I believe in all that is small. Small is Rhode Island, small is beautiful, small is powerful, and small is the future of our tiny state and the planet.
I came to Little Rhody to teach and do research at our state university in 2001 when the scientific story about global change was starting to become clearer and clearer—to scientists, at least. The university graciously gave me the freedom to co-lead a large expedition to the North Pole to recover a record of the Earth’s past climate that was stored deep beneath this cold Arctic sea. This had never been done before and I worked with my colleagues to bring together several powerful ice-strengthened ships and the most capable team possible to overcome the challenges of working in these treacherous ice covered waters.
In the end, we were successful and the story that spoke to me about earlier Arctic climates was a turning point for me. I learned many things about climates of the past from this expedition, but most striking was learning that the frozen, ice-laden ocean on the top of our planet has been in existence for at least the past 13 million years. Yes, millions. Yet it may very soon disappear during summer time. This icy, white cap on top of planet Earth is not just window dressing, it reflects sunlight and helps to keep us cool. I like to call it Earth’s natural air conditioner. Without this frozen white lid, Earth will get even warmer.
This startling and direct evidence of our planet in peril moved me to resurrect thoughts, desires and ideas born in the late seventies when the concept of “small” emerged during the early days of the environmental movement. Back then, I learned about small, joined a food co-op, grew a garden, and reused and recycled. And now this concept has returned and crystalized into my belief in all things small to reduce my own contributions to greenhouse gas pollution and help others do the same.
As the tiniest state in the country, Rhode Islanders already know the great benefits of small, so expanding this thinking to help the planet is easy for us. Small is living a life consistent with a healthy planet—eating locally to nourish ourselves, walking and bicycling, and living in a small place.
Small is working with other dedicated Rhode Islanders from all walks of life and levels of authority to change our big ways of powering the state, converting from gas and oil to wind and solar. In the past few years, I’ve seen it myself—from the highest levels of state government to fishers to merchants to school teachers to state and town managers—many are moving to think and be “small.” Through people thinking small, Rhode Island is part of a regional greenhouse gas reduction effort. And Rhode Island is likely to be the first state to develop an offshore wind farm, a great example of a big project that leads us to becoming small.
And I firmly believe that little Rhody can continue to lead this revolution of “all things small” to save the planet.