As dams around Midland, Michigan began to breach last week, locals dealt with a double threat: being forced to evacuate their homes while facing a pandemic. As Michigan Governor Whitmer put it, “It’s hard to believe that we’re in the middle of a 100-year crisis, a global pandemic, and we’re also dealing with a flooding event that looks to be the worst in 500 years.” The pandemic caught most of us off-guard, and even Stephen King says we’re living out one of his books. The ‘hard to believe’ part of that quote is striking — even extreme weather can be predictable, given that the last two years were the wettest on record across the Midwest US. In fact, there was another storm of the century last week and a similarly ‘improbable’ double threat happening in Bangladesh and India.
This year is likely to be the hottest on record, again. Extreme weather is the new normal as it is widely agreed upon that climate change brings higher temperatures, and subsequently forest fires, hurricanes and floods, among other disasters. With increasing habitat destruction and global greenhouse gases emissions, we should start getting used to multiple concurrent threats. Extreme weather brought on by a warming climate is going to be a constant backdrop to other so-called ‘Black Swan’ events like this pandemic. The plot thickens when you consider that this pandemic itself is at least tangentially related to climate change via habitat destruction, which exposes us to novel pathogens. Deforestation and habitat destruction are synonymous and account for roughly 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
To start addressing problems, we first need to identify them: 1. expecting sometimes simultaneous disruptions brought on by climate change, and, 2. the fragility of our own habitat. Before Michigan, it was hard to believe that a so-called ‘microbat’ is the likely candidate for disrupting the entire global economy, along with the frenetic pace and widely traveled human population, coupled with habitat destruction. The cascading and concurrent effects of climate change will continue to disrupt the global economy in ways that we are just now learning, like novel pathogens being released from the melting of the permafrost. To borrow a phrase from physics: ‘if it can happen, it will’. Just as American exceptionalism fell apart when faced with COVID-19, so too does ‘human exceptionalism.’ Humans, though thoroughly insulated by modernity, are like all animals ultimately, and subject to the health of our habitat. This is a hard to believe lesson from the Horseshoe Bat pushed out and extracted from their habitat and into ours.
At Lingrove, we are focusing our efforts on decreasing habitat destruction and greenhouse gas emissions through the use of fast-growing plants for our structures. I’ll share more on our vision in the next post. In the meantime, how are you staying focused on your long term goals for change while acknowledging the significance of the current situation?