Our View: Climate book emphasizes Hoosier spirit, resilience | Opinion

Hoosiers often hold dear their inherent values ​​of practicality, resilience and good old common sense.

In 1986, the favorably-received “Indiana Way” by historian James H. Madison was published by Indiana University Press. In it, Madison showed how a collective spirit tied Hoosiers together over the decades.

Others have done the same, notably in the 1929 sociological study of Middletown, actually Muncie, by husband and wife Roger Staughton Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd.

They found a distinct difference — a “cleavage,” they called it — between Indiana’s working class and business class that defined one’s entire life and career. While individuals experience economic troubles, the texture of Indiana life does not shift.

Now there’s a new look at Hoosier attitudes and adaptability in “Climate Change and Resilience in Indiana and Beyond,” published this month by Indiana University Press. The book may eventually rank alongside the previous studies.

While its 233 pages are often heavy with scientific and sociological data, the book is ready to become a college textbook and a guide for those interested in tackling climate change.

At the end of each of its 12 chapters, Hoosiers are offered suggestions for ways to join the response to and possible correction of climate change. Gloom and doom take a back seat to hope.

There is little wonder why IU Press jumped on these timely essays, as it was edited by Janet McCabe, former director of IU’s Environmental Resilience Institute (ERI) and now deputy administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency; Gabriel Filippelli, professor of earth sciences at IU; and IU Professors Kimberly Novick and James Shanahan.

Of late, IU’s ERI has become the state’s leading climate research repository. It administers the Hoosier Life Survey of 2,700 respondents, which found in part that 58% of the population believe that environmental change is adversely affecting Americans.

However, few Hoosiers anticipate being impacted by a major disease outbreak in the next decade; instead most were concerned about the economy.

ERI has replaced the once-vibrant Purdue Climate Change Research Center, which faded from view after issuing extensive studies on Indiana’s climate challenges. It has not issued an annual report since 2020. Its two chief communicators have moved to other roles.

That absence makes this book crucial in providing direction for units of government, businesses, farmers, urban dwellers and rural residents or, in general, everyone.

There are dozens of positive takeaways.

Emphasizing that diversity leads to stability and resilience, two essays discuss ways to improve the Indiana landscape. Homeowners can plant prairie grass or wildflowers in their lawns to attract birds and other pollinators. Farmers can use cover crops to prevent wind-eroding sandy soils.

Despite constantly reminding Hoosiers of the dire consequences of climate change — more days of extreme heat, more extreme rain events, increased health risks and reduced agricultural production — the authors remain hopeful that Indiana residents will display a can-do response.

“Climate Change and Resilience in Indiana and Beyond” is certainly a call to action. It is also a reminder of the community spirit that can unite Hoosiers in saving our environment.


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