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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Changing climate proves challenging for people, plants

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It was a normal day for Marcya Hill-Brown as she watered her plants. Less than a week later, they burned. Two weeks later, they were completely dead. Last year this was not an issue.

The probable cause for this drastic shift: climate change. 

According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, nine of the 10 warmest years since 1880 have occurred since 2005, and the five warmest days have all occurred since 2015. 

Hill-Brown, 29, started planting with her grandparents when she was around 7. Caring for plants helps her manage her anxiety and depression.

“My plants are like my children,” she said. “I am a big believer in whatever I give off, they pick up.” 

Marcya Hill-Brown takes a selfie with her plants on her porch in the Highland neighborhood. (Photo provided by Marcya Hill-Brown)

While being a plant mom helps Hill-Brown stay positive, it has been a challenge seeing plants she’s cared for die so quickly.

Climate change is the shift in the Earth’s measures of climate over a long period of time. It is a result of global warming, which is the warming of the Earth’s surface temperature due to an increase of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. 

Greenhouse gases come from the emissions of heat-trapping pollutants such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and water vapor collecting in the air causing the planet to get hotter. 

Burning coal, oil and gas, along with deforestation and using fertilizers containing nitrogen, all serve as catalysts for these emissions, which have a lasting impact on the environment. 

Morgan Mickelson, director of the Office of Sustainability for the city, said global warming and climate change are due, in large part, to human activity.

“Our activities have created and worsened the problems,” Mickelson said. “If we want to ensure our way of life then we need to take action to reduce our emissions.” 

Initiatives created by the city such as Knozone Action Days and free Pacer Bike Shares have been implemented to counter daily emissions.

On Knozone Action Days, children, the elderly, those with asthma and other serious health conditions are encouraged to avoid spending time outdoors because pollutants in the air are too high. People are also encouraged to carpool, use public transportation, ride a bike and refuel their cars after 7 p.m. during these days to lower emissions.

In a survey conducted by the city, 79% of Indianapolis residents are familiar with Knozone Action Days. Knowing about these days is one thing, actually participating is another.

Weighing the solutions 

Dr. Rae Schnapp, director of conservation at the Indiana Forest Alliance, said natural processes such as photosynthesis and planting trees help slow climate change. 

“Photosynthesis is the best technology we have,” she said. “This process is a nature-based solution that is low-tech, incredibly cost-effective and will help alleviate the climate crisis.”

Photosynthesis transforms light energy into chemical energy. Light energy is then captured and used to convert water, carbon dioxide and minerals into oxygen and other organic compounds.

Trees provide shade, mitigate heat, capture carbon out of the atmosphere and provide oxygen into the air, Schnapp said. 

Schnapp suggested legislation to help prevent deforestation, as well as establishing carbon markets that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from large corporations as other ways of combating the climate crisis. 

In 2020, Gov. Eric Holcomb created the ForestIN initiative, which will plant 1 million trees in Indiana by 2025.

As of right now, 220,200 trees have been planted with more scheduled in the fall.

Contact staff writer Terrence Lambert at 317-924-5243. Follow him on Twitter @TerrenceL.

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