Why There’s No “One Size Fits All” Solution for Climate Change

Shutterstock credits: wandee007 (left), Amy Johansson (middle), Avatar_023 (right).

Throughout highschool you’ll complete many projects, papers and presentations, but very few will elicit further inspiration and inquiry after you graduate. For the most part this continues to be true, but I begrudgingly admit that a biology project that spanned the entirety of my junior year has actually proved to be relevant two years later. The project analyzed microcosms; a smaller community regarded as a representative miniature of a larger one. I used this idea of learning from a smaller community about a larger one and applied it to a subject close to home, studying the environmentalism movements within Bellingham and Western and analyzing their relationship.

Environmentalism plays a prominent role in both Bellingham and Western and I wanted to explore how the two communities approached the same problem in an attempt to determine the extent of which their actions were connected. More specifically I was attempting to answer the question: how is the progress toward sustainability within the Western community representative of the efforts being made in the greater Bellingham area toward building a healthier more environmentally aware collective? It is, admittedly, a bit of mouthful. What I found was that when examining the aims, methods and resources that make up each community’s sustainability movements, the difference in size more effectively pointed out their differences rather than their similarities. From this evolved my theory, the Issue of Scale. The Issue of Scale dictates a different evaluation of resources, it affects how the community operates as a collective, and it alters how the community can most effectively combat environmental threats. Ultimately, both communities are working toward a common goal, a healthier more sustainable environment, but how each community approaches that goal inevitably has to differ.

Individualizing methods and analyzing situational nuances then becomes critical when combatting a universal issue. In other words, systems and methods in one region of country do not ensure nation-wide effectiveness.

It’s an effective system because of the circumstances and composition of that area, but its application in other regions is not guaranteed the same success

The natural environment of the Pacific Northwest plays a prominent role in the region’s identity, and the resources available are a source of pride for the people living there. The mountains, forests, coastal beaches and the unique recreational opportunities they provide are valued and the protection of these resources is a point of importance. Often this means that our elected officials within the region share this common interest. We can trust them to support sustainability movements that protect our natural interests and uphold our idea of a healthy community. From this cooperation evolves the image of environmentalism in the Pacific Northwest, individuals working with local government toward a common goal. It’s an effective system because of the circumstances and composition of that area, but its application in other regions is not guaranteed the same success. For example, Florida is one of the most susceptible states in the US to rising sea levels as a result of global temperature rise. Despite this vulnerability, their Governor Rick Scott has banned officials at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection from using the terms “climate change” or “global warming” in any official documents and has denied the existence of the environmental crisis (Korten). The analysis of Bellingham’s sustainability movement stressed the importance of government support in order to establish change in a larger community, so how does the approach toward environmentalism have to change to compensate for leadership who deny the need for the movement?

The accumulation of individual efforts then not only has the possibility for environmental change, but leadership change that in turn effects the composition of the community

The composition of Florida’s local government doesn’t allow for the same collaboration previously examined within Bellingham. The government can’t be relied on for change; therefore the necessity for individual participation within the community becomes crucial. Perhaps the first step is educating the state about the sources behind the climate change and subsequent repercussions they’re personally experiencing and encouraging small changes by individuals, local schools and businesses. What matters to the people tends to have an impact on what’s important to government officials. The accumulation of individual efforts then not only has the possibility for environmental change, but leadership change that in turn effects the composition of the community.

The comparison between environmentalism in the Pacific Northwest and Florida is only one example of how situational differences require an individualization of methods and systems, but it emphasizes the idea that one blanket plan to combat climate change isn’t the solution to our global crisis. Customizing our methods based on what is feasible for the individual, city or state ensures more extensive progress toward our common goal. If we allow this mentality to drive sustainability movements moving forward, real change is possible, real impact is possible, and the probability of leaving behind a healthier planet for generations to come becomes increasingly likely.