I do have a normal life. I play racquetball, take care of my grandchildren about once a week, actively participate with The Horizon Foundation and the Maryland Academy of Sciences, and help other organizations when they ask. Then all of a sudden you drop a book tour on top of that and you get chaos. It’s challenging just trying to keep it all straight. I feel like I need a manager!
But it’s all important. It is what it takes to get a book launched – although I think The Big Melt sells itself. But most people haven’t heard about it yet, so that’s my job – to spread the word.
And that is easier to do with this work of fiction than it was with the two non-fiction books I have written. Most of us are very concerned today and interested in what we can do as our climate continues to change. The book helps all of us, no matter our age, to address that question.
But it still takes a lot of time to reach out. Just take a look at my November calendar below. I will be busy. If anything interests you come join me if you like. The events below with start times are open to the public.
Ned’s November 2018 Schedule – so far!
- November 1 – Watermark Presentation on Climate Change
- November 2 – Friendship Baptist Church High School
- November 3 – Explore Columbia on Foot – Downtown Lakefront at 10am
- November 4 – Forum on Climate Change at Owen Brown Interfaith Center
- November 6 – Vote
- November 7 – Presentation at Poly High School in Baltimore City
- November 8 – Explore Columbia on Foot – Amherst House at 10 am
- November 8 – Hammond High School discussion with students and teachers
- November 9 – Evening of Storytelling at HoCo Conservancy at Mt Pleasant 7-9pm
- November 10 – Storytelling Workshop at Belmont Conf Center from 9 to 1 RSVP
- November 16 – Featured Speaker at the NSTA Annual Mtg at National Harbor
- November 17 – Barnes and Noble in Columbia Mall – Book Signing from 11 to 4 T. (This is a good time to get a personally signed copy of The Big Melt.)
Let me know if you would like me to come to speak to your group, class, business, book club, etc. These are the titles of my normal talks:
- The Big Melt – Coming of Age in a Time of Changing Climates
- Can Fiction Save the Earth (or at least the climate)?
- The Chesapeake: Past, Present, and Future
- The Keys to a Sustainable Future
Enjoy your November and be sure to get outside while the trees hold their color.
Over the past few years we have gotten a taste for how ravaging a run-away climate can be. The damage to homes and infrastructure, the economic and health impacts, and the threats to our national security are significant. These events will not stop until we act to slow down the warming of our atmosphere. We therefore need to get this issue on the table now before the election and then keep it on the table after the election. The problems won’t go away without our full commitment. Our best hope is to elect people who will work together to cool the climate, reduce the suffering, and prevent these weather events from getting worse.
As a businessman, I stay abreast of issues that could affect my bottom line. I was therefore curious about the World Economic Summit in Davos this past year. I wanted to know what they thought were the biggest challenges on the horizon. I was surprised to hear that the greatest fear they had about the future is that people were not fearful enough about some of the most important threats facing our economy. This was unsettling. Here is the list of top concerns from the conference:
Extreme Weather Events
Failure of climate change mitigation and adaption
I think we all would agree that cyber attacks and identify fraud are huge concerns. But for three of the top five risks to our economy to be largely related to and exacerbated by a changing climate is pretty sobering and well worth our full attention. The changing climate is indeed the challenge of the century.
The first two threats are pretty clear – we see them on the news way too often. Our federal government spent 4 to 5 times more money on disaster relief for flood and fire victims last year, some $500 billion dollars. I wish that money had been spent over the past three decades on incentivizing the move to clean energy and a stable climate. A lot of lives, homes, and communities could have been saved if we had acted sooner.
The fifth item on this list of major threats is most striking to me. These corporate leaders are stating that we have to do a lot more to prevent as well as to adapt to a changing climate and their fear is that we might fail. We might not act soon enough or seriously enough to slow down the warming.
As a health advocate I was also struck by a report by the world-renown Lancet Commission on Heath and Climate Change. It concludes that man-madeclimate change threatens to undermine the past 50 years of gains in public health. This is really significant realizing how far we have come in saving lives and preventing disease. The corollary to that statement is that a comprehensive response to climate change could be “the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century”.
My last point is on national security but it also applies to local security issues as well. The Pentagon has released a report calling climate change a threat multiplier – a driver of regional instability from the forced migration of people escaping drought, fire, and flood damaged areas. Mass migrations not only disrupt families and economies but add stress to areas receiving these climate refugees. We have seen this over and over again as families from drought-disrupted parts of the Middle East and Africa flood into Europe, and Americans flee floods, fires, and drought across the country. This instability feeds into the growth of hate groups and terrorists.
These three sectors of our society all realize the importance of slowing down the changing climate. But it sounds like a tall order to most of us. The good news is that there is a lot being done by business, governments, and individuals all around the world (see Drawdown by Paul Hawken). The challenge is that all of us are going to have to do more.
We need to make decisions in our daily life, at work, and in the voting booth that are “climate informed”. We need to elect politicians who willcreate the policies for a healthy future, and who will use their bully pulpits to inspire all of us to make the steps that will be needed to slow down and stop this warming trend. We can’t just sit back and accept the suffering that will result from a 7 degree increase in global temperatures this century.
Ned Tillman is an earth and environmental scientist, a health advocate, and an award-winning author. His new inspirational climate novel, The Big Melt, is available on Amazon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I love walking through the woods – they are always changing. When I go with my 4-year old sidekick, we ask each other a lot of questions and take the time to explore whatever we stumble across. We have learned that we have more fun when we stop and take the time to observe nature.
She likes to collect nuts – I identify them for her and I often end up holding them.
“Grandpa. Hold onto these nuts.”
“I want to save them.”
You can’t argue with that. In fact she has small hordes of nuts and rocks stored in the cubbyholes in our cars and around our house. She always checks them out and entertains herself a lot by going through her collections when driving in the car or staying overnight.
When my pockets are full on hikes, we try to find a hole in a tree and put them in the hole – helping the animals who live in the tree build up their food storage for the winter. We know better than to reach into these crevasses, knowing there might be a hungry squirrel, raccoon, or snake nesting in there.
Speaking of snakes. My little friend and I found a snake lying on a gravel road.
“Is it alive?”
“I don’t think so. It’s not moving. Let’s take a stick to see.”
“It must be dead.”
“Yeah. I see three puncture wounds near its head. I wonder if a hawk, a fox, a coyote, or a cat killed it or was it just run over by a car?”
It was beautiful creature. Long stripes lay along both sides. We had seen garter snakes and black snakes before but this was more colorful. We determined that is was not poisonous because its head was not triangular or coppery. It was a sleek Eastern ribbon snake.
“Can I touch it?”
I thought about this for a moment and agree. So a certain 4-year old was authorized to pick it up. It was about 20 inches long. We took it home and put it in a ziploc bag and showed it off to all the people who came by over the next few days. After a week, the other residents of the house started complaining.
“What is that smell?”
We just looked at each other. “What smell.” We were instructed to bury our treasure. We discussed how it would make the soil richer for new life to come.
As a grandparent I want her to be aware of and respectful of nature. I want her to love the outdoors and to always be curious. I also want her to learn to think logically and creatively when it comes to how she interacts with all of life on this planet.
Most snakes in this region are beneficial and not poisonous. For example, black rat snakes are quite common and play an important role in keeping the ecosystem in balance. They also get to be 6-feet long and so they can be a little scary. In all my hikes I have only seen a single poisonous copperhead. It just lay there, it was not aggressive at all. But I did make a wide circle around it.
It’s hard to keep kids out of rivers. There’s a natural attraction for Homo sapiens to throw stones, build dams, and to get wet. How can you experience a river without getting wet? I hope I never lose this impulse.
I can’t tell you how many times when walking along a river, I turn around and someone in my care has her feet in the water. This must be genetic. My mother always did this as well.
Recently, I and a certain 4-year old were negotiating rules and setting limits for her activity on a sandbar. Somehow, I found myself needing to get in the water as well in order to enforce the rules. This of course led to a lot of splashing and both of us getting drenched.
4-year olds, as you know, are great collectors of things. So when one is standing on a sand bar with thousands of pebbles, cobbles, and rocks, a few get picked up.
“What’s this grandpa?”
As a geologist I feel obliged to try to identify every rock that she brings to me. She now knows the name of some of them as well as I do. And of course, she wants to keep many of them so someone has to put them in his pocket.
But what I like even as much as the stones she finds are the other living critters in the water. Today she is the first to spy and marvel at the water-striders.
“How do they do that?” she asks.
I of course have no idea – unless I resort to my phone, which is safely on the bank. All I know are that arthropods are good indicators of water quality.
“Come on, let’s catch one!” She chases after them trying in vain to grab one to look at. I know better and don’t move. They are much too fast.
I stand motionless and look for fish, wondering if there are any trout, bass, perch, suckers, catfish, or minnows that can be seen or caught. Then I check out signs for otters, muskrats, beavers along the banks. There are often numerous signs that beavers have visited many of the lakes and rivers in this area. I point out anything I find. She is mostly interested in the fast-flowing parts of the river. I keep a watchful eye on where she is at all times.
While she is collecting rocks, I wade along the banks, just watching for anything unusual. I see something, cobble-sized, dart right in front of me. I bend over and deftly grab it with my left hand wondering if I am going to be bitten. I cover it with my right hand and swirl it around in less turbid water. I take a look. I have grabbed what looked to me to be a small lobster – about 5 inches long. It’s a crayfish – often call a crawfish, crawdad, or mudbug. I wonder if it’s going to pinch me.
“Hey take a look at this!”
“What is it? Can I touch it? Will it bite me?”
I hold it by the sides of its abdomen so it won’t pinch me and I let her touch it. She then wants to hold it. Of course, she wanted to save it but I said she needed to put it back. She held it delicately – neither of us got pinched.
“Let’s find some more.”
We tried for a while but without success. We turned our sole victim loose, both realizing that we were lucky to have found the one specimen. Rivers are wonderful places for exploring. You never know what you’re going to find.
Of course, rivers can be dangerous, too, especially after a heavy rain. The first thing we all need to appreciate is the power of water. One should always go with a person who can swim and who can judge where and when to go in. Our rule is that a 4-year old always needs an adult for exploring a river. We have also discussed that water quality may not be good right after a rain, especially if we have any cuts on our bodies. It’s best to stay out for a few days till the water clears up. Surface runoff during storms can carry a lot of bacteria and pollution with it.
Some of the first words my grandchildren said were “walk” and “outside”. They always calmed down as soon as the door or window was opened. They quickly forgot all the chaos of being inside and pointed to the sky, the sun, or a bird. Their eyes would widen as they slowly took into account this much larger world outside their home.
Even now when I get the honor of going for a walk with a grandchild, I jump at it because I learn so much from their point of view.
One of the main attractions as they learned to walk was picking and eating berries. Berries are found in meadows, along hedgerows, and on the edges of forests. In berry picking season we head off to pick black and yellow raspberries, wine berries, and blackberries. We also pick and eat mulberries, blueberries, and grapes.
But, of course, it’s tricky. What berry is safe to eat and how ripe does it have to be are always challenges?
“Berries!” My granddaughter cries out.
“Don’t pick the green ones. Make sure they’re ripe. Let me see them before you put them into your mouth.” One has to be diligent.
What’s nice about a 4-year old is that they can almost be trusted in knowing what to pick and when to pick it. They also have developed an ability to pick and not eat everything immediately. They can even share some of their bounty with others.
“No, grandpa, these are for mama.”
So, its great fun to forage for edibles. Now you might think that meadows lose their attraction when berries are not in season.
“Grandpa, lets go pick berries.”
“We can go check but I don’t think there are any ripe berries in season right now. But we can look for other things.”
“Okay. Let’s go.”
Fortunately, there are so many flowers throughout the summer and with flowers come all sorts of insects. Dragonflies and damselflies, preying mantises, cicadas, and butterflies are great attractions in meadows. I love to pick up and examine ones which have died. They are beautiful and if you give your 4-year old a box to store them in, they can create quite a collection.
“That’s a Chinese preying mantis.”
“I want to pick it up. Can I touch it?”
“Be careful, it’s alive and can pinch you. You have to hold it like this.” I show her but it flaps away into the grasses like a wind-up toy. It’s pretty exciting.
Now there are two challenges with falling in love with meadows. First is that they are the most endangered habitat in many parts of the country, so they’re hard to find. I dedicated a whole chapter to this challenge in my second book, Saving The Places We Love. We have regulations that preserve forests and wetlands, but in most areas, meadows are just mowed down for farming or development. Where I live we have lost the beautiful sounds and sights of the meadowlark and the Bobwhite. They have left because there is no longer enough habitat for them here. What a loss! I can still remember how I used to call Bobwhite into my backyard just by mimicking their call (bob…bob…white).
The best meadows we have locally are at nature preserves and under power lines. Some of these meadows are managed as areas where native grasses grow – which of course support many native insects, birds, mammals, and reptiles.
The second challenge when exploring meadows is that you should always check for ticks when you are done. Some ticks carry diseases. We have found a few deer ticks over the years which can transmit Lyme disease. So we have made it a practice to check whenever we go for a walk through brush.
I was out and about this summer and spent a fair bit of time exploring lakes. One of my companions on some of these jaunts was a 4-year old. This was great. She helped me see things in a whole new way.
Hey granddad, “What are all these squiggly lines?”
I waded out to where she was standing waist deep (her waist) in the cool, clear lake waters. I still had my glasses on so I bent over and waited for the ripples to subside. As the waters calmed, sure enough there were lines in the sand as if she had drawn them with a stick. They were 5 to 10 ft long and often looped back on themselves. I considered but dismissed hydrologic origins to these phenomena – the lines cut right across the ripple marks on the lake bottom. I started wondering what creature could have done this pattern in the sand.
“Look, they are all over the bottom. What are they?”
The more I looked, the more I came to believe they were tracks. We had seen snails the day before and also small intricately patterned water snakes. They were both interesting possibilities but not quite right. I looked more and more carefully at the lines as she became more animated and started churning up the water, her energetic side overtaking her scientific interest in our discovery.
The flashes of light from her frolicking reflected off shiny nubs at the end of several of the lines. I reached down and scooped up a handful of sand, silt, and pebbles.
As I watched the sand and silt sift through my fingers, I discovered something larger left in my hand.
“Hey, come look at what I found.” She came over wide-eyed, splashing me in the process.
“What is it? What did you find?” She asked. I opened my hand and showed here a bluish-black mussel about two inches across, with a shiny nubby hinge on one side.
“It’s a mussel,” I said.
“I can make a muscle.” She flexed here bicep, grinning ear to ear.
“Not that kind. This is what we call a shellfish. A bi-valve. It has two shells. It moves by filtering water and sand through the edges of their shells. That process propels it along the bottom, leaving these tracks behind. Let’s put several in a bucket for a few minutes and see what happens.”
We put 2 inches of sand and 6 inches of water into a bucket and placed 2 mussels, lying flat on their sides on top of the sand. We then put the bucket in the shade sitting in a few inches of water to keep it cool.
Nothing happened while we watched so she was off exploring other things. Five minutes later we took another look and found both mussels to be standing on edge and puffing water out of their shells.
“They are making tracks in the sand in our bucket! Let’s put some more in.”
She was right. They had already made 4-inch long tracks in the sand. We had tested and proven our theory that these mussels had created at least some of the tracks that we had discovered. She was excited about her discovery.
Someday she will ask more questions about some of these discoveries. She will learn that mussels are important filter feeders that help keep our lakes and rivers cleaner. We did ask the locals about eating them but were discourage from doing so for two reasons. First, they are not as tasty as their saltwater relatives. Secondly, since they are long-lived filter feeders, pollutants from the burning of fossil fuels and storm water runoff that settle to the bottom of our lakes, can build up inside them making them distasteful and potentially harmful. That put a slight damper on things for me.
But we loved talking about our discovery of the day, amazed at how easy it was to discover something new to us, simply by exploring nature.