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Purtell column: Rowan will have to learn to fend for itself

Possibly the most important comment made during Wednesday’s community forum on economic development wasn’t made by any of the speakers.

It came during the question and answer part of the event. A man, I didn’t get his name, stood up and talked briefly about climate change and the problems it will pose in the future.

His point, I think, was that we shouldn’t plan for the future based on the way things are now, but instead plan for how the world will be.

Climate change, as a vast majority of the credible science on the topic shows, will result in a planet that is harder to survive on in the coming century and beyond.

Leading figures on the issue constantly say that if climate change continues to go mostly unchecked and humanity doesn’t start to drastically change the way we live on the planet then the results, well, could be apocalyptic.

But, let’s get back to Wednesday and the point the gentleman was making.

The community forum was about people from across the county coming together to learn about and discuss ways to move the county forward economically. People talked about the most pressing issues facing the county — the need to improve education, lower poverty rates and bring good jobs to the area were some.

These things can’t be accomplished overnight — they require long-term planning. And, in that long-term planning, the effects of climate change need to be taken into account.

A lot of talk at the forum was about finding a place in the global economy. But if the ravages of climate change lead to a breakdown in the global economy, the county will need to become more self efficient and self reliable.

Rowan County, and every other community, will need to learn to take care of itself.

The county will have to harness its local resources, which also means those resources need to be protected and nourished.

Dependable crop land and reliable water sources will be become more scarce in the coming decades — just look at what’s happening with the drought in California. Every effort should be made to protect what we have now.

Thankfully, there are people and organizations, like the LandTrust for Central North Carolina, working to preserve what we have left. Continued support for these organizations will be crucial.

Things like community gardens and backyard gardens, which are already growing in use, should be promoted. Knowing how to grow your own food could become a necessity for future generations.

What we take for granted now — access to clean water and cheap energy — in the future might not be available at the turn of a faucet or flip of a switch. We’ll have to adjust and adapt to an unfriendly planet.

Presently, it is the poorest people on the planet who are suffering the worst from the effects of climate change. And this will continue. So finding ways to bring people out of poverty should be a top priority in Rowan.

The encouraging thing about the forum was that a diverse range of the community was represented — because, in a difficult future, it will take everyone in the community doing his and her part for a decent life to be possible.

While Rowan works to find its place in the global economy, it would be smart to start figuring out how to survive in our own little world.

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