"Pre-Ramble" This is an article about climate change, which I have used photos from my recent trip to Alaska as a backdrop. I realize that for many, the terms "Climate Change," and "human caused climate change" are taboo phrases in certain places. If you are one of those people, this article is not for you. Please stick around and view the photos - I hope you like them. If you are someone who believes the scientific consensus that climate change is a real thing and want to do something to be helpful - in a big or small way, then please read on. Also, even if you don't believe all of the science but are open to the idea that maybe the earth is heating up in a way that is unprecedented in the last 1000 years, and that maybe our behavior has something to do with it, then I welcome you to read on. I do warn everyone that at some point I am going to make a political pitch or two - because ultimately I believe we need to be active in the ballot box to make change. If you don't want to read what I say, don't. This is my website. I have never commercialized it. I get to say what I want.
**The bold blue words throughout this article are hyperlinks that I included to show where I am referencing any assertions that I have made.**
I see Climate Change as the existential threat for the human race. I base this on evidence that the rapidly changing climate is already seen as causing profound impacts on the other animals that share this planet with us - and that is very upsetting to me. According to a July 2019 study published by Nature,
having reviewed a mind numbing 10,090 abstracts and extracted data from 71 studies reported in 58 relevant publications, it showed that "the evolutionary load imposed by incomplete adaptive responses to ongoing climate change may already be threatening the persistence of species." According to NASA
, the current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is "extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia." In short, this is our mess and we need to find a way to clean it up.
Presidential Candidate, Andrew Yang, recently said at a Democratic Debate that stopping climate change is unrealistic - and that we need to put our resources into learning how to live with it - and mitigate it. I was initially skeptical of this, but sadly I came across another article from the NASA Website
that confirms this. I am not sure why most of the political candidates out there are talking about stopping climate change if it is inevitable...but more on that later. It may be too late to stop climate change. That does not mean that we cannot mitigate its effects though. The point of this article is to talk about what we all can do - today - to help reduce our carbon footprint. Sadly, it may seem from all of the misinformation that it is not worth doing anything. Let's be honest, taking shorter showers or driving more fuel efficient vehicles has about as much joy as a root canal, and it ultimately may feel futile. However, in years of working with others, I have learned that I have no power over anyone but myself. I also know that working collectively can build profound and powerful change. With all that aside, here are some things we can all do today!
(1) Try to use less fossil fuels. I realize that this is a no-brainer. Fossil Fuels account for approximately 64% of greenhouse gas emissions. Studies show
that over the life of a vehicle - including the cost of production and processing that hybrid vehicles will emit approximately 35% less emissions over the course of 160,000 miles. OK, that sounds great. What next? Time to get a big loan and buy a new Prius? That's great if you can afford it. However, there are other ways to do this that are more practical for most of us who cannot just go out and buy a new vehicle. Carpooling is not a new concept - and it works. It builds friends and community, decreases fuel costs and still allows people to get around in comfort. For those who drive, use apps that help you get around traffic jams. Any time spent idling is literally just throwing money down the drain in regards to fuel as well as loading the environment with contaminants. Also, try to drive steadily without smashing your foot on the gas and brakes. Inconsistent driving not only wastes gas, it pollutes the environment. How about not driving at all? Is that practical? Well - sometimes. Depending on where you live, public transportation may be a very effective option. Personally, I have started riding a bicycle to work. I ride about 6 miles each way to and from my job. Not only is it really healthy for me, I find that it is actually quite efficient. Using peddle power - I can get back and forth to the office almost as quickly as the subway or driving - though the harder I push, the sweatier I get.
On days when it is raining - or when the weather is very inclement - then I take the subway.
Some climate change advocates, like Greta Thunberg, call for not flying. I really respect the efforts that this young person made to come address the UN about climate change. Its the young people who are going to be most hurt by what we have allowed to happen. Unfortunately, I just don't think it is practical to take away the option of flying. Flying is a necessary evil, as far as I am concerned. However, if you do fly - fly coach instead of first class. Believe it or not,
"Business class is responsible for almost three times as many emissions as economy because in economy, the flight’s carbon emissions are shared among more passengers; first class can result in nine times more carbon emissions than economy." Now, I am not normally the sort of fellow that you will see in the First Class cabin....but that is for other reasons than my climate concerns. Also, to let the folks at Delta know, I will still gladly accept the upgrade.
I think it is pretty clear that I am not here calling for "environmental purity.' The photos for this article, for example, were all taken while on a cruise - and cruises are not exactly environmentally friendly.
In this situation, we were traveling to Alaska to celebrate my dad's 85th birthday, and I really see cruising as a great way to travel with family. I believe that pretty much everything in life is about having reasonable guidelines and principles that you follow over time - not necessarily requiring 100% fidelity at all times. To use a food analogy, I try to keep a very good and consistent diet and exercise regiment - but I allow myself the opportunity to have cheat meals. I guess I believe in making your principles about working for the long haul and trying to be consistent without being crazily rigid. Enjoy your trip - they are a lot of fun, if you are fortunate enough to be able to do it. We don't always need to be perfect - we just need to all try to be better...perhaps a lot better every day.
Fossil fuel consumption though is not just about planes and trains and automobiles. In most people's homes there are several electronic devices that are 'always on' even though we are not using them. We have TVs, chargers, wireless phones, cable and game boxes — unplugging them will definitely save electricity. As your light bulbs blow, replace them with LEDs, which last longer and use less electricity. The last area that can help with decreasing consumption of fossil fuels is - and you are going to hear a theme here - is decreasing on meat consumption. No, its not that farmers are filling feed lots with petroleum products. There are petrochemicals in fertilizers and there is significant cost to transportation. In fact, "one calorie of animal protein requires about 10 times the input of fossil fuel energy than one calorie of plant protein. This input can be higher depending on the type of meat produced. For example, it is estimated that grain-fed beef requires 35 fossil fuel calories for every one calorie produced."
Marjorie Glacier - Calving
(2) Reduce meat consumption. I know I started that above - but I was referring to the impact of meat eating in regards to fossil fuel consumption. The greenhouse gas emissions I am now talking about is caused by cow burps (among other things). This includes both the raising of livestock to eat and the deforestation that occurs as a result of this process. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC), which is a intergovernmental body of the United Nations, produced a report that showed the damaging effects the meat industry is having on the larger ecosystem. I am not advocating for everyone to be a Vegan - and I don't think the IPCC is either. Heck, I am not a vegan (I still occasionally eat eggs and consume a small amount of dairy). However, there are lots of ways that people can contribute. For example, consider a Flexitarian diet. i.e just eat less meat. The definition of a Flexitarian Diet, according to Health Line, is "style of eating that encourages mostly plant-based foods while allowing meat and other animal products in moderation. " Consider meatless Mondays - or try to eat portions that are much healthier. The journal, Nature
has a really nice graphic that you can see which shows the impacts of limiting meat and dairy products.
(3) Try to reduce water consumption. OK, here I go again on the vegetarian bandwagon... This may shock you, but it takes 1799 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of red beef - so having to suffer a 2 gallon per minute shower seems like a pretty crappy solution as opposed to cutting back on meat consumption. Don't believe the BS about how water inefficient Almonds are. While it is indeed true that Almond Milk production is higher than some other vegetarian alternatives (like soy milk), it is still significantly less energy exhaustive to produce a cup of Almond Milk then to produce a cup of Cows Milk. Whatever your alternative is - take it. I am an "all of the above' kind of guy. Every gallon counts. I come from the school of thought that the big wars of the future will be over water - not fossil fuels. I am not the only one who thinks this. Goldman Sachs
referred to water as the "petroleum of the 21st Century" for a reason.
(4) Reduce consumption over-all. Shopping in the 21st century has gotten just a bit too easy. Amazon and Walmart will have something to your house within 24 hours if you need it - or faster. The amount of waste that this creates is ridiculous. Packaging when you go shopping at your store is absurd - but often it comes in one or two additional boxes when it lands at your door. This does not include the additional fuel and resources of having individual parcels shipped to your home directly. If you live in a major city there are probably facilities for you to recycle the boxes and other hard plastics. However, that is not always the case, and in many cases recyclables still make it into the trash system. In New York City
, for example, with its very strict recycling laws, nearly 56% of products that can be recycled go into the garbage. Given recent import bans by China, that number may be higher elsewhere in the country. The long and short of it is that we are living on a pile of garbage - much of it recyclable if there is the will. My feeling is it is best to try to just 'use less.' Amazon, for example now offers the option to have all of your purchases brought on one day a week to decrease waste and use of resources. Shopping in bulk seems like a pretty good way to go.
(5) Support political candidates who stand for your values. After the last three years of what I see as terrible climate policy, which has been evidenced by the rolling back of environmental regulations, taking the US out of the Paris climate accord, and being on an apparent campaign to deny the existence of climate change as a human caused endeavor, I have become more and more concerned about the shoe that I believe is about to drop. I have been looking to our candidates for bold ideas on how we can reverse policies that impact climate change. To the credit of all of our Democratic candidates, I believe that any of them will promote policies that are significantly stronger than the current administration on climate change. Looking at any of their websites, you will see at least lip service to curbing climate change, even if there are no clear plans. The two candidates that I see as having the boldest Climate Combat Plans are Andrew Yang
and Bernie Sanders.
I also appreciate Mayor Pete Buttigieg
and Cory Booker
, both of whom have their own Green New Deal initiatives, which have a lot of meat on them (pardon the phrase) - though they are not as resource intensive as what was proposed by Yang and Sanders. Elizabeth Warren's
plan is also worth reading - it is well thought out. She is not proposing investing the same level of resources that Yang and Sanders are. I also appreciate that Booker is a vegan - and while that is not a policy, it is a role model. I guess it is pretty clear that "any of the above" is going to show great improvement over where we have been at.
This is NOT meant to be an article on Andrew Yang - I just like the guy, and it irritates me that the mainstream media doesn't seem to take Yang seriously, and many seem to effectively call him the 'Doom and Gloom' candidate. His solutions though are anything but doom and gloom. They are pragmatic and are focused on both dealing with the inevitable and putting out a plan to hopefully mitigate the effects in the future. I also appreciate his talking about investing in thorium nuclear power as a potential means to combat climate change (not uranium) - my only issue is what he plans to do to store the waste. The interesting thing about thorium is that they claim to produce less waste, have no weapons-grade by-products, and can consume legacy plutonium stockpiles and are meltdown-proof. I encourage you to look at Mr Yang's 2020 Presidential Website.
In full disclosure, I have sent Andrew Yang a small amount of money, I have also sent small amounts of money to three other democratic candidates (Harris, Buttigieg and Biden). I also intend to send money to Bernie if needed, though he seems pretty cash flush. Let me be clear - my goal is to win the 2020 election and put someone in the White House who has a real understanding about climate change. Anyone with a "D" at the end of their name will get my vote. However, I really think Yang is onto something - and I strongly suggest that people take a look at him. The guy is sharp - and I think he is thinking differently than pretty much anyone else running for President. I also need to say the same thing about Sanders. Honestly, I was upset with him for a long time because I don't believe that he effectively got behind Hillary Clinton after he lost the nomination - but the man is persuasive. Take a look at his plan.
Also, to give Bernie Sanders credit, he has been one of the few people to keep talking about Climate Change during the debates when most everyone has wanted to talk about was healthcare.
(5a) Remember that your best influence may be with local political candidates. I have had multiple meeitngs with my local congressman and state congress people over the last several years. They are usually quite easy to access - even if that actually means meeting one of their staffers. Here is an article on how you can prepare to meet your local politicians.
(5b). REGISTER TO VOTE EARLY. You would figure that in a country where we get almost 50% of the population to vote in a presidential election that they would be pulling out the stops to get people to vote. Unfortunately, who gets to vote is a big deal...and many states make it as hard as possible for people to be able to vote. You call it voter rules, I call it voter suppression. Anyway, make sure you know your state's rules about registration to make sure you are legally able to vote on election day.
(6) Read and educate yourself. There are a ton of great blogs out there on climate change. While social media is all well and good - my feeling is that mostly social media websites just promulgate rage and discontent. I don't want to recommend any one site, but my preference is for places which are written by folks who know a things or three about the climate - and not by normal folks like me. If you are interested in looking at some climate change blogs, you might want to look here for a list of strong climate change blogs.
Well, here we are. I hope this has been helpful, or at least interesting...or at least photographically pretty. If you feel that the article was worth reading - please share it on your social media platform of choice. Its just another small thing we can all do. Good luck. If you have great ways to decrease climate change that I have not listed here, let us know and we will add them.