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I'm Meeelllttting! But What Can I Do?

The Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

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Click here for Katharine’s profile.

During Katharine’s interview, what most caught my attention were her end-of-this-century scenarios. She said that under higher emissions, Chicago summers could feel like those on the Gulf Coast and Massachusetts ones like those in the Carolinas. As a Carolinian myself, that immediately resonated with me. I remember those summers tangibly, still – stepping outside, having just showered, yet feeling instantly as though I needed to again, so muggy was the heat. The searing temperatures penetrated your very core, causing claustrophobia even in large spaces. Summer soccer practices were dreadful – I remember getting cold I was so hot. I think they call that heat stroke. No offense to my roots, but I’d rather enjoy Northeast summers, at least until they disappear.

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Relating climates to what we know, as Katharine does, helps us understand what could be. My Carolinian friends may be accustomed to sweltering southern heat now, but what will happen as temperatures rise? If the Northeast will feel like the South, what will the South feel like? I shudder to think. But what can we do? A lot, actually, without much extra effort.

I'm Meeelllttting!  But What Can I Do?-baby_katharine_in_snow300.jpg
Baby Katharine doesn't want that snow to melt!

Like most people, I recycle, use cloth bags for shopping (I like

these !), and turn out lights. But a few years ago, after working on a documentary about low-impact living, I decided to make some bigger changes. Bigger doesn’t always necessarily mean harder, either. Here are a few easy steps you can take that won’t cramp your lifestyle:

—Use cloth napkins instead of paper towels/napkins. Yes, washing them creates waste, but how messy are we, really? It takes me a week to actually get one dirty.

—Don’t let the water run while brushing your teeth.
It’s getting hot in here….

—Migrate to safer, chemical-free cleaning agents.

—Avoid buying pre-packaged items. I realize it takes more time and thought to prepare fresh produce, but it’s the healthier option when possible. Along those lines, avoid buying anything individually packaged that is then packaged within a larger plastic bag or container.

—Stop using those little plastic bags in the grocery stores. Fruit may roll loose in your cart, but the plastic bags get pitched as soon as you get home, anyway.

—Reuse aluminum foil – it’s easy to wash.

It's getting hot in here...

When I started taking these greener steps, I’ll admit, I wondered if I was becoming my grandparents, who kept and reused everything to the point of madness. Of course, they grew up in the Depression, when re-usage was common because they couldn’t afford to do otherwise. While we didn’t have environmental standards for companies then as we do today, there was much less waste on an individual level because people were just thrifty. Now that industry has been regulated, it’s time to look to ourselves to make some changes. I don’t even notice the aforementioned tweaks to my lifestyle now, and if it helps Katharine’s climate predictions to fall apart, then it’s well worth it. If we don’t change our ways, I envision something akin to this scene down South.

Original funding for "The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers" was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.