Originally published to Mastodon.
In regards to dealing with climate collapse I mentioned in my post yesterday that while I understand the need for large systemic changes brought about by government programs and regulations, I also believe that broad-scale adoption of individual behavior change is also important. So, a thread on why the solutions to climate collapse are not either/or systemic policies/individual actions. All of the above is required.
In the United States where I live it’s fairly common (in my experience) for people to believe that government here is a mix of corrupt, ineffective, or perhaps effective at supporting those with the most money and lobby power (corrupt). There’s been an erosion of support that the legislators create laws that deal with problems. That the electoral system is too heavily influenced by donations poured in by special interests, etc. On climate collapse the US has dragged its feet for decades.
Election cycle after election cycle climate is either mostly ignored or, when candidates make promises they fail at making any progress. The dynamics are that while they are getting lots of funding from fossil fuel and auto industries, etc, they’re also afraid to disrupt a way of life that citizens have come to expect as a given and a right. At all levels, the system is locked into a way of life because of an insistence on a way of life and a rejection to any disruption to that way of life.
The dynamics reinforce the bad behavior and change either does not happen or is happening far too slowly to deal with the severity of the problems. The citizens, even those that claim to accept that climate collapse is a real problem that needs solutions, are perceived to want those solutions to come in the form of convenient fixes that won’t disrupt lives based on incredibly cheap energy sources. They go about their daily lives pretending that there’s nothing they can do. Not in their hands.
Compare this to Covid. Of course a portion of the population resisted mask wearing, social distancing, etc. But the people who support the scientific viewpoint, largely liberal folks, for the most part went with taking direct action in their daily lives. They perceived the threat to be immediate and real, a danger that absolutely required individual action. It was believed that this individual direct action would have the desired impact if everyone did their part. It became collective action.
In general, this is the same population that agrees that climate change is a problem. But, it’s still common practice to refer to it as climate change. The media still deals with it as a long term problem that can be put off. It is not a near term threat the way that Covid was/is. It’s not put in people’s faces in the same way. And so we kick the responsibility down the road, we kick it to a system that we also claim doesn’t usually work well and wait for easy solutions.
I think the truthful evaluation is that in general people do recognize the power of direct, collective action when it is absolutely necessary. Unfortunately climate collapse has, for decades, been presented as a far off problem that future generations would have to deal with. Slow moving climate change rather than fast moving and present climate collapse. In my circle, most especially my family, it’s barely a blip even though I’ve been very outspoken. I’m just perceived as being too worried.
As time goes on though I think there is growing awareness that climate change is collapse, that the problem is more immediate than we’ve been admitting. People are less able to ignore that the world around them is, literally, burning down, drying out, flooding, or otherwise being disrupted and that the moderated weather of the past is being replaced by extremes that are increasingly real threats to normalcy and safety.
Eventually, gradually, the media, perhaps, will present the problem as the collapse it is. But I think it’s also on us to begin to raise the issue in as many possible ways that we can. Via our keyboards, our voices, our actions. Certainly wide scale systemic changes are needed and would accelerate the rate of adoption of solutions. Be it increased funding for solar, wind, cycling infrastructure, rail transport, etc. All of it including restrictions such as nonessential commercial flight.
But, why wait? I’d propose that we can and should raise the awareness of the threat level to where it actually should be in our daily lives. And along with it work at providing examples to how we can individually act as a collective, just as we did to confront covid, to begin making the changes our governments fail to make. We change our behaviors without being forced by legislation. We talk about what the solutions are and we put them into place ourselves.
The most obvious, immediate and beneficial examples that we can do with what we all have right now, no fancy new energy infrastructure needed, is to just stop. To slow down. The eventual solution is going to require some of this whether we like it or not. Covid gave us a glimpse of some of this. Some of won’t be popular. But that’s too bad. This isn’t a problem we can just sneak past with magic tech. Technology will be a part of our solution, but restraint and “doing without” is called for.
So, let’s get to the list. It’s all to do with greatly reducing our use of fossil fuels of course and it’s what we can all do immediately. I’m going to use myself as the example because I’m as extreme as I can be because given the latest IPCC reports call for it. And of course, I realize we all live different lives in different places. But again, we are talking about changing how we live here. Some things will be short term, others long term, but real drastic change is required.
I’m lucky and privileged to work from home. I do have a car but I only use it once or twice a month. My goal is to only use it once a month to purchase groceries. I buy it all in one go. If I need something or forget something in between I do without. I live in a rural area, 6 miles from the nearest store so I could also ride my bike and might occasionally do that for small items. But generally I just do without. My goal here is to minimize my reliance on oil/gas based transport.
From 1993 to 2005 I lived in Memphis, TN and during that time I walked and rode my bike for most of my in-city transport. I owned or shared a car with others during that time but the general rule was to only use it for traveling to other cities/regions. My bikes had racks and I always had a backpack for transporting stuff such as groceries, etc. If I needed to move big stuff then I’d resort to a car. But the car was my last resort.
The US is built around car-based transport. It’s usually difficult and dangerous to walk or cycle. But sometimes it’s more doable than we realize but it requires more effort. Everyone has to sort this for themselves but the car needs to become our last resort. While I’m able to ride a bike now for years I could not due to a knee injury. We now have e-bikes that can fill that gap for many people that might not be able to ride a standard bike. E-bikes are amazingly efficient and capable.
Flying should generally be restricted. Some countries already have great rail systems. The US needs this. It’s not been a priority. It needs to be. This is a case of doing without. As far as I’m aware, this isn’t something we can really skip. Flight should be restricted for essential travel only. I’ve taken 2 flights in my life and have no expectation of flying ever again. Somehow I manage to still live. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the idea of leisure/vacations that require flight.
Heating and cooling homes. The most immediate solutions here are to insulate, insulate, insulate. This is something that can happen right away if it’s made a priority. The next is to change your thermostat. In the winter I keep my heat range between 59 to 62F. Sometimes a little lower, rarely warmer. In the summer I’m usually in the range of 77 to 80. If I could go higher I would but we have persistent high humidity which causes mold problems if I don’t keep a certain level of dryness.
I’m not an expert on heating and cooling but passive solar heating is one option, heat pumps are efficient at heating and cooling in some areas. These sorts of things will be site specific base on local climate. But regardless, in cold climates it’s easier and more efficient to heat a body than a big space so more layers of clothes, blankets, etc. Giving thought to how we prepare food. In the summer I focus on food that requires no or less baking/stove top prep to avoid heating my space.
In the short term of residential energy use, we can become more aware of our devices/appliances and how we use them. I wash clothes less often and hang them outside to dry. Warm water rather than hot water. More efficient lighting, fewer appliances in general, using devices and appliances longer and repairing rather than replacing when possible. All of this impact local energy use as well as larger scale energy/resource processing in manufacture of goods.
In general, eliminating “waste”. There should be no such thing as waste. In the transport of goods to stores, homes and then the use of those goods, there’s much we can do right now to cut the energy required and the waste that results. Because plastic recycling is not reliable I’ve cut my intake down to near zero. This means lots of restrictions when shopping. There’s a lot more to that and this is already a long thread so I’m going to stop. Will pickup with specifics soon.