Finding Higher Ground: Adaptation in the Age of Warming
June 07, 2011
While much of the global warming conversation rightly focuses on reducing our carbon footprint, the reality is that even if we were to immediately cease emissions, we would still face climate change into the next millennium. In Finding Higher Ground, Amy Seidl takes the uniquely positive-yet realistic-position that humans and animals can adapt and persist despite these changes.
Drawing on an emerging body of scientific research, Seidl brings us stories of adaptation from the natural world and from human communities. She offers examples of how plants, insects, birds, and mammals are already adapting both behaviorally and genetically. Within ten years, one plant species in a drought-stricken area has evolved to fit its life cycle into the shorter growing season. Red squirrels are breeding earlier to take advantage of the food supplied by an earlier spring. And some birds are migrating shorter distances, or not at all, as their northern habitats become milder.
While some species will be unable to adapt to new conditions quickly enough to survive, Seidl argues that those that do can show us how to increase our own capacity for resilience. She tells of a young farmer experimenting with adaptive strategies for local crops, architects using biomimicry to design buildings that actually contribute to their surrounding ecosystems, and the establishment of decentralized and renewable energy banks. While Seidl admits that these efforts alone won't change the world, she hopes that taken together they can form the basis for a new, revolutionary set of ideas to live by, much like the efforts that brought about abolition, women's suffrage, and the eight-hour workday.
In looking at climate change as an opportunity to establish new cultural norms, Seidl's perspective inspires readers to move beyond loss and offers a refreshing call to evolve.