Thursday, March 27, 2014

A revolution that can change the world, one backyard at a time

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Southwest Michigan's Second Wave Media
March 27, 2014

Tom Small (Photo by Erik Holladay)

As the world changes at a pace that is impossible to keep up with, a grassroots movement wants to help communities cope with what's ahead. Zinta Aistars has the story on the Transition Movement. 

Even fans of snow say this past winter has been a bone chiller. In fact, it's been one of the warmest winters on record. 

"It's been the fourth warmest January on record for the globe," says Tom Small. "That's the big picture people keep missing. The polar vortex was caused by the warming temperatures far up north."

Tom Small is professor emeritus of English at Western Michigan University, but he has a second passion that in retirement years has grown to be his foremost work. 

Small spends his time now teaching others about climate change and offering suggestions for what he calls a Climate Action Plan. 

"I'm still a teacher," he says. "It's who I am."

He, along with his late wife Nancy Cutbirth Small, is the author of "Using Native Plants to Restore Community in Southwest Michigan and Beyond," a project he completed after her death in 2009. 

The Smalls also co-founded the Kalamazoo area chapter of Wild Ones, or KAWO, a nonprofit organization that encourages people to learn about and plant native plants.

Going native is a large part of Small's Climate Action Plan, a plan he has been sharing in a busy schedule of presentations. 

Two recent presentations have included "Biodiversity and Climate Change: Towards a Climate Action Plan for Kalamazoo," "Climate Change and the Transition Movement to Resilient Community," and a public conference called "Biodiversity and Climate Change: Towards a Climate Action Plan for Kalamazoo," sponsored by Kalamazoo Nature Center and Kalamazoo Area Wild Ones.  

Small is in his second year of presenting a two-year series, "Saving Native Plant Diversity: Promoting and Preserving Biodiversity," that he offers on Wednesdays at 7 p.m., at First United Methodist Church, 212 Park Street, downtown Kalamazoo.

Small and his current wife Ruth also take people on field trips to various preserves and nature areas, including their personal gardens. An upcoming presentation will be held April 26 at W. K. Kellogg Biological Station, 3700 East Gull Lake Drive in Hickory Corners, as part of Garden Education Day.

Returning to native plants, Small says, is part of the growing Transition Movement,  a grassroots movement that seeks to build community resilience in the face of such challenges as peak oil, climate change, and the economic crisis.

"Although we're not doing it fast enough. We are losing bees, butterflies, plants--our biodiversity is decreasing. That's dangerous. Diversity is what gives a system resilience. Resilience is how we handle a crisis. A monoculture is very vulnerable to destruction."

The Transition Movement goal, Small explains, is to ...


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