Navigating Uncharted Waters

In an era of climate change, we are all navigating uncharted waters, whether we realize it or not. Extreme weather events are the new normal, and concepts such as 100 and 500 year flood levels are now fairly meaningless, as floods at these levels are now occurring regularly in many areas.

Yet, while we fight the policy battles to combat climate change, and make our own personal efforts to reduce carbon emissions, we must continue to live in the world that climate change is creating. To do so, we must understand the new normal. While much of that relies on scientists reporting on the many impacts of climate change on our world, on a personal level, each of us experiences climate change in a different manner, depending on where we live.

There is no better way to understand the natural world, then to personally navigate it up close and personal. Quite simply, what we watch on television is not what we experience when we take a hike along a shoreline or paddle a canoe on the water.

This afternoon, I took my canoe out for the first time this year on half frozen Goose Lake, in the Central Sands region of Wisconsin. Everything about this particular excursion was abnormal. To begin with, due to extremely high water, my shoreline is nowhere near its normal place, so simply launching my canoe was a bit of a challenge.

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Once I launched, I searched for our measuring gauge which we use to monitor the lake level. Last fall, before the lake froze, it was at a very high 39″ (normal is around 23″). Since the gauge is well below the water line, I was forced to dip a measuring tape down to the top of the gauge and I estimate that the water has risen 7″ since last fall, to a level of 46″.

As a result, I was able to paddle in areas of the wetlands that normally have no access.

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Many years ago, beavers created a dam between one portion of the wetlands and the rest of the lake many years ago. The dam usually creates about an 18″ drop off to the lake, with very little water above the dam. Right now, there is plenty of water above the dam, and it is only a few inches above the lake.

Here is a view looking out on the lake from the beaver dam.

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The Sandhill cranes and geese seemed lost looking for their old nests, many of which are probably underwater.

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The water is so high that pieces of the wetlands have broken off and created small islands in the lake.

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Our natural world is rapidly changing. If we fail to navigate the uncharted waters which are constantly being created due to climate change, we may drown in them. For now, I choose to get as close as I can to understand our changing world. That helps me survive in our new world and appreciate its changing beauty, while also doing the hard work to convince policymakers that maintaining the status quo will drown ever more of us.

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In the short term, to protect property owners whose homes have water lapping up on them, the Goose Lake Watershed District, which I Chair, will work with the Town of Jackson to institute a temporary no wake ordinance. In the long term, if we do not reduce carbon emissions drastically, what seems abnormal, will become the new normal, and the new normal, in many places on our planet, will become incompatible with human and many other species’ lives.

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For more information on how I can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his website: Systems Change Consulting.

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