New Hampshire has a responsibility to do its best for the land and climate

March 8, 2023 4:55 am
A view of Earth from the observatory

In New Hampshire, we certainly realize “which way the wind blows.” (NASA Earth Observatory | Joshua Stevens; NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service)

The forecast, sung by the legendary Bob Dylan, is simple: “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” What does it predict for New Hampshire?

Eric Orff, wildlife biologist in the Merrimack River Valley and self described “watcher of nature,” said last month it was the first winter in 60 years that Great Bay hadn’t frozen over. Stephen Baron, National Weather Service meteorologist, said January was the third warmest winter on record; Lake Winnipesaukee had an unusually late ice-in. Temperatures are rising.

N.H. Healthcare Workers for Climate Action wrote recently about the sudden appearance of greenish stagnant water in ponds. This harmful “green scum” known as cyanobacteria is attributed to climate warming – and the fact that the warm season with frost-free days lasting up to three weeks longer allows more time for water bodies to warm up and create optimal conditions for these algae blooms.

Just as water stores carbon to prevent overheating, so do our forests. Paul Doscher’s New Hampshire Bulletin commentary “Forests are much more than carbon banks” makes their protection a New Hampshire imperative. They protect drinking water supplies, prevent erosion, and provide wildlife habitats and income to sustain land ownership that, in turn, helps offset C02 molecules in the atmosphere that absorb and retain heat energy.

How does New Hampshire measure up in terms of climate resilience? According to Susan Richman and Reinmar Seidler of the NH Network for Environment, Energy, and Climate: “Significantly, New Hampshire is the only New England state without a current ‘climate action plan,’ or CAP. New Hampshire does have a CAP, but it was written in 2009 and its recommendations were never implemented. Today, the Granite State remains the only New England state not to join the U.S. Climate Alliance, and to have no formal mandate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” Its focus on short-term economic gain while ignoring the ultimate cost of a longer-term vision is ill-fated.

The weatherman in Dylan’s ballad knows where the answer lies. It is eloquently expressed in Kimberly Nicholas’ book “Under the Sky We Make,” in which she tells us it is time to create a new mindset, described as “uprooting exploitation and sowing regeneration.” We need to live within “fundamental limits of the biophysical world,” she writes. “To avoid degradation, systems should be managed so they are regenerative on human timescales, so that we don’t take out more stock than nature can replace or produce more waste than nature can assimilate.”

New Hampshire’s Indigenous people, the Abenaki, Pennacook, and Wabanaki, have supported nature’s regeneration and stewarded its aki (land), nibi (water), lolawikak (flora), and awaasak (fauna) for over 12,000 years. Rituals and ceremonies honoring the land’s sacredness have been maintained for generations. Sunrise, for example, is sacred to the Abenaki People, who call themselves People of the Dawn.

Similarly, in “Braiding Sweetgrass,” Robin Wall Kimmerer, enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, describes her father’s early morning sunrise ritual: “I can picture my father in his red-checked wool shirt standing atop the rocks above the lake. … He pours coffee out on the ground in a thick brown stream … he pours and speaks into the stillness: ‘Here’s to the gods of Tahawus.’ … So begins each morning in the north woods: the words that come before all else. … By those words we said, ‘Here we are,’ and I imagined that the land heard us – murmured to itself, ‘Ohh, here are the ones who know how to say thank you.’ ” Kimmerer’s mother had her own more pragmatic ritual of respect: Leave any camping place better than you found it.

In New Hampshire, we certainly realize “which way the wind blows.” It means “leave no trace” – lower the temperature by leaving a zero-carbon footprint.

It depends on all of us.

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Ann Podlipny
Ann Podlipny

Ann Podlipny is a retired teacher and social worker, and a current member of the NH Network's Plastics Working Group.