Nothing reminds me of home like Rosedale Park. Whether it was going on fall picnics with my family, fishing at the lake with my grandfather, or running through piles of multicolored leaves during fall cross-country races, Rosedale has served as the backdrop of many happy memories. But now, more than ever before, there is a hidden danger lurking in my beloved park.
They can be as small as a poppy seed and will crawl all over your body before they find the perfect place to sink their teeth in. They can can jump from one host to another, infecting you with harmful bacteria found in mice and deer. They're ticks, and the the worst part about them is still on the horizon: warmer temperatures caused by climate change mean a surge in tick populations and a higher incidence of the diseases they carry.
About two years ago, my County Executive Brian Hughes issued a warning for my hometown in central New Jersey. Warmer and wetter springs lead to an increased tick and mosquito population, meaning the insects now posed an even greater threat.
I never took him seriously, until my little sister found a rash on her stomach and was diagnosed with Lyme disease.
She never even saw a tick.
We immediately had it treated because we knew the symptoms of Lyme could vary drastically from the “bull’s-eye” shaped rash she had, to more serious musculoskeletal and neurological symptoms, like blindness.
My family suspects the tick latched onto her at Rosedale.
This major tick issue isn’t just isolated to my area. According to the National Climate Assessment, “several studies in the Northeast have linked tick activity and Lyme disease incidence to climate.” In fact, the EPA states the incidence of Lyme disease has doubled since 1991.
To combat this invasion of disease-ridden insects, families in my area are taking precautions to stay healthy and safe. These include frequently using bug spray, wearing long-sleeve clothing, and helping children check themselves for ticks.
Although these steps are important, they do not address the root of the problem: climate change. People need to start getting serious about reducing their greenhouse gas emissions in order to keep their parks and communities safe and healthy environments.
So, next time you’re thinking of taking your dog to the park or going on a picnic, instead of just grabbing bug spray think about ways you can reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change has serious consequences, and by taking steps to end global warming we’ll be able to rest easier at our favorite park.