2 presentations at Howard County library branches seek to raise awareness about climate change
By Janene Holzberg
Baltimore Sun Media|
Nov 18, 2019 | 5:00 AM
Climate change presentations planned around the world during “24 Hours of Reality: Truth in Action” on Wednesday and Thursday could be advertised as crisis intervention sessions for people who want to help save the Earth.
They could also be described as informational talks by trained foot soldiers of former Vice President Al Gore, who — 13 years after the release of his Academy Award-winning documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth” — continues to warn of mankind’s role in global warming.
The website for the Climate Reality Project describes the day as “a global conversation on the truth of the climate crisis and how we solve it.”
No matter how the event is labeled, two local presentations on Thursday — one at Miller Branch library at 1 p.m. and the other at East Columbia Branch library at 7 p.m. — will seek to motivate Howard County residents to join the grassroots movement before the planet’s fate is sealed.
Maryland will host 21 presentations during the event’s 24-hour span, according to Dr. Frances Stewart, a chapter chairwoman in Montgomery County.
Montgomery County and the Baltimore area are home to the only two Climate Reality Project chapters in the state, though another is forming in Western Maryland, she said.
Agostino Schito, an information technology program manager who lives in Ellicott City, is encouraging residents to use their lunch break to attend his session from 1 to 2 p.m.
“I’m not a scientist and I’m not a journalist, but I asked myself how I could engage with people who are on the fence or who don’t know enough about the subject or what they can do,” he said. “This starts the conversation.”
The Climate Reality Project website explains what’s at stake.
“We’re facing a devastating climate crisis that’s already making storms increasingly powerful and frequent, shrinking global water supplies and helping diseases spread further and faster than ever before,” reads a statement on climatereality.org.
“Now scientists warn that unless we radically reduce fossil fuel emissions by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050, global warming could rise above 1.5 degrees Celsius and unleash a series of irreversible effects, transforming life as we know it and opening the door to unprecedented catastrophe,” the statement continues.
Schito, who immigrated to America from Italy in the early 1990s, attended Gore’s free leadership corps training in Minnesota in August.
“It was a very intense two days,” he said. “Al Gore is inspirational, engaging and compelling, and I left feeling excited and ready to take action.”
Schito, who is partnering with the Howard County Library System to present his event, said Gore split his training into three categories: the facts, the solution and a call to action.
People’s reactions to climate change “hinge on whether they perceive it as an emergency or not,” Schito said, adding he believes “humans’ impact on the environment is clear.”
The body of scientific data cannot be discounted, Schito said.
“While we can’t predict the science of climate change with 100% accuracy, the evidence is sufficient to say we need to take action,” he said. Part of his presentation will focus “on what society can do to start adapting and preventing worse catastrophes.”
Rohini Gupta, an adult curriculum specialist, said the library system is committed to collaborating on more information-based climate change events in 2020.
“We’re discussing expanding our offerings, perhaps by bringing in local scientists,” Gupta said. “We’re hoping this will grow in new directions.”
Audience members who fill out a form at Schito’s presentation will get a tree planted in their name by One Tree Planted, a Vermont-based nonprofit dedicated to global reforestation.
Ashley Woodward will give a presentation from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the East Columbia Branch library. Her talk is co-sponsored by the Sierra Club of Howard County, the Audubon Society of Central Maryland and the Community Ecology Institute.
An environmental health and safety consultant who lives in Elkridge, she attended Gore’s training in Atlanta in March.
“Al Gore has been fighting this fight for nearly 30 years with much resistance. Yet, he is still passionate about the issue and our need to act,” she said.
Woodward decided to get involved because reports to the United Nations from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on such topics as sea level rise, agricultural disruption, extreme weather events and decline of habitats “have confirmed that the time for action is now.”
“Although the topic can be overwhelming and induce a feeling of hopelessness, there is hope,” she said. “I want the audience to leave feeling empowered.”
Schito said one type of citizen response looms over others for its ability to make a lasting impact.
“The biggest action of all is to influence legislation,” he said. “There is much we can do with a larger, louder voice to bring about a meaningful response to the climate crisis at the political level.”