A dog's-eye view of climate change

#ClimateEdNowWhen you are a full-time fun professional, as I am, climate change can be extremely challenging. Changes in the climate are having a big impact on a lot of activities that are really fun.

Take swimming, for example. I love to swim, and when I can’t go to the beach (because my staff say I bring too much sand home!), we go to a freshwater reservoir in McClaren Park, the second biggest park in my hometown, San Francisco. But last year, when California was going through yet another year of way-below-average rainfall and above-average temperatures, the reservoir water warmed up and toxic algae began to grow. I couldn’t go swimming there for almost two months!

Doesn't this look fun? Stupid algae!

Another fun thing I like to do is chase tennis balls. But when the weather is extra hot and dry, many kinds of plants just can’t survive. So plants that don’t mind those conditions take over. One of those plants in my neighborhood is called foxtail. It’s a grass with devilishly prickly seed heads that stick in dogs’ fur, ears, paws, and noses, and once they’re stuck, they worm their way in deeper. I have a lot of fun dog friends that have had to have surgery to have them removed. So far, that hasn’t happened to me, but when the foxtails are around, there really isn’t any place safe to play fetch.

I pass this patch of foxtails on my daily walk. Even if there’s a tennis ball in there, I have to just walk on by.

Finally, climate change makes it more likely that there will be days when it’s just plain impossible to play outside at all. In 2020, there were terrible wildfires near San Francisco and the smoke made it unsafe to be outdoors. One day the smoke was so thick that the sun didn’t seem to come up at all!

This is what the sky looked like outside my house during the bad wildfires.

So climate change is making it harder and harder to have fun.

But, like I said, I’m a professional, so I have discovered something that is really fun, and that is learning about climate change. For example, the National Center for Science Education (where I am the Director of Fun) has a bunch of really cool lessons that help human puppies learn about climate change. I like the one about the relationship between climate change and extreme weather events like drought and heat waves. There’s an activity in which the human puppies throw dice to show that climate change makes many kinds of extreme events more likely. I’ve gotten pretty good at throwing a squeaky die, and then checking to see how it landed. It’s really fun.

It’s not easy to throw dice when you don’t have opposable thumbs, but a fun professional will always find a way!

What I think is that all the human puppies should learn about climate change and grow up to fix it so that all us fun professionals can go back to doing the things we do best. And that’s why I think that now is the right time for climate education.

Read other essays from our #ClimateEdNow series.

Buster Yamamoto
Short Bio

Buster Yamamoto Reid is NCSE's Director of Fun.

buster@ncse.ngo