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Adjusting to Climate Change: Woodstock Seminar Addresses Ways to Adapt to Environment

  • Jean Horton of Virginia, 13, and Fletcher Passow of Etna, N.H., 16, peruse ecologically friendly books following Ginger Wallis' session, the second of five sessions, discussing how to adapt to climate change at North Universalist Chapel Society in Woodstock, Vt. on Sunday, July 7, 2013. Jean and her parents are in the area to visit family.<br/>Valley News - Libby March

    Jean Horton of Virginia, 13, and Fletcher Passow of Etna, N.H., 16, peruse ecologically friendly books following Ginger Wallis' session, the second of five sessions, discussing how to adapt to climate change at North Universalist Chapel Society in Woodstock, Vt. on Sunday, July 7, 2013. Jean and her parents are in the area to visit family.
    Valley News - Libby March Purchase photo reprints »

  • Ginger Wallis speaks during the second of five sessions on about how to adapt to climate change at North Universalist Chapel Society in Woodstock, Vt. on Sunday, July 7, 2013. Wallis is a seventh grade science teacher at Frances C. Richmond Middle School in Hanover, N.H. but took a year off to lead these kinds of educational discussions.<br/>Valley News - Libby March

    Ginger Wallis speaks during the second of five sessions on about how to adapt to climate change at North Universalist Chapel Society in Woodstock, Vt. on Sunday, July 7, 2013. Wallis is a seventh grade science teacher at Frances C. Richmond Middle School in Hanover, N.H. but took a year off to lead these kinds of educational discussions.
    Valley News - Libby March Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jean Horton of Virginia, 13, and Fletcher Passow of Etna, N.H., 16, peruse ecologically friendly books following Ginger Wallis' session, the second of five sessions, discussing how to adapt to climate change at North Universalist Chapel Society in Woodstock, Vt. on Sunday, July 7, 2013. Jean and her parents are in the area to visit family.<br/>Valley News - Libby March
  • Ginger Wallis speaks during the second of five sessions on about how to adapt to climate change at North Universalist Chapel Society in Woodstock, Vt. on Sunday, July 7, 2013. Wallis is a seventh grade science teacher at Frances C. Richmond Middle School in Hanover, N.H. but took a year off to lead these kinds of educational discussions.<br/>Valley News - Libby March

Woodstock — Maybe, to best adapt to climate change, we should start looking at birds. Finches, specifically.

That’s what Ginger Wallis believes, and it’s how she began the second of five climate change-related seminars yesterday, telling the story of finches on an island off the coast of Ecuador that were forced to adapt — and did — to a long period of drought followed by a longer period of intense rain.

“I think we can gain inspiration from other species,” said Wallis, of Thetford.

Wallis’ introductory PowerPoint presentation, given to a room of more than a dozen at the North Universalist Chapel Society, set the groundwork for a discussion on how cities and countries are already taking steps forward. She called it the “Great Turning,” a period of new and creative responses to climate change following a collective realization that humans need to adapt.

She split the participants, which included older churchgoers and families with young children, into several groups. Then she had them discuss some of those responses, which are occurring at points worldwide.

For instance, the Netherlands, a country that exists predominately below sea level, has decided to give up some settled land as part of a “space for the river” policy, which accepts that it would be too difficult to outright control the river as climate change continues. The country has also begun to create new, man-made lakes to absorb some of the country’s rainfall, which comes in short, heavy bursts.

A bit closer to home is Chicago, which is hoping to raise its wind energy output from about 2 percent of total energy in 2008 to 25 percent by 2028, thereby becoming the city with the largest output in the U.S.

“It is windy in Chicago,” said Christian Passow, of Etna, who had read the information from a laminated card.

“Mmmm,” said Wallis, appearing next to him.

“That’s very appropriate,” he said.

The seminars, which last through the end of July, are one of three climate-based projects Wallis has taken on since taking a year off from her job as a seventh-grade biology teacher at the Frances C. Richmond Middle School.

The other two are a children’s book, based off the story of those finches, with illustrations by Bert Dodson, of Bradford, and a series of “climate listening sessions.” Those include interviews with people ages 9 to 90, who talk about their visions for a better world and worries about this one. The project may eventually turn into a podcast, Wallis said. She is funding her work primarily through her own savings in addition to a grant from Vital Communities in White River Junction.

Perhaps surprisingly, not much is sinister in the free seminar series, which doesn’t subscribe to the doom-and-gloom that dominates much of the climate change discussion. If one laminated card showed a prediction that 100 degree days in Chicago could increase tenfold in the next few years, another shows a way to mitigate that heat.

By the end of the two-hour-plus session, many attendees were heartened by the adaptive steps taken by cities worldwide. Peggy Kannenstine, of Woodstock, said she could easily see similar progressive moves being made in a state like Vermont, and Woodstock specifically. For instance, she said she would bring up to town officials the use of porous paving materials, which help control storm water runoff .

“I took so much hope from the things that are going on around the world,” Kannenstine said.

Kannenstine attended the first seminar last week, and figured the second one would be a good time to bring along her sister, Beth Horton, who had come up to visit from Ridgewood, N.J.

Toward the end of the seminar, the group arranged their chairs in a circle and shared what they’d take away from the session. Horton said the event encouraged her to step forward in her town, a village near New York City that doesn’t quite boast the same connection to the environment as Vermont. Maybe, she said, her activism would start a ripple effect.

“I don’t feel so afraid to really share who I am,” Horton said.

For more information on the seminars, contact Wallis at 802-785-4717 or at ginger.wallis@valley.net.

Jon Wolper can be reached at jwolper@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.

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Letter: Adapting While Mitigating

Friday, July 19, 2013

To the Editor: Regarding your July 8 article “Adjusting to Climate Change,” there has been controversy about whether to pursue mitigation or adaptation, with people not wanting to talk about adaptation because they understandably don’t want it to dilute efforts to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. We absolutely need to mitigate our greenhouse gases. Yet now, even as we mitigate, …