Thinking about climate change

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By Neva Knott

I think about climate change daily. It saddens me, to a grave extent, that humans have done so much damage. Now, our way of life is such that it seems we are stuck. But, I don’t buy into that lazy fantasy that we’ll just keep keeping on. Each one of us is a citizen of the world, and with that right comes responsibility. I’ll shoulder mine, and I hope you’ll shoulder yours.

Here are my thoughts today on climate change (by the way, there’s no new information here–but, as a teacher I know people have to hear things over and over again to get the message):

The US is one of the biggest contributors to climate change, yet our national policy about adapting for it is one of the weakest.

Yesterday’s New York Times article was about the reality of it, and that the work now is for society to adapt. Society is people… that’s us, you and me.

Much is being done, but the time of it’s not real, I can’t do anything because it’s such a big problem, I’m not an environmentalist, it’s not that bad, what do I care is over—even if you haven’t yet committed to change.

And I hate to be this blunt, but the cause of climate change is greed. Human greed that manifests in unrestrained consumption.  Since the start of the industrial revolution humans have managed to disrupt the natural systems that keep this planet and its inhabitants alive.

Climate change is the result of unsustainable use of natural resources.  When scientists look at sustainability in a system, they look at sourcing of raw material, energy use in production, and the waste stream—what waste is created in the process, and what waste is created in the use of the end product.

Changing our ways to adapt comes on three levels: the personal, the industrial, and the political. So what can each individual do? There is much you can do. Just change one habit. Then another.

1. Stop drinking bottled water. This is a significant positive step to make because trees are cut down to get to the water that is bottled. The bottles are made out of petroleum bi-product which increases the demand for fossil fuel extraction, the water it then trucked to a processing facility, a lot of energy is used to create the product and bottle it, and it is then trucked to the store for you to buy. You then drive to a store to buy it, drink it quickly, and have a non-biodegradable little bottle to throw away. Much of this type of plastic ends up in the ocean, where it does great harm. In this whole process, not only are forests destroyed—and trees store carbon so that it doesn’t go into the atmosphere as a green house gas—but habitat is destroyed for other species and water is polluted in the process. Yes, water is polluted when the forest is trampled for the spring water to be extracted.

2. Drive less. We’ve all heard this a million times. I was a little girl during the 1970s gas crisis. TV ad even urged people to combine trips and to take other drive-less measures. Today, our mentality is to drive, drive, drive. The American way of life is oriented around the car, but that doesn’t mean we can’t walk a little more or make better choices about why and when we drive. Today’s article in Grist documents that this change is happening, in America’s biggest cities.

3. Eat less meat, especially factory raised beef. Much of the deforestation around the world is caused by agriculture. Of course, we need agriculture, but not on a large and destructive scale. There’s a secondary issue with beef ranching—the amount of methane generated, which is also a greenhouse gas. Americans eat far more protein than is necessary in a day. Smaller burgers and fewer steaks will help the planet, quite a bit actually, and might help with our nation’s obesity problem

4. Eat organically grown fruits and vegetables. The pesticides used in non-organic farming are mostly derived from petroleum and are quite harmful to the earth, the atmosphere, and you. Organic doesn’t cost that much more, and the quality of the food is greatly better.

5. Stop buying too much stuff, especially cheap stuff made in China. Overconsumption is a huge contributor to climate change. Our buying patterns are an opportunity to think of the source-energy-waste cycle, and an opportunity to consume more sustainably.

A week or so ago I was listening to the NPR report on Amazon’s contract with the US Postal Service for Sunday delivery. The commentator made the point that all these companies–the big money companies like Amazon–are simply reacting to what consumers want. That idea alone signals the power we all have in creating change. Even when the problem is as large as climate change, we can vote with our dollars, create change with our expenditures, and make the big industry polluters change.

Thanks for doing your part.

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2 thoughts on “Thinking about climate change

  1. These are all simple and effective changes that any one of us can employ with ease. As a nurse educator, I would like to point out that one only needs about 3-5 ounces of protein each day. Three ounces is the size of a deck of cards. So even if you are a meat eater, significantly decrease your visits to fast food and decrease the portion size. It isn’t necessary to become a vegetarian to save the planet or your own health. Those of us my age or older remember a time when there was no such thing as drive-thrus or fast food and yet we did very well….and usually ate healthier. Fast food is here to stay and I am not attacking it, but I wouldn’t mind a downsizing of it’s presence in the Western world. It is far healthier to prepare your meals at home, with a focus on lean protein, whole grains and 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Nutritious food and moderate physical exercise are good medicine.
    Regarding greed, I don’t mind greed as long as it’s directed appropriately and does no harm. For example, what if we became greedy about American carbon emissions being less than any other country’s? Or having more sea turtle nests on American beaches? Or being greedy about letting wolves do their job to balance their native ecosystems instead of being greedy about destroying them in the name of protecting beef or lamb production?

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