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Climate Change: The Challenge of Our Generation

Colora, Cecil County, Maryland — On December 6, 2017 at West Nottingham Academy, Dr. Mike Hoffmann, Executive Director of Cornell Climate Smart Solutions spoke to the Cecil Conservation Partnership. (See below for event summary.)

Human caused climate change is upon us and the evidence is everywhere, including rising sea levels, melting glaciers, more extreme weather events, and increasing temperatures. In his presentations, Dr. Hoffmann covers the basics of climate change and how the changing climate is affecting many aspects of our lives and in particular, our abundant and diverse food supply including some of our favorites, from pasta to peaches. Climate change is a national security issue, a food security issue, and a moral issue.  Addressing this grand challenge requires “all hands on deck” including universities, government agencies, faith based organizations, and the public.

“I change people’s perspectives on climate change by making it relevant to their lives,” explains Dr. Hoffmann. “This ranges from making it personal to explaining how climate change is affecting what people eat.”

Dr. Mike Hoffman of Cornell Climate Solutions
Dr. Mike Hoffmann

The Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions was created to help raise the profile of the challenges posed by a rapidly warming climate and to help those who grow our food adapt to the changing conditions as well as reduce their carbon footprint. As Executive Director, Mike Hoffmann provides visionary leadership, communicates to a wide range of audiences the challenges and opportunities that come with a changing climate, and builds partnerships among public and private organizations.

Hoffmann has also served as Director of the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station, Associate Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Associate Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension, and Director of the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program. He is a Professor in the Department of Entomology where he has focused on ecologically-based management of insect pests.

Cecil Land Trust is a conservation organization that has helped to permanently protect approximately 3,000 acres in Cecil County. CLT is committed to raising awareness about the importance of conserving northeastern Maryland’s farms, forests, waters and historical heritage now and for future generations through education, outreach and community partnerships.

As a conservation organization, Cecil Land Trust takes the threats, challenges, and opportunities presented by climate change seriously. Educating the community about climate change means a better response more quickly and better outcomes for our community.

Event Summary

Dr. Hoffman began his talk to the 40 Cecil Conservation Partners and neighbors gathered in West Nottingham Academy’s dining hall by asking everyone to think of a child or grandchild they care about, whisper their name, and then say that name aloud. “This is why we care about climate change; it’s their future.”

Speaker introduction at CCP meeting
Virginia Kennedy, Member of the CLT Board, introduces Dr. Michael Hoffmann.
Audience listening to presentation
Cecil Conservation Partners and neighbors listen to Dr. Hoffmann’s presentation.

Dr. Hoffman jokes that he grew up on a small Wisconsin dairy farm—with one cow. After one year of college he joined the Marines and went to Vietnam, came home, back to college, and was hired by Cornell, where he now is the Executive Director of Cornell Climate Smart Solutions. His 2014 TedTalk encapsulates the presentation he gave at WNA.

In short, the scientific facts and figures show man-made carbon dioxide levels have already made devastating climate changes. These changes are testified to by ice, which ‘neither argues, or denies, but simply melts.’ (See Henry Pollack’s book, A World Without Ice.)

Evidence of climate-caused changes to the protein content of grains world-wide is crucial in a world where just feeding everyone is going to be a challenge. As increasingly will be the melting of glaciers which are a critical source of irrigation water for much of the world’s cropland.

The promise of this talk was to outline crises AND opportunities. So, while Dr. Hoffman sees agriculture in the cross-hairs of increasing temperatures, water supplies, wildfires, and erratic, violent weather events, he also notes that growing zones have changed. Already there are 2 more weeks in Cecil County’s growing season than there were 50 years ago. Such warming trends have also limited the days of winter chill needed to grow many stone fruits so that apples may be a food of the past in North America.

Food supply “chokepoints” were discussed relative to increasing issues with food security and tightening supplies, and Dr. Hoffman stressed the need for all to become familiar with our food sources and how vulnerable they are to climate change and the resultant political upheaval from famine across a continent or an ocean.

Mary Pipher’s The Green Boat asks that we become AWARE, ACCEPT the facts, and ACT. 97% of scientists agree we need to act, now. Dr. Hoffman closed his presentation with a reminder: “Don’t ever forget that young person whose name you whispered—you act for them.”

We thank the West Nottingham Academy for their generous hospitality in hosting Wednesday’s event, Bill Kilby for providing fresh, local milk, and all who traveled to hear Dr. Hoffman and to meet with other conservation partners to find our common voice.

© Cornell University