It is time for the people to lead

Let me begin by asking a question and then I’ll come right to the point. Are you prepared to do what it takes to stop global climate change? If yes, you can skip the next three paragraphs… start with the paragraph that begins “You answered yes.”

You’ve answered no and I want you to ask yourself why. Do you believe that climate change is not a problem? If this is the case, how have you come to that conclusion? Do you realize it is a conclusion which contradicts the conclusion reached by the vast majority of climate scientists? Have you taken time to explore the available articles on the research? Or perhaps you believe climate change is a problem but feel there is nothing you or we can do about it. Perhaps you feel it is too late to make the changes? In either case all I’ll ask is this. Set aside five minutes right now. 5 minutes for a mental exercise. Imagine for a few minutes that you are in the future 25 years looking back at this moment. The moment you made a decision not to act. In this future which may, or may not come to pass, you look back and wish you and your fellow humans had acted. In this future the predictions of climate scientists in 2006 have proven true. In fact it is the worst case scenario.

In this worst case scenario it is the year 2031. The planet has continued warming at an alarming rate. Weather patterns are shifting and becoming increasingly extreme. Each new year breaks the records of the previous year. More tornados, hurricanes, and wild fires. Severe droughts and flooding combined with shortages of oil and natural gas have made food production increasingly difficult. Food shortages have become common and when available it is much more expensive. Gasoline has also become expensive at $15 a gallon and is often not available. For those who still rely upon the central utilities grid 8-12 hour blackouts are a daily occurence. You try to grow some of your own food but it is increasingly difficult. Pollinating insects such as bees and butterflies are rare these days and often the plants you are able to keep alive do not produce much. Animal populations are fluctuating wildly as migration patterns change radically and once common species become endangered due not only to the rapidly shifting climate but also greatly increased hunting by humans in search of food.

That may prove to be our future given our current path. It might not be so bad. It might be worse. The above description is not at all far fetched. Think about the possibilities. I’ve only touched on a few. There really much more to imagine in that scenario. How old will you be in 25 years? Your children? Grandchildren? 25 years is not so far away. Perhaps you are still not convinced. Perhaps you won’t be until that day comes in 2031. Perhaps it will be a day in 2015? The truth may prove to be that even if we do work very hard to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that we are too late. That is a very real possibility. Do you want to look back at this moment with the realization that you did nothing? Make your decision and make it soon. If you do want to join in the effort continue reading.

You answered yes. You are prepared to make the changes that must be made. Then may I boldly suggest that it is up to you to lead the way. It is up to me. It is up to the people to lead the way. It really is that simple. We have it in our power to make the changes that may slow climate change just enough. It is past the time that we realize the truth that the elected governments are not doing it and, more importantly, cannot do it. They’ve taken the wrong path and are unable, perhaps unwilling to change course. But we, the people, can. Yes, it comes back to that: We, the people. It really is up to us to lead the way to change, to lead the way to a new world.

Here’s how we’ll do it and it will not be easy. We must change our lives, we must adjust our behaviors in ways that many will consider drastic. In some cases we may even consider the changes uncomfortable. If at any point in this list you notice yourself repeatedly thinking, “Oh, I can’t do that, I’ll just skip on to the next one” then it is time to stop and start over at the beginning of this document. If we are truly prepared to do what it takes to stop global climate change then we also realize that these changes are not optional. They’re not really choices. If you are in a burning house you don’t choose to let it burn. You put the fire out or you get out. In the case of climate change, there is no getting out. We will put the fire out or we will suffer. In truth, we’ll likely suffer anyway but we may have enough time to lessen the suffering. Let’s get started.

We’ll begin with personal gas powered vehicles, whatever form they may take. We’ll assume for this first section that you must, for now, drive a gas powered vehicle. It may be a hybrid that uses less gas or it may be a gas guzzling SUV. The point is you put gasoline or diesel in it’s tank. If you live and work in a city and are able to rely solely upon mass transit and/or bicycles good for you, skip ahead. If not read on and remember, these are not optional.

  • Car pool. 2,3,4 to each vehicle. This one may be most important for those that must continue using personal vehicles. Imagine the impact in any major city. Imagine a typical morning of rush hour traffic. The highways jammed with 300,000 vehicles. Now imagine that everyone is car pooling 2 to a car. Those 300,000 cars are reduced to 150,000. Imagine the carbon not being emitted and the fuel being saved. This is hugely significant.
  • Ride Sharing. If you have to start a car, if you MUST get in the car and go somewhere consider whether or not your neighbor has any needs that might also be met during the errand.
  • Don’t drive unless you must. Plan ahead. Combine errands. If you are car pooling pick one or two days a week to stop and pickup groceries. Plan it into your trip home.
  • Driving Speed. When on the highways keep it at 60 or less.
  • Braking and accelerating. Look ahead, anticipate. Coast as much as possible. Coast to traffic lights and start from a vehicle moving 5 or 10 mph rather than speeding up to a light, stopping and starting from 0. Accelerate slowly and smoothly.

Home Energy
Every time we flick a light switch on or turn on an appliance we are adding carbon to the atmosphere. Think before you do. Be aware of the little details of energy consumption that add up day by day, house by house. This section assumes you already have a home you live in or rent. Home owners have more freedom to make structural changes that increase efficiency but renters can also make changes.

  • Daily behavior. As stated above, think! Turn lights and appliances on only if you must.
  • Lighting. Replace your bulbs, especially those that tend to get left on for a while with compact fluorecents. During the day keep the lights off and use the natural light of windows.
  • In the summer turn the thermostat up to as high a temperature as you possibly can. Even better, run attic fans rather than the air conditioner.
  • In the summer don’t eat food that needs to be cooked or baked. Save recipes that require cooking and baking for the winter. When you must cook use lids, especially important if you must cook in the summer. Water will boil much faster if a lid is on the pot which keeps the heat out of the house and allows you turn the stove off sooner.
  • Plant trees around your home to provide shade in the summer.
  • Install shutters, blinds, or thick curtains. Be aware of direct sunlight and the heat it brings. If you’re not in a room and don’t need the light close the shutters, blinds, or curtains.
  • In the winter turn the thermostat down… way down. Put on extra socks, sweatpants, and a sweat shirt.
  • In the winter open your shades, curtains, etc. to let in the sunlight.

General Consumption
Don’t. Just don’t buy it. Only buy what you absolutely must. Yes, this is counter to our consumer culture. Too bad. Consuming requires energy on so many levels that I could easily write a book about it. What it comes down to is only buy things that you absolutely must buy.

  • Keep and wear your clothes until you outgrow them or they fall apart.
  • If you have clothes that you do not use give them to someone who will. Don’t let this turn into a rationalization to buy new things because you’ve gotten rid of old things. Only buy what you NEED. Don’t give away stuff you still need because your tired of it and want a new style or color.
  • Keep and use all devices until they are old and broken. Cell phones, computers… any device at all. Take very good care of it and upgrade or replace only when you must. When you do upgrade or replace a device, if it still works find a home for it. Give it away if you must, just make sure a still usable appliance finds a good home where it can continue it’s useful life.
  • Because it cannot be said enough, don’t buy it if you don’t NEED it.
  • When it comes to personal body care think about packaging. What do you really need to be healthy and clean?

A vegetarian diet is healthier and requires much less fossil fuel to produce. That’s not debatable, it’s fact. You don’t have to be a vegetarian but strive to eat less meat.

  • Stop drinking shit out of aluminum cans and glass/plastic bottles. Turn on the faucet and be amazed. Water is good for you. Everything other liquid you put in your body is unnecessary. It is simple. Put a filter on your faucet if it makes you feel better.
  • Eat less meat.
  • Eat less. If you eat more than you need you will gain extra weight that you do not need. You will be less healthy. It’s not a question of skinny or fat. It’s a question of health. Too skinny is not healthy either.
  • Eat food that is locally grown if at all possible. Find a farmer’s market.
  • If you eat meat try to get it locally. If you do not hunt or fish perhaps you know folks that do. Make arrangements to trade or purchase some of theirs.
  • Plant a garden and grow your own food. If you don’t have lots of room that’s okay. Grow what you can in the space you have. You’d be amazed at how much you can grow in a few big pots on an apartment balcony facing south.
  • Eat more raw food. Apples are good and they don’t need much (or any) packaging.
  • Buy food in bulk. Look at the packaging and remember packaging is the product of energy processes that result in climate change.
  • Don’t eat out, especially don’t eat out at fast food restaurants.

If you must build a new home build it well with energy efficiency as a top priority. Don’t build a new home unless you must.

  • Build it in the ground.
  • Use recycled materials in the construction.
  • Design it to be efficient.
  • Don’t be afraid to be different. Look at alternative methods of construction as these are often much better than commonly accepted methods and materials used in the industry.
  • Face it south.
  • Design it to be off the grid.

Collaborate and Cooperate
We can do alot in our homes. This change starts with us as individuals and with individual commitment. But we are not just individuals are we? We are social. We live in communities. While we begin the process as individuals we can do oven more if we choose to cooperate and collaborate with others. Rebuilding community institutions will prove to be a fundamental ingredient to our survival and in the ways that we deal with climate change. In the year 2006 many of us don’t know our neighbors. We’ve forgotten what it means to live in a community. Here are a few ideas for ways that we can work together to use less energy:

  • Bike co-op. Lots of cities are starting these and each one has it’s own unique form and function. But the point is to help people get more use out of bicycles for day-to-day transport.
  • Community Gardens. Again, lots of cities are putting in community gardens. Empty lots, once tested to be safe, can be put to good use growing food.
  • Buying clubs. Meet up with your neighbors to order food in bulk. If you do it right it can mean cheaper food, bulk food with less packaging, and fewer trips to the grocery store.

Gonna get messy
Remember folks, those in power have not moved us in the right direction and there’s a reason for that. The elephant in the room is this: the solution to our climate change problem is the saving of energy… consuming and doing less. This is counter to our entire way of life… it is counter to the general thrust of capitalism with seeks constant growth and constant consumption. What has traditionally been viewed as a strong and healthy economy must come to an end if we are to deal with the climate change crisis that is at our front door. See, this really is a life changing moment. It’s not just about a 101 easy ways to save the earth list. The truth is, if we are effectively dealing with climate change it also means we are redefining our economy and our entire way of life.

Do it or don’t, but now is the moment. If we are lucky we have not already passed the point of no return… if we have now is our last chance to do everything we can to soften the crash landing. It’s now or never and it’s up to us. No more waiting for elected “leaders”. We do it, we the people or it won’t get done.

Just a start
This list is really just a start. I’ll edit it, add more… I’m sure there’s lots more that can be added but I think I’ve covered most of the most important actions to be taken. Leave your suggestions in the comments.

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2 thoughts on “It is time for the people to lead

  1. sevenahm

    I agree with most everything you are saying. I would add:

    I get most of my clothes from thrift stores, friends, and dumpsters (thrift stores sometimes dump their inventory)

    I would emphasize buying economy cars, hybrid or diesel, that get at least 45mpg, which will cut fuel consumption in half. Carpooling on top of that will then cut consumption by 75% compared to driving by yourself in the old inefficient model.

    I would also emphasize replacing inefficient appliances such as old refrigerators, with EnergyStar models. There are 12V models which use even less, ideal if you live in a camper, motorhome, or 5th Wheel.

    Read The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery, and tell others about it.

    I used to live in a 4000 sq ft house. I now live in a 200 sq ft broken down motorhome. My energy bill is almost non-existent, about 6 small tanks of propane a year at $12/tank, and solar panels for electricity. I think I could be ideally comfortable in a 400 sq ft superadobe eco- domehouse (see )

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