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The spelling is imperfect, but the card and note inside are priceless. My grandfather sent the card to me while I was away at overnight camp. Somehow, I have managed to hold onto it and other letters from home (more about those in another post) throughout several moves and numerous decades.

But my Poppy’s P.S. on this card comes to mind whenever we have a heat wave.

Other than his interesting spelling — which I’m just now noticing — I am also focusing on his choice of words, especially the word “one.” Back in the early- to mid- 1960s when the card was sent, we’d have the occasional oppressive day here in the Boston area — a real scorcher. It almost always cooled down at night and the extreme heat rarely lasted more than a day or two.

This week has been one of several this summer when we’ve had a whole string of days with high humidity and temperatures reaching well into the 90s. A few mornings ago, I walked into our kitchen to find that the outdoor thermometer read 80 degrees. “One day soon we’ll be waking to 90 degrees,” I commented gloomily to my husband. Indeed, I am dripping as I write this from my non-air-conditioned home office.

Many of you know that I write about climate change, air pollution, and their effects on children’s health for Moms Clean Air Force. But while I think everyone should understand the facts about climate change, I also want them to know that we can design, build, and act smarter so that future summer mornings don’t have to be even more oppressive than the ones we are living through now.*

I am fascinated by the idea of understanding and planning for the environmental impacts of what we do. While we must continue to demand that our representatives in Congress crack down on corporate polluters, and that both of our presidential candidates address this issue, I also find it comforting to talk about how we can do better in the future.

That is why I recently interviewed my former high school classmate, writer and historian Catherine Tumber, about how small cities may hold the answers for greener living.

“Renewable energy requires land for solar farms and wind turbines,” she told me. “And next generation hydropower requires special waterways. These smaller cities have those resources, making them a great asset to environmental health. Coal energy is a big polluter. These places have the resources to develop the alternative if we just have the political will.”

You can find Cathy’s book, Small, Gritty, and Green here.

My grandfather would be just as proud of me for writing about these issues as he and my mother were of his big fish in the photo below.  And he would be horrified to know that there would be a question about the safety of eating any fish I catch today.

He adored his grandchildren as I will my own if and when they materialize. And I’ll want to make sure they have the extras like he did (note the “Enclosed $1.00 for the cat’s milk”), but I also want them to have something that isn’t an “extra” at all: A planet where they can play outside, breath easy, catch—and even eat—a big fish or two.

*In this week’s New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert explains that global warming works on a time delay, writing “Behind this summer’s heat are greenhouse gases emitted decades ago.” She also notes that “Both President Obama and Mitt Romney have chosen to remain silent on the [climate change] issue, presumably because they see it as just too big a bummer.”