Emma Minnie Rhode, 1902-1998

I loved my grandma – she died fifteen years ago, but her wisdom and her faith stay with me. Also her humor. She loved to laugh, tell jokes and focus on the good times we had together.

For my grandma, there was never a problem so vexing, a concern so weighty, that it couldn’t be addressed with a smile. This attitude was born out of her deep conviction that God was in control, and that “for those who love God, all things work together for good.” That was just one of the many quotations and adages that came out from time to time.

So, I wonder what my grandma would have to say about climate change? It seems like such a huge, overwhelming problem. The scientists’ predictions are dire: we have only ten years to turn our emissions around. I guess she’d say “when you’ve got too much to do, just pick something up and start doing it!”

She’s right – climate change really isn’t a scientific problem anymore: scientists are more certain about the basic mechanics of climate change than they have ever been. Yes, there is still good science to be done, but debate is largely over. Likewise, the major ethical action is on the edges: How much responsibility do we have? What level of economic downturn should we risk? But the basics are clear: One-quarter of the world’s population uses no fossil fuels at all, while we in the US use far more than our share. We need to change our practices now.


Where to start? Anywhere you can. No one of us can solve climate change, but each one of us can do our part. As for me, I’m hopping on my bicycle and riding off to Washington, DC, to talk with my congressional representatives. Really!

Biking Riding from State College to DC

Biking from State College to DC

I’m part of a team of cyclists leaving on Friday for a 4-day, 200-mile trek to DC. Along the way we will stay at churches and visit a synagogue with solar panels – people will feed and house us, taking us in and listening to our story. We try to instill a sense of hope. See our schedule here and follow us on Twitter.

As a historian, I have a strong intuition that later generations will look to these next ten years as the turning point. What will we see by 2025? Will we have turned the corner on our emissions and stopped the increase, or will we continue pumping carbon pollution into the atmosphere? Never before have our daily actions – every light bulb we turn on, every mile we drive – meant so much.

One last word of wisdom from my Grandma – it’s a strange statement, but one that I’ve always loved: “You can never tell how far the lemonade is going to go from where you sit.” To my mind, that means simply “stop worrying and start moving!” Everywhere you look, there are groups responding to climate change. Join one of them now and make a difference.

If nothing else, come see me and my friends off at 4 p.m. on Friday (at Faith UCC on College Ave.). Bring your bike and accompany us for the first few miles of our journey. Once you start, you can never tell how far you might go…

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