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GeorgievaBy Kalina Georgieva

Kalina Georgieva is a freshman at UNC-Chapel Hill majoring in Biology.

Editor’s Note:  As part of UNC Professor Elizabeth Sasser’s Public Policy class students were given an assignment to write an opinion piece highlighting a current environmental issue.  Kalina Georgieva chose to write an op-ed about climate change and submitted it to her hometown paper in Waynesville, NC. What follows is the op-ed which was originally published in The Mountaineer on March 22, 2020.

Our climate is rapidly changing, so what repercussions will our local economy face?

Haywood County relies on a unique blend of agriculture and tourism to financially support the region. This support is being threatened by the national scientific consensus between agencies on global warming. Regardless of whether you believe climate change is real, our economy will, and already has, began to face the impacts.

Haywood County highlighted in red
Haywood County highlighted in red.

Cataloochee Ski Area, a local favorite, regularly brings consumers into our quaint town of Maggie Valley. Rising temperatures make it difficult for the ski area to sustain snow coverage and to attract visitors from surrounding areas. Without customers, small business owners will struggle to keep restaurants, shops, motels, and attractions open and may be forced to close. This will put dedicated people out of work and decrease the jobs available in the community.

         Cataloochee Ski Area                                                  (Photo by Kalina Georgieva)
Cataloochee Ski Area. (Photo by Kalina Georgieva).

I recently moved to the Piedmont region to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I immediately missed our breathtaking mountains and the acres of beautiful farmland that lines Highway 209. This farmland and agriculture is an important stimulant for our economy and will be affected by climate change.

States like California are already weathering the effects of global warming. Record breaking temperatures make it difficult to toil under the blazing sun. Soil has become dry and more water is needed to continue growing the plants we need for food.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has already warned of the decline in crop yields, water availability and soil erosion.

We’re 2,446 miles away on the opposite side of the country. How would their already hot climate affect us?

California is equipped to produce food on the national level, so their agricultural struggles indicate that regions like us will not be spared either. We will need to make adjustments, such as more efficient irrigation techniques, thus increasing farming costs and raising the price of produce we buy.

For the most part, our community is currently protected from natural disasters such as tornadoes and hurricanes. However, NASA has stated that more frequent and intense precipitation is beginning along with unpredictable weather patterns. Our crops will be unable to survive continuous heavy rainfall and then sudden unpredictable freezes and droughts.

As the fear of what’s in store for our county and planet sets in, you might ask what we can do to help.

There are several small things that we can each do in our daily lives. Consider using reusable, not disposable, products and turning off appliances to save electricity. While these things are certainly eco-friendly, they are not enough to offset the billions of tons of carbon dioxide being emitted.

Our planet needs immediate action on the national and global stage. It is our right as Americans to vote freely, so I urge you to consider a candidate’s environmental policies when exercising your right.

View from the Blue Ridge Parkway. (Photo by Kalina Georgieva).
View from the Blue Ridge Parkway. (Photo by Kalina Georgieva).

There is indisputable scientific evidence of climate change. It may or may not be due to the actions of humans, but it is changing and changing quickly. It’s hard to imagine how our small town could be impacted by such a broad event. Both of the fundamental areas of our economy will feel the effects of global warming in the near future. Immediate action must be taken in the form of voting and public policy in order to preserve the place that we all call home.

I have spent my entire life growing up here and I know Waynesville. I know that the people here are driven, hard-working, and I have no doubt that we can enact the change that is desperately needed.

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