Aspen Conference Explores “The New Normal”

Written by Frank Lowenstein on . Posted in Learn

Editor’s Note: Frank Lowenstein, The Nature Conservancy’s Climate Adaptation Strategy Leader, is speaking at a Forests at Risk symposium (#FAR2012 to follow on Twitter) following the Aspen Environmental Forum. His talk will focus on forests and water, the need for policy to address the loss of nature’s benefits for people, and on-the-ground solutions to managing nature for resilience amid climate change. In today’s post, he shares his perspective on the emerging themes at the Aspen environmental gathering.

The Aspen Environmental Forum is perhaps the United States’ leading thought gathering focused on environmental issues. This year, it’s about the new normal.

Not only have we all noticed changes in our weather, our water, our gardens and our climate; turns out the federal government has actually started publishing rolling assessments of “normal” weather. So when you hear that temperatures are higher than “normal,” that’s now based on data from 1980-2010, which are about a degree and a half higher than 1970-2000.

That heat changes everything - the availability of water (especially in the West), the height of heat waves, the management of natural systems from your backyard to the vast Crown of the Continent landscape, the agricultural practices we need to maintain our food supply, and a million other aspects of our world that we have counted on for decades.

This is hard to cope with, and denial is an understandable response. So the North Carolina Senate’s recent unsuccessful effort to legislate that the sea isn’t rising is understandable. If wrong-headed.

Again and again the panelists here in Aspen have turned to the fact that our politics has failed us and that we have not just a scientific problem, or an industrial problem, but a problem of finding political sense, so we can safeguard our society and that of the world.

Frank Lowenstein is Climate Adaptation Strategy Leader for The Nature Conservancy

Photo © Mark Godfrey/TNC (A young Leopard frog encounters a dying stream bed during a drought in the lower central plains of Missouri.)

Inset photo courtesy of Frank Lowenstein (Frank Lowenstein in California).

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Comments (1)

  • Johanna Keefe


    I am interested in what folks have to say about Fracking for Natural Gas. I recently viewed the movie, Gasland, and was terrified, and extremely sad, that our government under Obama has been turning a blind eye to this devastation to our water supply and making people very sick. As a holistic nurse, I cannot imagine how our public health officials are justifying this! Any and all comments about this concern and what is being done to safegaurd our country’s water supply is deeply appreciated.


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