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Scientific surveys prove that rising carbon emissions are changing normal weather patterns, creating huge dead zones in the oceans, melting arctic glaciers and causing a host of other environmental problems.
Individually, we can do some things, and collectively, some things we have to do. For those of us who are concerned but sometimes feel overwhelmed and perplexed, here are some ideas based on experience:
Individually: For example, to lessen our “carbon footprint”, we:
- Grow lots of food. It saves money, provides exercise and, since we don’t use chemical fertilizers or pesticides, it’s friendly to the environment.
- Process lots of fruits and vegetables. We can and dry mostly because freezing uses energy and besides we often lose track of what we have in the freezer.
- Avoid packaged processed food. We mostly buy fresh or bulk, so we don’t have to worry about plastics leaching into our food or throw out tons of plastic packaging that often finds its way into the sea and fish.
- Prepare and cook from scratch so we have no need to heat up packaged food.
- Avoid factory-farmed meat because of the packaging and because of environmental damage at the feedlots.
- Reduce our water by using garden drip tapes and low-flow showerheads and toilets. Urban gardeners need to advocate for special water rates for growing food.
- Reduce electric usage with compact fluorescent bulbs and a low energy refrigerator.
- Shop at and donate to Thrift Stores.
- Practice the 4-R: ReUse, RePurpose, RePair, ReCycle.
- Reduce number of car trips. We bundle the need to travel, for shopping and meetings. No single purpose car trips.
- Study CC and organize presentations so I can write articles. Instead of talking, I would sing but I can’t carry a tune. (Use your individual talents to make a difference.)
- Vote Climate Change. We would like to identify politicians who will work to mitigate for climate change. As 350.org founder Bill McKibben says, “First change your politicians, then worry about your lightbulbs.” (pg 252 A. Leonard in Is Sustainability Still Possible?)
Greening small daily activities brings our actions in line with our values, which feels good, but is lots easier than compared with changing our society that is heading toward an ecological cliff. Example: Of all the gross national trash, > 3% is municipal solid waste (our garbage), while 76% is from industrial waste. Who will change that? Our government? Our corporate industrial system? Us? Ibelieve that we must continue our little individual changes while working on societal change. Wendell Berry says, “The government might even do the right thing at last by imitating the people.” (YES! Spring 2015, pg 47.)
Collectively: Social collective action will be key in mitigating the worst effects of climate change. We organize, or sooner or later spontaneous revolts will erupt over food, water or disaster relief, resulting in anarchy. Some thoughts:
- Start with the group you know best and feel comfortable with, i.e. your church group, social clubs, your children’s groups.
- Start local with your community, neighborhood schools, City of Redding, Shasta County. Most important, advocate for including Climate Change in education.
- Start with activities that are realistic. Green your church, home, or business. Educate your groups and the youth who will be the future leaders. Set up study/action groups, start a film series. Write letters or tweet our politicians.
- Start with the current climate problem, California’s historic drought. Advocate for water conservation while making allowances for growing food. Advocate “Food not Lawns.” Learn watering saving techniques and then help your neighbors.
One reason why I’m concern about Climate Change is that I feel guilty. The generations of my time (the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s) embraced an economic system that is causing global warming and climate change. First, we rejected our parent’s materialism and embraced the Hippies, but then we gradually became Yuppies, co-opted by the power of advertising and personal wants. We wanted all the new gadgets even with their-built in obsolescence.
Now we’re faced with the consequences of all the consumer stuff, leaving a legacy of a deteriorating planet for our kids to deal with. If they don’t fix Climate Change, they will have no one else to blame.
Wayne Kessler is the former owner of Shambani Organics, former Peace Corps volunteer, and founding member of Growing Local.