The weather wake-up call
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Mother Nature is the equal opportunity offender. She cares little about your religion, race, status or income. Be it rain or snow, drought or hurricanes, — like the postman, Mother Nature visits each day to deliver her goods. These days, her goods are dangerous and deadly as weather woes cost property and lives.

From Nashville, Tenn. to Nantucket, Mass., to Texas to the top of Florida — weather volatility this season has, quite literally, taken our breath away. Battered Boston, frozen Maine, frigid Georgia, and cold Texas are only some of the hardest-hit places. All across the United States, the weather has disrupted and destroyed livelihoods and lifestyles. We awake to daily reports of Arctic air with historic low temperatures, snow squalls, thunder snow, snow bursts, ice storms, ice quakes and even ice volcanoes added to the new climate lexicon. The results are massive pile-ups of swerving vehicles, deadly accidents on sleds, hypothermia, dangerous conditions for drivers, walkers and for emergency personnel finding frozen hydrants and busted pipes along slippery bridges. Airplane delays, train tracks on ice and school buses slipping add another layer of worry.


So what can an ordinary citizen do? How can we help address the weather woes other than dress in more layers or stay under warm covers? The answers are simple:

1. Pay attention to underlying causes that are disrupting life on the planet we inhabit. Weather volatility has links to changes in climate. In a recent report by the New York City Panel on Climate Change, scientists predict that sea levels could rise four to eight inches in New York City beginning in 2020. We are back to debates over carbon emissions from high rises and industry.

Find ways to become involved in projects that move the planet forward in positive ways, like urban ecology. Work on issues related to clean air, clean water and clean energy. Whether it is a local campaign to clean up the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland or global efforts to address climate change, people need to become involved beyond listening to weather forecasts. Give money to environmental causes, offer to volunteer, write blogs and tweets about the planet.

2. Instill in your children the importance of working on global issues of sustainability. Teach them how to report about climate and food using their smartphones and tablets. Teach the value of nature and science.

3. Demand that media organizations report about sustainability issues more fully than they do. Seek out publications on green living or food safety. Invest in print and online media that have deep and sustained commitments to environmental reporting like National Geographic, Food Tank and other outlets that delve into stories about weather, agriculture, farming and climate. Do your own investigative research rather than accept myths about issues like genetically modified foods. Don't let opinion drive fact, which will only cloud your vision.

This is our planet — the only one we live on. Lets move the planet forward wisely. Who knows — maybe the sun will come out and shine upon all of Mother Nature's children.

Sonenshine is a former under secretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs. She is currently at George Washington University, where she works on Planet Forward, a consortium of schools addressing sustainability.