Photo and article by Mike Rhode, founding member of the Carolina Surf Conservancy
Saturday, July 16th the Charleston Community Leaders Institute held an all day forum at the Charleston County Public Library titled “Climate Change: A Global Reality”. Speakers presented information on how climate change has affected areas such as public health, local fisheries, and cultural landscapes. Mayor Tecklenburg spoke of Charleston’s resilience and our ability to pull together as a community. The primary focus of the meeting was to provide community leaders with the resources needed to enact change among local citizens. Although the problem of climate change is global in scale, one of the primary messages taken from the meeting was that each and every individual must be held accountable.
It’s no secret the “Low Country” has drainage challenges, anyone driving downtown during a king tide can attest to this. Laura Cabiness from the City of Charleston Department of Public Service presented on the Master Drainage and Floodplain Management Plan, describing what has been done to date and the prioritized recommended improvements. Projects such as a system of large storm water tunnels 140 feet below the city and storm water pump stations already proved successful during last year’s “storm of the century”. She also spoke about a federal grant that has also been received to fund a $154 million drainage improvement project which will relieve a 500 acre urban drainage basin and be the largest ever undertaken by the holy city.
While driving from downtown to James Island across the connector you may have noticed the large cranes working on Plum Island. Andy Fairey from the Charleston Water System described initiatives that have been taken to date on the Charleston Water System’s Water Treatment Facility, and stated that our plant can now withstand the storm surge of a category five hurricane and continue to function. This comes as a comfort to those of us that have been through dangerous storms and realize how important clean water is, especially during these times.
Several more presenters from MUSC, Allen University, the U.S, Department of Energy, and local neighborhood associations reported on the actions that are being taken at the municipal level, and it is a testament to our city that so many people are working tirelessly to protect it. However, there were also many empty seats at the meeting leaving me to worry that our community is either apathetic or hopeless when it comes to climate change issues. After all, climate is such a large, global problem that people understandably feel their actions don’t matter. And honestly, any individual acting alone is not going to make a big difference in greenhouse gas emissions. But we aren’t individuals, we are Charleston, a beautiful historic city that has been here for hundreds of years that we want to live on for hundreds more. It’s time to make some changes in how we live. To start, I recommend using this carbon foot print calculator from the Nature Conservancy to see how you compare to average Americans and others worldwide. Then go back and recalculate your footprint with some small changes like limiting air travel or meat consumption. You might be surprised what a difference these make!
And continue to visit us here at CSB where we are going to be bringing you fresh ideas about how you can reduce your impact on the environment and get involved in local events to raise awareness and preserve Charleston’s beauty for generations to come!
In the meantime, here is the link to the Nature Conservancy carbon footprint calculator. Give it a shot and hopefully you can see how environmentally expensive some of your habits are and the places where you’ve made changes for the better: