Force of nature

Our climate is changing. Our culture might too.

Posted 1/15/20

Back in 2017, the EPA looked at how climate change could force social change.

It could “affect human health, infrastructure and transportation systems, as well as energy, food and water …

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Force of nature

Our climate is changing. Our culture might too.


Back in 2016, the EPA looked at how climate change could force social change.

It could “affect human health, infrastructure and transportation systems, as well as energy, food and water supplies,” the agency wrote. It would hit people who live along oceans, rivers and lakes, hurt the poor, elderly and disabled: the ones who can’t move house easily, who are more likely to be left behind when a natural disaster threatens.

And then there are jobs. “Professions that are closely linked to weather and climate, such as outdoor tourism, commerce and agriculture, will likely be especially affected.”

Their take sounds dismal. But people here, who are seeing these shifts in real time, are more optimistic.

Take Ramsay Adams. He’s the executive director of Catskill Mountainkeeper, “a regional environmental not-for-profit which promotes and protects the greater Catskill region,” he said. Sustainable economic development is part of that mission. Climate change is making it more complex and, he says, more exciting.

“The single most obvious shift in people’s behavior in the Catskills proper is a sense of pride and excitement about the resources we have and the opportunities they present,” Adams said.

Mountainkeeper has been around for more than a decade. They’re based in Livingston Manor, so they’ve seen the floods that have hit the Catskills—in Delaware County, Livingston Manor, Jeffersonville and Callicoon. They’ve also seen the recent surge in new businesses, like craft brewing, organic farms, coffee roasters and farm-to-table meals, plus the restaurants and pubs that serve what those brewers and farmers produce.

A lot of Main Streets are bustling with activity, but the land is what visitors see first, and it’s what people associate with the Catskills and Pocono regions. “For years it was poor [here],” Adams said. “[But] we’ve got the most unique, beautiful place in the world.” There was a shift in “the pride people felt in the area and their willingness to invest in it.”

But like all places where the stunning landscape is a major draw for tourists and business, climate change will alter it.

It’s both the obvious—flooding, stronger storms, hot summers—and the more subtle.

Think about real estate. Purchasing property now means checking out the nearest bodies of water: flood plain or high ground? Is there a cliff in the backyard, possibly sending heavy rainfall into the basement? How close is the nearest stream?

Catskill Mountainkeeper also sees how climate affects the outdoor activities it promotes. What will happen to local fishing or snow-based sports? “All are impacted by climate change,” Adams said. “At every level—personal, residential, business, government—you need to plan for it.”

It sounds overwhelming. Adams disagreed: Taking action, he said, is exciting.

He starts with the ballot box. “It’s our civic duty to vote... It’s hugely impactful.”

Second, “the individual impact of purchase is lost in the big chain stores.” You can make your point with what you buy and where you buy it. Want your money to stay in the community? Shop locally at family stores and use local services. “You’re supporting the supplier and the local market.”

Think about shipping, Adams said, and “the massive amount of fossil fuel energy to ship products.”

Making these choices, being seen doing things, is a multiplier of its own. Kids pay attention to what you do, not to what you say. Neighbors notice if you go to their cousin’s shop rather than buy online.

“It’s hard to overstate the importance of this,” Adams said.

Third, reduce your personal-waste stream, he said. Keep a record of how much you waste. “Make a decision, once you understand your impact, to reduce it.” Filter your water instead of buying it in bottles.

Fourth, if you invest, use that power. Divest from companies with which you disagree.

Don’t feel like any of that applies to you? There are things anyone can do. Sandy Long at Honesdale-based SEEDS (Sustainable Energy Education and Development Support) said that in their DIY solar workshops or their Free Book Swaps, “we’ve seen that people are increasingly taking advantage of opportunities to modify practices and behaviors.” (If you haven’t heard, the SEEDS annual book swap is a great way to donate your old books and swap them out for new ones. The leftover books are shipped to Better World Books to be donated across the globe.)

Often, she said, it’s a matter of awareness. “And keep in mind that change happens one choice and action at a time.”

For more information on SEEDS, call 570/245-1256 or online at

To contact Catskill Mountainkeeper, call 845/439-1230 or visit their website at


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