We Have 12 Years

“We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN
Urgent changes needed to cut risk of extreme heat, drought, floods and poverty, says IPCC”

“‘It’s a line in the sand and what it says to our species is that this is the moment and we must act now,’ said Debra Roberts, a co-chair of the working group on impacts. ‘This is the largest clarion bell from the science community and I hope it mobilises people and dents the mood of complacency.'”

“At the current level of commitments, the world is on course for a disastrous 3C of warming.” Reducing the warming to 2C would help some, and pulling together to achieve a further reduction to 1.5C of warming would make a surprisingly huge difference in extreme weather events, heat-related deaths, wildlife, crop yields, and more, according to scientific findings presented in the article.

October 8, 2018, article in The Guardian

This article offers a link to another Guardian article, Overwhelmed By Climate Change? Here’s What You Can Do. To their solid list that includes both personal and collective actions (from reducing meat & dairy intake and insulating your home, to voting and protesting), I would add what I’m trying to do here, with this book and my blog: Create a widespread, permanent craze for ultra-low-footprint living.

Deep-green troops, mobilize! What green practices can you help normalize and popularize today?

It’s Down To Us

The possibility of swift change lies in people coming together in movements large enough to shift the Zeitgeist.”
— Bill McKibben, writing in this week’s issue of The New Yorker magazine (November 26 issue).

Says McKibben:

We are on a path to self-destruction, and yet there is nothing inevitable about our fate. Solar panels and wind turbines are now among the least expensive ways to produce energy. Storage batteries are cheaper and more efficient than ever. We could move quickly if we chose to, but we’d need to opt for solidarity and coördination on a global scale. The chances of that look slim. In Russia, the second-largest petrostate after the U.S., Vladimir Putin believes that “climate change could be tied to some global cycles on Earth or even of planetary significance.” Saudi Arabia, the third-largest petrostate, tried to water down the recent I.P.C.C. report. Jair Bolsonaro, the newly elected President of Brazil, has vowed to institute policies that would dramatically accelerate the deforestation of the Amazon, the world’s largest rain forest. Meanwhile, Exxon recently announced a plan to spend a million dollars—about a hundredth of what the company spends each month in search of new oil and gas—to back the fight for a carbon tax of forty dollars a ton. …
The possibility of swift change lies in people coming together in movements large enough to shift the Zeitgeist.

It’s down to us, folks. We make the Zeitgeist; we can shift it with our daily choices. We, in our millions, choosing to radically reduce our footprint, consciously adopting ultra-low-footprint lifestyles, are the best hope of saving life as we know it on this planet.

Further Reading:

The New Yorker magazine offers thoughtful, nuanced coverage of social issues, politics, and culture.
• Author, educator, environmentalist Bill McKibben is author of numerous books including Deep Economy, Eaarth, The End of Nature, Fight Global Warming Now, and Radio Free Vermont. billmckibben.com

Whatever It Takes

Whatever it takes to motivate me to stick with beneficial habits and minimize harmful ones, I’ll try it.

When I was younger and a lot more vain than I am now, “staying skinny” was a huge factor in motivating me to minimize my “junk food” intake (even though I have loved those sweet, salty, densely calorific “junk foods” from a young age).

As I’ve gotten older and not so obsessed with being thin, I’ve needed other motivators to sustain me. Even reducing my Riot food footprint wasn’t quite enough to keep me motivated to eschew those bad-for-me, bad-for-the-planet snacks.

A big motivator that’s emerged for me recently is DIGESTION. Yes, I’m giving away my age now! When I was young, I never understood why older folks were so preoccupied with their digestion. Now I get it. Healthy digestion is something you take for granted until/unless you don’t have it.

Oh, but those potato chips and cheeze nips do continue to call out my name. Then recently, I found a really strong motivation to quit eating mass-produced processed snacks: A key ingredient is plantation-produced palm oil, a commodity that’s chewing up rainforests and destroying animal habitat. Now finally I feel the call of the chip and the cheeze nip grow very faint, and ignore-able. (Though if I find a locally/sustainably produced equivalent, I’ll still bite!)

“There’s a Rang-Tan in My Bedroom”: In a mere ninety seconds, this animated film starting a homeless orangutan tells the story of how unsustainably-produced palm oil is destroying rainforests and wildlife habitat. This Greenpeace Canada film, narrated by Emma Thompson, is intended to spark a grassroots backlash against unsustainable plantation palm oil. Outstanding example of the power of story. I first saw this video via Facebook where people were sharing it to help it go viral.

Description and background of the “Rang-Tan in My Bedroom” film (which was created for Greenpeace by a creative firm called Mother).

I found the blurb about Mother and the “Rang-Tan” film on The Drum, a site “highlighting the best new creative work around the globe.”

Weaning Ourselves Off Of Lawn Chemicals

Eliminating the use of lawn fertilizers near waterways should be a no-brainer. Fertilizers are a prime contributor to algal blooms, including red tide, which are deadly to wildlife and dangerous to humans. For the same reason, it should be a no-brainer that people would want to stop using pesticides and herbicides for residential lawns. As much as some people like their manicured green lawns, does the use of chemicals justify the mass die-offs of fish, birds, and other wildlife; and the pollution of our precious water supply?

The thing is, people who love their lawns can still have them! But, for the good of our rivers and lakes and oceans, we need to make some changes. We can choose more hardy, drought-tolerant grass species, and quit using chemicals for vanity agriculture. It would help if we’d let go of the culturally indoctrinated compulsion for the “perfect” uniformly green lawn, which I see as the green-colored equivalent of Snow White’s beautiful but poisonous red apple. We also really need to tackle the various regulations (municipal regulations, HOA rules, etc.) that pretty much FORCE people to have lawns in many parts of the USA.

Besides laying off the chemicals, lawn-lovers can also help our wildlife and waterways by planting a “filtration strip” of vegetation along the edges of their yards. This buffer of vegetation helps retain silt, water, and nutrients on property rather than let them run off into the storm-drain systems and bodies of water. Besides being good for the environment, a border of vegetation looks nicer than a plain flat grass edge, and it can reduce or eliminate the need for fussy edging and blowing.

Further Reading:

Local Laws Ban Front-Yard Food Gardens: “Zoning, supporters contend, is intended to prevent conflicts and nuisances from arising. … But sometimes, as in the case of the prohibitions on edible gardens … zoning itself becomes the nuisance and the source of conflict. …Estimates of water savings vary, but most sources agree that fruit and vegetable gardens use less water than would a lawn in a comparable space. Those who want to live more sustainably often choose to grow some of their own food and find ways both to reduce their reliance on commercially bought food and lower their water use. Swapping out a lawn for an edible garden can help achieve both goals.”

Eco-friendly lawn alternatives: “On a gallon-for-gallon basis, power mowers are far more polluting than cars. …[L]awn-mower engines, per gallon of gas, contribute 93 times more smog-forming emissions than 2006 cars. Water runoff pollution is another downside: To keep turf perma-green and weedfree requires a cocktail of fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides applied regularly via the irrigation system. …Every region and every ecology in this country has its own regionally native sods, which, with very little mowing or cutting, grow naturally as a turf.”

• Doing a search for “eco-friendly lawns,” I found this company that offers a “No-Mow Lawn Grass Seed”, which looks to be waterwise and not need chemicals.

Why Stuff Goes Bad

Did you ever think about why stuff goes bad? Food rots in the fridge; clothes mildew; houses left unoccupied collapse in on themselves.

The truth is, stuff doesn’t really “go bad”; that’s just a limited human viewpoint. Stuff “goes bad” because nature makes no waste. Nature makes no waste, and nature allows no waste. Something that appears (through human eyes) to be going bad, is actually not going bad; it’s being used by something, whether animal, plant, or microbe. Resources don’t sit around; they get consumed.

Which is one more great reason to right-size your living space; and to avoid hoarding excess food, clothing, houses, land, and other things that nature (including “pests” and “weeds”) will find a use for if you leave them sitting around too long. I once had a beautiful leather jacket go moldy in the back of my closet, ruined beyond repair because I literally forgot about it. Fortunately, Mother Nature is far more careful and reverent of “stuff” than are many of us, her thoughtless human children. Something(s) ended up getting plenty of use out of that leather jacket.

It occurred to me just now that knowledge and experience can also “go bad” if not used. Find a way to share your knowledge and experience, or it withers inside of you and dies with you.

How many examples of this can you find in your home, neighborhood, workplace, or just out and about?

The Downside of Abundance

Who doesn’t like abundance? It’s great, right? But the downside, which is often overlooked, is that what starts out as abundance, soon becomes the new standard of what is “necessary.” Abundance can lead to waste and laziness.

Constraint can be good. Parameters; limitations on resources. Constraint sparks innovation. What seems impossible at first, becomes do-able as we apply our minds to the problem.

If we only ever have abundance, we can miss out on opportunities to refine and optimize design.

An insurance company decided to build a big office building in my town. Most people are happy about this; it’ll create jobs, bring foot traffic to the downtown merchants, and so on. However, the company has insisted on closing a segment of street and removing some historic houses. It “has to” do these things to create its office building. And these moves are unpopular with many residents.

But what if the company were instead to impose constraints on its design: “We will not close an existing street, nor will we tear down any historic buildings, to create our new office building.” What would happen? Of course the project would still get built! It would just be better, because it would get built without eliminating the community assets of a street and historic buildings.

We might have the striking visual of an office building wrapping around the lovely old historic homes. It would become a unique landmark, as well as a precedent for future preservation efforts.

We might have a street running through part of the office building, breaking up the monotony of a big box, and preserving pedestrian access between the shops and the residential neighborhoods. As such, the street would offer value to the new employees as well as the existing residents.

The United States, rich in land, wastes a lot of space. Rich in resources, we build excessively large things, and far too many single-use items. Some of the most functional and beautiful design comes from countries that are resource-constrained in some way: Japan; Italy; the Netherlands.

On a personal level, abundance in the form of money, time, or space can be a dual-edged sword. When constraints appear, we should not use them as an excuse to back down from our good plans or goals. We should use them as an opportunity to refine our designs, and then tackle our plans with doubled-down vigor.

A “Society of Distracted Drivers”

“If we were indeed paying attention, what would we do differently? We would make sustainability — real sustainability, not just eco-groovy gestures — our first priority. … What’s so hard about that? Really, the most difficult aspect of this shift is the initial decision to make it. And once that decision has been made, plenty of improvements to daily life would likely accompany any sacrifices we’d have to make. For example, imagine how a more mindful economy would allow people to pursue their callings instead of just chasing jobs. Or consider how leading less busy lives would allow more time to spend with loved ones.”

Wise words from Richard Heinberg of Post Carbon Institute, in an article posted on resilience.org (originally published by Common Dreams).

If you really want to get motivated to reduce your footprint, focus on the “quality of life” aspect!