Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Water Column 

 by Diane Daulton

The new year brings hope for a new adventure.
                                     Photo by Bryan Neuswanger;

Here we are welcoming in a new decade and who could believe it’s already 2020! A new year presents opportunities for self-examination, usually followed by resolve to turn over a new leaf. While folks here wait to see if we’ll have a January thaw or a polar vortex, it also remains to be seen if Lake Superior will feature the deep blue hues of open water or the opportunity to explore spectacular ice caves along shore. Personally, my fervent hope is that this new decade will inspire a paradigm shift. If a teenage girl from Sweden can spark the world, perhaps the world can respond by embracing environmental stewardship, and not just for lakes, streams, or drinking water, but for the planet.

“Earthrise” taken from Apollo 8…the blue marble.                 
               Photo by NASA, Apollo 8, Bill Anders; Processing: Jim Weigang

Remember astronaut James Irwin’s quote about his experience viewing the Earth from space? He said, “As we got farther and farther away it diminished in size. Finally, it shrank to the size of a marble, the most beautiful marble you can imagine. That beautiful, warm, living object looked so fragile, so delicate, that if you touched it with a finger it would crumble and fall apart." Perhaps it’s time to adopt some simple rules for a changing world before his thought becomes a reality. Since water is a huge part of our big blue marble, this month’s message hopes to inspire readers to think over and act on positive solutions for our future.

In Time Magazine’s feature story about “2019 Person of the Year” Greta Thunberg, I was struck by how obvious it is that we can and must change our future – and soon. Greta was fearless in laying out the case for future generations. Her forthright challenge to leaders… “Entire ecosystems are dying…we are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth…how dare you?!?” Greta’s message also reflected hope, and a common-sense notion that resonates with all parties, races, religions, and families everywhere around the globe. She said, “I think the hope, right now is in the people; I’d like to tell my grandchildren that we did everything we could - and we did it for them, for the generations to come.”

Who among us can watch the news or check out social media these days without a sense of profound sadness for Australia and the uncertain fate of iconic koala bears? Think about it - Australia is about the same size as the United States. The 2019-2020 bushfire season there is only half over and has already consumed upwards of 16 million acres (24,000 square miles) of habitat. That’s like completely wiping out the northern half of Wisconsin. By comparison, the 2018 California wildfieres consumed 2 million acres, and in 2019 Amazon rainforest wildfires burned 2.2 million acres of land.  Let’s employ empathy…striving to be a kinder, gentler, more caring world. There are countless opportunities to help, thanks to the internet. Do a little research, then just pick one. Let the world see that Americans care deeply! 

Let’s employ empathy…strive to be a more caring world. 
Photo by Daniel Mitchell; 

On November 15th, 2019 The Madison Cap Times printed a column about the decay of honor in politics entitled, “Plain Talk: A tale of two eras of Wisconsin government.” I noticed an editorial response (written by Carl Landsness, Madison) that reminded readers how parties used to work together. It reiterated the fact that it wasn’t so long ago when Democratic Sen. Gaylord Nelson and Republican Gov. Warren Knowles collaborated to co-create Earth Day in 1970. Landsness asked, “Could we use Earth Day's 50th anniversary (next April) to catalyze a paradigm-shifting healing and synergizing of planet, people and polarizations, exploring more soul-serving (vs. ego-driven) ways to be, do, relate, resolve, serve and steward?” Let’s vote for genuine leaders who will stand with us, and work to get ready for the “new normal"

Solar energy – for a new decade.                      Photo by Bobbi Rongstad

Just for the sake of argument, imagine a world in 10 years without fossil fuel, or with it, but at ten times (or 100 times) the cost of today. Readers might be surprised to know how much has been done recently to shift our focus to renewable energy. After all, in the Chequamegon Bay area, northlanders have already won statewide kudos for recent solar group buy efforts. Local Bobbi Rongstad, retired energy consultant, has been actively engaged in energy conservation efforts for 30 years. She recently added both solar electric and solar hot water to her home as an investment in their family’s future, but more than anything, for her, “It was the right thing to do…and we can now appreciate lower energy bills that will help us to age comfortably in our home.” Regional leader, Chequamegon Bay Renewables website asks us to, “Support renewable energy in every way you can; your own home, your workplace, the way you vote. Together, we can make a difference!” Thinking to the future, it looks like 2020 will offer opportunities for both businesses and individuals; for info on 2020’s “group buy”, check out or

Retired US Fish & Wildlife biologist and friend Pam Dryer recently reminded me how fortunate we have been to have had leaders who paved the way to restore our lands and protect our waters. She noted conservation giants who gave us the means to help ourselves: among them, Robertson-Pittman’s groundbreaking tax on firearms and ammunition to fund wildlife management, the Sport Fish Restoration Act that placed an excise tax on tackle to support fish management, and Wisconsin’s Managed Forest Law, that created landowner incentives to manage forests sustainably. She said, “I thought I would not see the effects of climate change in my lifetime, but shorter and warmer winters, and two 500-year floods in three years have made me realize it’s affecting us now and that these effects are universal. I believe that climate change is our next natural resource challenge that requires visionary solutions.” Now we must do more than adapt, we must deliver leaders and promote ideas (like our predecessors did) to mitigate climate change.

Hope from icon Greta Thunberg is “in the people.”                            
 Photo by Liv Oeian;

 I like to think that Walter “Little Bear” Bresette, Native American icon who fought for the environment with a mind towards not just Greta’s generation but the next seven generations, would be smiling down on the worldwide outcry fueled by a now seventeen-year old Swedish girl. If trees can communicate throughout the forest community via mycorrhizal networks, the science of which we are just beginning to understand, it begs the question…when will we turn over a new leaf? Can we nurture a paradigm shift in society, recognizing our causal and restorative roles in the complex web of life? Throughout 2020, let’s ask ourselves the question, as a cog in the wheel of this amazing, diverse, beautiful, vulnerable planet, how can we act now to restore the beauty and balance of Nature? Let’s resolve to fix it.

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