Robert Doyle

Week 8, Blog 6

SOCY 327

Dear Tom,

I thought about your recent letter talking about the climate change.  I know that you think this is just been a political issue with no real substance.  I hope you won’t mind if I disagree with you and share several points that I have been studying in my Urban Sociology class.  I also know that you like to research any thoughts that I share with you, so I am going to divide it into three sections.

  1. Roots/Impacts of Climate Change
  2. How Our Cities are Affected
  3. People/policies and solutions/strategies

Roots/Impacts of Climate Change

I know that we both agree that humans have a huge effect on our natural resources.  We continue to cut down our forests and use up our natural resources to support our lifestyles.  According to my sociology course, “2% of the earth’s surface are urban areas and these cities produce 71-76% of the world’s carbon dioxide.”  That is a very troubling statistic.  We are emitting more carbon dioxide and other gasses which is causing the greenhouse effect.  I bet that is why you moved from the city to the country after you retired.  You live a much simpler life including having a garden to provide your own vegetables.  Although you are doing your part, you think that one person can’t change how we take care of the world.   All of us have believed that we aren’t going to be touched by a natural disaster. This is one of the assumptions which makes it hard to change society.  The second assumption is that we don’t truly understand why climate change is happening.  It doesn’t seem like a small increase in temperature or water level should be that significant.   When climate changes are not easily observed, it doesn’t become significant.  I can understand why you find it hard to believe it is a problem.  But when that change continues, it can become significant. If you add hurricanes and flooding to the mix, you have a disaster.

We can watch how hurricanes on television destroy parts of the country but unless it affects us directly, it doesn’t have the same impact.  That is a third factor that society has not really responded to the dire predictions of global warming.  It has been more recent that we have seen much more significant weather changes.  I know that you believe that this is political but since you lived in Baton Rouge, I am sure you were affected by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.  It made us all feel helpless.   I think you would enjoy the video about how New Orleans must learn to live with water.  Flooding is their biggest threat.  Even though they had built levies, it was not enough for water caused by Hurricane Katrina.  It is unfortunate that it took such a huge disaster for the city to pay attention.  I don’t think any of them would feel that climate change is not important.

I think the fourth point is that we as individuals feel hopeless to stop the climate change.  My urban sociology course would encourage us to look at this opportunity to get involved in local and state governments.  We need more voices to come up with solutions to stop the overuse of fossil fuels and decrease the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  I know that you lived in the city long enough to see how much we use our resources.  I think it is easier to believe that the climate change is not real than to think about it and feel the impact.  I didn’t use to worry about the effects of global warming as much as I do now.  I am paying more attention to how I use our resources and encouraging my family to do the same.  Since you are family, I hope you will join me in this effort.

How Our Cities are Affected

In my class, we are looking at four cities.  It is very easy to see the impact of the climate on those cities.  Of course, New Orleans is one of the prime examples of how hurricanes and flooding can change the entire geography of a city.  In the video, “Learning to Live with Water”, it shows the effect of Hurricane Katrina.  Those effects are still being felt today.  No longer do they believe that they are safe unless they completely revamp how they will handle flooding.  They thought the levees were fine, but it was not.  Another video that may interest you is “How the Climate Could Change in These US Cities by 2050”.  It was surprising to see how the warmer climates are moving further south.  The summers are hotter and drier.  The winters are also warmer and wet.  This will affect how people live.   I know you said that it was much hotter in North Carolina than it had been in the past.  I know that a few degrees don’t seem significant, but it can affect the crops.  I remember you talking about how the weather affected your garden last year.

There was an interesting video that showed pictures of New York under water.  I remember when we watched the movie “The Day after Tomorrow”, we thought that could never happen.  Now I believe that it could happen which could lead to an ice age.  I know that you love interactive maps.  I think that you would find the “Urban Impact Assessment” helpful.  It shows the risk factors for each of the major cities.  I looked at Detroit, New Orleans, New York and LA.  It showed if there was a risk of flood, heat, cold and other different climates.  It also showed how prepared each of the cities was for these disasters.  Flooding seemed to be one of the highest risks.  It included costs and risk to lives.  Hopefully, I have encouraged you to think of this as a real problem.  I know how you love to read so I am sure you will check out the different resources that I suggested.  My last section will be on people and solutions.

People/policies and Solutions/Strategies

     In sharing some solutions, I am going to tell you about some ideas that are happening in Detroit and New Orleans.  Detroit use to be a thriving city with the automobile industry.  Unfortunately, they were not willing to change which led to their downfall.  They have become a city of vacant lots because people moved out when they couldn’t get work.  One of the suggestions was to transform 5,000 vacant lots to grasslands.  The city could sell their greenspace.  This would also bring people back into the city.  This could be a sample for other cities in the mid-west.  This could help with the climate and bring in more revenue.

New Orleans is looking at the problem in a different way.  They must address their waterways and wetlands.  The people there no longer think about if a disaster will happen but when.  I think that we should look at what happened to them and wonder how it will affect our costal areas.  Some of the suggestions from “Learning to Live with Water” are the following:  plan for multiple lines of defense, set priorities and take the politics out, have large scale interventions plus the infrastructure must contribute to the landscape and different governments must collaborate.  There still needs to be someone in charge of these initiatives.  In my final thoughts about the climate, I think that each of us must do what we can.  I think that the least we can do is to recycle and reuse.   I hope that you don’t mind this long letter.  I would have rather talked with you, but it is good to get some ideas down on paper.  Hopefully, it will give you some thoughts about why this is an important issue.