blue skies over Lake Michigan

Climate Change Comes Home to Michigan

 July 7, 2023

I got out of bed, looking forward to the bike ride I had planned for later, opened the windows to let in the cool morning air, started my coffee, then checked the weather. An air advisory of 139. I closed the windows. No coffee on the patio and as for that bike ride, well, that was questionable. Was this to be the new normal as climate change comes home to my state of Michigan?

A Beautiful Peninsula

“If you seek a beautiful peninsula, just look about you,” is the motto of my home state, a well-deserved one. Michigan is surround by water on three sides, plus numerous rivers and lakes.

Michigan summers are our reward for surviving Michigan winters, though spring and fall are also pretty awesome and even winter has it bright points. But for the most part, it’s the thought of summer that gets us through the bleak, grey, cold days of winter when we may go for weeks without sunshine. Visions of kayaking, floating on a pontoon, jumping in the lake to cool off then repeating the process, long bike rides or just sitting on your deck or patio enjoying cold beverages or your morning coffee, the taste of freshly picked strawberries or blueberries, the crunch of sweet corn on a cob, the smell of lilacs, the colors of fireworks over the lake, the sound of children catching fire flies at night—these are the sights and sounds and tastes and smells of summer in my home state. I consider myself particularly blessed to have lived here my whole life.

So far, we have been spared much of the effects of climate change. In fact, as the earth heats up, Michigan may be a prime destination for those seeking to avoid the oppressive heat and storms of the southern parts of the country.

Yes, we have been particularly fortunate. Yes, we are not experiencing the extreme effects of climate change that other countries are experiencing with heat and storm cycles, drought and massive forest fires. But climate change is an equal opportunity destroyer. It does not single out any one country or groups of people. All of us are affected in some way, some more than others.

Is Climate Change Real? Confirmation Bias

The forest fires ravaging Canada are impacting the quality of the air here in Michigan. Air pollution in Asia travels to the US, as does our pollution, spreading throughout the world. It is just one planet, one sky that collects all the pollutants we pour into the atmosphere affecting the air throughout the world, even in my small corner of the universe.

I’m not trying to debate the existence of climate change. If you look hard enough, you can find someone to confirm whatever you want to believe. But I am saying no-one is safe from its effects, whether you believe it is true or not. And it has come to my beautiful state.

As it turned out, I went for my bike ride. By eight the air quality index had gone down thirty points to 109. Still high but I took into account the fact that I would be riding down a tree-lined bike path with bushes and abundant green growth to soak up smoke particles, so I opted to go.

While I rode, a mother deer with her fawn crossed my path. Rabbits hopped along beside me before disappearing into the bushes, chipmunks raced across the trail and birds soared overhead. I wondered, how were these small lungs dealing with the smoke? I had the options of staying inside or wearing a mask if I had to go out. They had no such option. Would we see a decline in the bird population because of smoke inhalation, much like the canary in the mine?

Reason for Hope

In the 1960’s, Rachel Carson’s book, A Silent Spring, foretold a future with no birds because of the use of DDT and other pesticides. That future did not come true. DDT was banned and its damage stopped. I wonder, who will write the book to waken up the nation, the world, and shake us out of our confirmation bias as to the damage of climate change. Scientists are already working on ways to control the carbon dioxide in the air, ways to take it out of the air. Will it be too little too late?

I pray that won’t happen for the sake of the children of the world who deserve to have clean air and water. Yet some people won’t believe in the danger until it come home to them in concrete ways. Some will resist even then.

Still, I have reason for hope. I believe that the more climate change comes home to people throughout the world, the more people will be ready to make the changes necessary to save this planet.

As Pete Seeger wrote so many years ago in his song, Rainbow Race, it’s too soon to die. (For complete words and music, click here)


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