morning gives my family, in a small way, an answer to "what should we do about climate change?"
In the world of policy makers and engineers that question is usually answered with ideas about technology and markets, both of which should, by all means, be applied to the challenges before us.
But I know, from my own experience, that the universe of possibility for responding to climate change stretches far, far beyond cap-and-trade policy and carbons sequestration technology. Not always, but much of the time, this universe stretches in directions that are also beautiful, healthy, and full of meaning. This universe of possibility stretches, also in ways that could help build the kind of resilient communities that will have the best chances of riding smoothly through the instabilities of a changing climate.
For me and my family many of the possibilities are centered around taking care of our needs through our own work on our community's land. That's what makes sense to us here, in our rural river valley.
Elsewhere the intersections of what reduces greenhouse gas pollution, builds resiliency, and is fun and satisfying may look very different. Elsewhere this may look like watershed restoration or community theater or a rebirth of local manufacturing.
To know what is possible, to begin to imagine and create it, we need to ask not just the experts, but ordinary people in ordinary places. What are those intersections for the heart of Detroit, for the plains of Kansas, for the small towns of Mississippi?