It’s allergy season. As someone whose entire existence is decimated by the invisible pollinated particles that infiltrate Chicago’s air come spring, I know this season all too well. It’s the season of endlessly stuffy noses, eyes that never stop itching and drainage that never stops dripping.
But this year may be worse than usual. While perusing some local news sites for first-blog-inspiration (yay!), I came across a Block Club Chicago article that made my heart sink into my already-congested chest (not yay). In short, the article said this: We’re in for a drier, warmer spring than usual, which typically means higher levels of pollen. Higher levels of pollen = higher levels of allergy-related misery.
The writer said that climate change is likely the perpetrator.
Climate change and what that means
Climate change is something I think about often. Yes, because it’s a hot topic and ever-looming threat, but also because I consider myself one of the least equipped people to survive even the most basic dilemmas presented by adverse climate.
What I mean by adverse climate is broader than you might think. Climate change certainly causes hurricanes, wildfires and droughts, but it also can be as seemingly small as longer summers and shorter winters—or longer winters and shorter summers. The terminology was changed from “global warming,” which is what many of us recognize from our middle school science classes, to “climate change” to get across the point that it’s not just over-glorified warm weather.
With a deviated septum that makes it hard to breath when the weather gets even just a little too warm, it’s not hard to imagine myself in one of these scenarios fulfilling the survival of the fittest theory—and not in the way that I’d prefer.
Chicago and climate change
My own impending doom was what got me thinking: is Chicago prepared to help people survive climate change, and if not, what are our lawmakers doing about it?
Climate change is not really widely discussed in Chicago. Given our central location in America and access to fresh water, the threats we face are not as apparent as the ones that face coastal cities like Boston or Los Angeles. Besides the Tribune’s new climate change beat reporter, Tony Briscoe, there aren’t many voices noting the problem and advocating for action.
Our incoming city government will set the precedent for how Chicago takes on climate change, and young people will be dealing with whatever ramifications come out of both action and inaction. Here’s a look at what they plan to do about climate change.
Bringing back the Environment Department
In 2011, soon-to-be former mayor Rahm Emanuel disbanded the city’s Environment Department. By breaking apart the department, the Emanuel administration hoped to spread sustainability into all the city’s facets, instead of keeping it as one group’s job and their job alone. But it led to some oversight, as this year alone it was revealed that Chicago has seriously subpar recycling habits and lots of homes have lead in their water. Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot plans to bring back the Environment Department to combat some of these things, according to a press release.
Focus on saving energy
Lightfoot said in the same press release that she wants to get the city back on track as a net zero energy city. The goal is rather ambitious for 5 years, but if you’ve seen the Global Climate Report—yes, the terrifying one that gives us 10 years to get our act together before it’s too late—it’s right on track. Part of her initiative includes renovating public buildings to be energy efficient and utilizing smart technologies. She also hopes to encourage local businesses and residents to follow the same path, albeit on a slightly slower trajectory. Lucky for you, I wrote another article explaining what the heck smart buildings are and how they could shape the world’s future.
Follow a climate action plan
Most of what Lightfoot has to say on the topic is pretty similar to the Chicago Climate Action Plan, though some of the plan’s concepts are set to be sped up under Lightfoot’s administration. Former mayor Richard M. Daley spearheaded a task force to investigate the best way to keep Chicago on track, but not much from their original plan has been achieved. And the website looks like it hasn’t been updated since about 2011, which is never a good sign.
All in all, Chicago is giving climate action a shot. Whether it’s enough, though, is something we likely would never know until it’s too late. So blow your nose and take a Zyrtec—there’s work to do.