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Climate Change Interview 14: Elementary School Teacher - Madison, Wisconsin

Lily, Flower, Joe Lynde
Photo Joe Lynde

Live interview: Connie Colussy – Boomer – Madison, Wisconsin – Elementary teacher retired.

1. What are your thoughts about the claims that the climate is warming, the environment is being destroyed and that humans are the cause?

I feel depressed. I mean there are so many people around the world who are and will be suffering. The poor especially in countries affected by rising waters. Then there are the generations to come and their future is bleak. I don’t have a lot of hope for them. I’m glad I’m the age I am and that I’m not 20 years old. Even for our kids that are 30s and 40s, they are going to experience some horrific things.

Between that and all the garbage we don’t know what to do with. When we were growing up we didn’t have all this garbage because we didn’t have all the packaging. Our parents canned a lot of stuff and just used the jars over and over again. Now we buy stuff in a can and toss it out.

I was thinking about plastic wrap. We use a lot of it but we used to have those plastic covers that we would stretch over containers and reuse. They looked like shower caps. Now they are reselling those. The only thing we had decades ago was wax paper. That’s all we used. Now nothing is reusable.

I think about all the trash we throw out. When we were kids we didn’t have garbage and trash because we had a burn barrel. Everybody did. It was a 55 gallon barrel and you would fill it up and keep burning trash in it until it deteriorated and then get another one. That probably wasn’t the best thing either because it would burn and go into the atmosphere but it did cut down on all the waste.

We don’t seem to have the will to do what is necessary.

2. In your mind what are the driving forces of climate change and environmental degradation?

I think people are just not aware of what is happening. They haven’t been educated about how harmful climate change is. Others are just greedy and don’t want to make a change in their lives. There needs to be a lot more education.

I am shocked when we travel and go to all kinds of places where people just don’t recycle. When I see these high rise buildings and visit people who live there, all the trash just goes in one big dumpster. There are hundreds of people in these buildings and none of them recycle. It’s been so many years since recycling started and many people still aren’t doing it. When we lived in McFarland in the 80s there were recycling bins. It’s hard to believe we haven’t come further in 40 years.

3. Has your life been affected in any way? If so, how?

I think about things everyday. For example, we had to replace our microwave oven. I thought – where will the old one end up? It probably goes to a landfill. Everyone in this city has a microwave. Where do they all go? Maybe we shouldn’t even use a microwave. My mother didn’t and she managed to get by. Maybe we really don’t need those things.

When you are trying to recycle it is difficult to figure out what can be and what can’t be. What happens to all that stuff? Does it really get recycled?

4. In your opinion, what needs to be done?

I don’t know how you do this but people have to start doing things and becoming aware of the problem.

Take the food industry and agri business. We need to eat differently. There is a lot to be said for plant based diets which seems to be the new term for vegetarian or vegan. Eating meats is using vast amounts of resources that are used to raise the beef and pork.

There are a lot of little things like some communities don’t allow plastic bags. Some bottles are returnable and reused. When you take all these little things and multiply them by millions of people doing them then it is significant. In a way its going back to the way things used to be done.

We built a passive solar house many years ago when there were tax credits under Jimmy Carter. Those tax credits really stimulated growth in the solar industry. At that time there were three builders in the Madison area that built passive solar homes. Now they are gone. There used to be a really active group that met every month and went around to see all the solar installations in the area. We had a friend who built an envelope house.

I think that the construction industry is a place that needs to change. When you think about all the construction going on and the materials used and the fact that many of them have no solar or energy conserving technology in them. What that gets back to is passing laws and codes that save energy.

One bright spot is in the automobile industry. I was reading that almost all the automobile manufacturers will have electric cars soon. It seems to me though that it has taken so many years to do what we started decades ago. They finally seem to be moving again.

One thing we have to do. Elect people who list the environment as an issue to take on. We need to put our dollars and our support behind them.

5. Do you consider yourself as part of the problem or part of the solution?

We try to be part of the solution. We did build a passive solar home years ago, we bought an electric car, we recycle and reuse and repurpose. We also hang on to our clothing and use thrift shops. We try to conserve energy but there are also many things we do that are hurting the environment because it is difficult to change things. That’s just the way it is.

We try to live our lives the best we can so we don’t add more agony to the environment. It’s quite a battle.

6. What do you think the long-term outcome of climate change and environmental degradation will be?

If we don’t educate people it will be bad. I’m always surprised by how stupid we all are. I was in education and we don’t teach a lot of stuff we used to, like civics. It was a graduation requirement. Everything I knew about how government worked I learned there.

I’m not sure the human species will make it. Flooding and heat may destroy the earth. We will see the beginnings and our children will suffer. People from everywhere will be trying to escape the effects of global warming. Southern Florida and Louisiana (water) and parts of California (fire) are already seeing the effects in a devastating way.


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