Enjoy this month’s look at the enviornmentalism journey of one of our most active green team members: Laura Rose.

by Laura J. Rose

I grew up in North Florida in a family that went camping, canoeing, kayaking, snorkeling, and exploring all year round. We enjoyed the springs and rivers every three-day weekend, the Florida Keys at Christmas break, and the Great Smoky Mountains in the summer. No wonder I found myself intrigued with the diversity of life around me and wanted to study the interconnectedness of life more when entering college. During an internship at Fairchild Tropical Garden in Coral Gables, I learned about the co-evolution of orchids and their pollinators, whereby the flowers grow to mimic their pollinators to attract them or adapt to their physiology in a multitude of ways for optimum pollination. This was a magical “whoa” moment that still blows me away. 

But it was a speaker at a LRY (UU’s Liberal Religious Youth) conference in St. Petersburg in 1974 that pointed out how dire the consequences could be if we did nothing. I don’t remember the specifics of that talk, but I remember being alarmed enough and inspired enough to direct my college studies to learning how to solve the problems. My environmental studies led to a degree in botany and then microbiology, and from natural ecology to a career in environmental microbiology in the realm of public health. The recent spread of Ebola, Marburg, Zika, SARS, and Covid 19 have shown us how public health is directly connected to ecosystem health. Climate change and poor farming practices lead to animals not previously living close to humans now being in closer proximity. As a result, previously unknown diseases carried by these animals are now jumping to us and our domestic animals. 

As I have learned how humans impact the globe, I have tried to conserve resources, recycle, and compost. I drive a hybrid and would switch to an electric vehicle if/when recharging stations are more ubiquitous, although I’m aware that mining for lithium and cobalt for EV batteries carries its own environmental impact. 

In 2020, I became a vegetarian to conserve global resources even more. I realized that so much energy and water goes into producing beef and chicken and that directly consuming vegetables and grain is another way to conserve. Animal farming also contributes significant CO2 emissions to the atmosphere. Additionally, a vegetarian diet is better for my health!

I continue to fight my “soft climate denial” on a daily basis. This term was coined by Ayana Elizabeth Jonhson, a marine biologist who works with lawmakers on climate policy and with the EPA on climate solutions. She has a book coming out in the fall called What If We Get It Right? referring to solving the climate crisis.  She describes soft climate denial as the feeling that, “well, I don’t know what to do because the issue is just too big. I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing because it’s comfortable.” 

I think a lot of us fall into this way of thinking. It is a big issue, and it’s hard to believe that our small actions make a difference. I don’t know if “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” is enough to solve the problem, but it helps. Reusing and recycling is easy, but reducing may mean giving up our comfortable way of life, and few are willing to do that.   

I’m now learning from our Climate Action Team members about writing to our legislators, Public Service Commission members, agencies, and other decision makers to let them know we are watching and we want progress in the realm of renewable energy, environmental preservation and the right decisions on climate. I believe that the public’s awareness and concern about climate change is snowballing, even if the growth of the movement is slow. I think that by all of us continuing to learn and spread the word, we can make a difference. Maybe all the cumulative weather disasters will help to change minds as well. But we must persevere for our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren.

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JOURNEY WITH US: The Climate Action Team is for you because, well, the planet needs your urgent action – and we need each other as we navigate these changing times. Learn all about the group here,  and check out our minutes and take action table, our lending library and the Carbon Offset Fund. You can also request to join the Climate Action Team on Realm. Contact Jon Reese to connect to the CAT and join us for our next in-person meeting on Monday, June 17, at 7:30 PM in rooms 217/219.