Karin Limburg: It’s the End of the World As We Knew It…

This blog post was contributed by Dr. Karin Limburg, a fisheries ecologist at ESF.From old SUNY-ESF Greenhouses

I look at our garden. It’s a small plot in Morningside Community Garden, and compared to some of my neighbors’ plots, it’s relatively well tended, though it is hardly a model of order. Rather, there are things for us, like flowers, beans, carrots, and perhaps tomatoes if they ripen, and things for the rest of the non-human community out there – insects, birds, soil invertebrates, the occasional raccoon – except, we hope, the deer. In this urban garden, I’m mindful that we need to make space for others.

I start to daydream: could a city such as Syracuse become self-sufficient in its food supply in today’s world? Surely, it was mostly so up until sometime in the 20th century. Over my lifetime, I’ve seen the world become increasingly globalized and plastic-wrapped; suburbia intensified, malls and housing developments overgrowing farm fields and forests. Our human endeavor has flourished in the sweet bubble of opportunity called the Fossil Fuel Age. Now we know that it has a finiteness, but even before that sunset, we may completely overhaul Earth’s climate with our greenhouse gases.

So, what will Syracuse look like in a hundred years? I doubt it will be the same. I think, in fact, we should be hopeful about this place. With coastlines eroded from rising sea levels, people will be moving inland. They will re-populate the Rust Belt. Syracuse, ever a forward-thinking community, should position itself to be creative and innovate a new urban ecosystem, a kindred spirit to our garden plot. Use our remaining fossil fuel allocations to develop creative means of living lightly but well. Be a leader in alternative energy development and implementation. Develop the connections within the city to recycle used materials effectively. Privilege once again small farms and local supply chains, and reduce dependence on globalized ones. Encourage citizenship over consumerism.

But let’s not stop there. Let’s think about taking care of the forests and the fields. The rain that falls organizes into rivulets, streams, brooks, rivers, and out into ponds, lakes, estuaries, and onward toward the sea. Even in Syracuse we have these connections. In the coming decades, we need to continue restoration and healing of our lands and waters. We use the environment, but we live in it too. Globalization allowed us to forget the connections. The future will break this amnesia and lift the veil from our eyes.

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