Using Bad News

In my book, I mention that I follow the news just enough to be aware of what’s going on; not so much that I’m overwhelmed with hopelessness. My main information diet is successful case studies and low-tech, decentralized solutions.

That said, when bad news hits, I use it as an opportunity to redouble my commitment to popularizing low-footprint living, and to remind myself why it matters.

In this week’s news I found several such stories.

A Quarter of Bangladesh is Flooded. Millions Have Lost Everything ( “The country’s latest calamity illustrates a striking inequity of our time: The people least responsible for climate change are among those most hurt by its consequences. …The average American is responsible for 33 times more planet-warming carbon dioxide than the average Bangladeshi.”

• “When Disasters Overlap” (by Christopher Flavelle in the New York Times “Climate Forward” email newsletter): “…[T]his is what living with climate change will look like: Not just an epic, Katrina- or Sandy-scale catastrophe every few years (though probably that, too), but a relentless grind of overlapping disasters, major and minor. The number of disasters that FEMA is handling is about twice what it was three years ago, before Hurricane Harvey struck Texas, and that doesn’t include its pandemic response. Disaster preparation and recovery have blurred into a single frenzied motion, never ending but also never quite succeeding. The consequences of that shift are only starting to become apparent. Homeowners begin rebuilding after a flood, only to flood again; cities watch their tax rolls shrink as property values fall; emergency managers at every level of government are exhausted. And then, there’s the money: Federal watchdogs have begun warning, with increasing urgency, that the nation’s disaster spending is not sustainable.”

“Canada’s Last Intact Ice Shelf Collapses.” (AP, Seth Borenstein, published in Daytona Beach News-Journal). “Temperatures from May to early August in the region have been 9 degrees warmer than the 1980 to 2010 average, University of Ottawa glaciology professor Luke Copland said. This is on top of an Arctic that already had been warming much faster than the rest of globe, with this region warming even faster. ‘Without a doubt, it’s climate change,’ Copland said, noting the ice shelf is melting from both hotter air above and warmer water below.”

Although my low-footprint lifestyle seems wacky or extreme to mainstream folks, and even to some fellow environmentalists, it is deeply rooted in heart AND reason. Reading these articles might help people understand why I’m so committed to showing that a resident of the United States can have a high quality of life while radically reducing their eco footprint. And it helps me to remind myself that I’m not crazy or extreme. What’s extreme is what we (residents of rich industrialized nations, especially the United States), are doing to the planet (ecosystems, wildlife, and of course traditional cultures and indigenous peoples) with our overconsumption.

The Covid shutdown has had a silver lining of showing us how much of a difference it makes, rather quickly, to the environment when millions of people in the wealthy industrialized nations cut back sharply on transportation and other consumption.

Every bit you do to consciously minimize consumption (especially electricity, gasoline, jet fuel, and discretionary shopping are biggies), and to socially de-legitimize excess and thoughtless consumption, helps. And I thank you for your participation in the #GrassrootsGreenMobilization .