BRADENTON - On a brilliant Saturday morning, Judy Karkhoff stood at her table at the entrance to Robinson Preserve and asked people to do what they were planning to do anyway: walk.
|The tower at Robinson Preserve.
On the International Day of Climate Action, Karkhoff said a number of people signed petitions and letters to President Barack Obama, calling on him to take action on climate change.
Several did, including Bill and Sue Wait of Palmetto.
"We're here to check out this program they're having today," Bill Wait said.
They live on the Manatee River, and Bill said he sees the impact of change.
"We can see changes as a result of storm action, which is a natural occurrence, and things are changing. The environment is changing. We need to be aware of it and we need to take a positive, proactive approach to that so we can help the environment and co-exist with it," he said. "I don't think there's enough people who are really paying attention to it. Most people are concerned about day-to-day existence, not necessarily what the future holds."
Sue Wait said that climate change is a problem that needs to be dealt with.
"I think it's great. I hope they get more people than they have so far," she said, and that there must be progress on the issue. "I think there's some (progress), but I think it's minimal because the largest portion of the population isn't tuned into the whole thing, but hopefully it's getting better.
|Judy Karkhoff, right, shows Sue Wait where to sign in.
"But there's also a large population, particularly on the Internet, that thinks it's foolish and a hoax, so you never know."
The day was backed by a Web site, 350.org. The "350" is the highest safe number of parts per million of carbon dioxide, the site said.
"It's the number humanity needs to get back to as soon as possible to avoid runaway climate change," the site said in its question-and-answer section.
Above 350, we're not doomed because it's like a person finding out he's overweight or his cholesterol is too high.
"The planet is in its danger zone because we've poured too much carbon into the atmosphere, and we're starting to see signs of real trouble: melting ice caps, rapidly spreading drought," the site said. "We need to scramble back as quickly as we can to safety."
The solution is international agreement to reduce carbon emissions fast, the site said.
"2009 might be our best shot. The United Nations is working on a global climate treaty, which is supposed to be completed in December of 2009 at a conference in Copenhagen, Denmark," the site said. "But the current plans for the treaty are much too weak to get us back to safety. This treaty needs to put a high enough price on carbon that we stop using so much. It also needs to ensure poor countries a fair chance to develop."
Back to nature
The Waits and other folks - some just walkers and bike riders who regularly traverse the trails - set a fairly rapid pace through the preserve. The marked trails wind around and the tower is visible but accessible by a roundabout route. Bill Wait decided to climb the stairs to the top of the tower, while his wife walked across a bridge on a trail that ends at the Manatee River.
|Sue Wait, left, and Bill walk the start of the trail at the Robinson Preserve.
At the tower, one man was doing his daily exercise, climbing the stairs to the top, then descending, then climbing again. Wait went up slowly, and the view at the top was breathtaking on a clear Saturday morning. Far in the distance, the Sunshine Skyway shimmered; close by, the waterways shone blue, and far below, you could see the small bodies of people walking or biking the trails.
In the preserve, the eagles' nests were visible, and the water trails were blocked to keep people away from the eagles and their young.
Occasionally, a mullet would break the water, go airborne, and then land with a slap. Overhead, other birds circled. The rest of the world seemed far away.
Bill Wait is a retired Army colonel who worked in logistics. His service took him around the world.
He and his wife are very concerned about the environment. "I think we need to get tuned in as a country, and as a nation, and as the world, to what's going on," he said.
Soon, he descended the tower and set off on the trail his wife had followed.
|Long beyond the Robinson Preserve, the Sunshine Skyway shone in the morning light.
Saving the birthright
Back at the entrance, Karkhoff said several people had signed up. While a pair of Toyota Priuses bearing kayaks turned in and the occupants launched their boats, she tried to recruit more people to sign up.
Joy Kay, a friend of Karkhoff's, said a lot is at stake in the world today, and she wants to save the environment for her children.
"It's our responsibility to preserve what is our birthright," she said. "We're going to just march ourselves right off this planet if we don't take care of home."
To her, the planet is a home like the houses people live in, and it needs to be cared for.
"I see the planet as my home, and I'm responsible for doing my part," she said, noting that she eats vegan and was carrying a bottle containing a greenish liquid. "Everything affects us globally. We can't even think just continental, it's global.
"I see the planet as my home, and I'm responsible for doing my part."
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