Green Steps

In today’s green discussions by politicians, the main focus seems to be, more and more, on global climate change and thus on use of energy.

It has been a battle to get climate change recognized and it is an important focal point but it is only the top layer of an integrated chain of issues. Global change alone does not encompass all the ecological impacts caused by humans or all the management challenges that we must face.

The other challenges along with global climate change together form an integrated hierarchy of ecological processes and effects that must be considered together. Global change is the largest in geographic scale and if we range down the size scale of effects and challenges we see mid-size continental effects such as forest clearing, reduction of species’ ranges and populations, regional spread of pests, and many other examples. At smaller geographic scales in the same hierarchy we see local issues such as unplanned toxic effects of pesticide, roadkill of endangered species, over-fertilization (eutrophication) of lakes and streams, destruction of habitat patches, and many other “NIMBY” and “IMBY” topics.

As in all hierarchies, processes operating at larger spatial scales are slower, to come into effect and slower to be remediated. Changing the global climate takes many decades to take effect and will take equally long to correct, if that is possible. But clear-cutting a local forest patch can happen overnight and can be regrown (but not duplicated and not without impacts) in a human lifetime.

Smaller scale effects influence the mid-scale processes and those, in turn, influence the largest scale effects. Looked at in reverse, the large-scale processes have effects at the continental scale and those mid-scale processes have effects at the smallest, local scale. Processes and effects at all scales are linked into an integrated hierarchy that must be considered all together; selecting only one scale, such as global change, cannot effectively manage our environmental issues.

The take-home lesson is that programs or political platforms that address only climate change as their total green or environmental package are missing all the rest of the hierarchy that they need to address. To be complete, a ‘green’ package must address the entire chain of effects from removal of a local habitat patch to the regulation of carbon emissions.

The local effects, such as the reduction or degrading of local habitats, must be addressed, along with the continental-scale impacts and management programs. In most cases, problems start locally and metamorphose into larger-scale issues; attending to local issues is critical in preventing the big, slow and difficult global issues.

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>