Here are 10 (Okay, 11) Things You Can Do about Climate Change. ~ Kelly Simmons

Via elephant journal
on Dec 3, 2012
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So here’s the math.

I took notes from Bill McKibben‘s talk last night. Scientists and the heads of countries have all agreed that more than two degrees Celsius rise in global temperatures is too much. The carbon we have already burned has raised global temperatures by one degree Celsius. At two degrees, there will be definite and unpleasant global climate change, but it is at least likely that this rise will be survivable by some (if not all) of humanity.

To stay at or below two degrees Celsius means we have about 565 gigatons of carbon that we could conceivably burn, and at current rates that will be blown through in the next 15 years. That’s 15 years folks.

And here’s the real kicker…the true horror: there are currently 2,795 gigatons of carbon owned and in reserve by all the coal, oil and gas countries and companies. It is still physically in the ground, but is economically accounted for as an asset and a basis for share price. That’s more than five times the amount that would keep us at two degrees. We’re talking global catastrophe. Not survivable.

Meanwhile the top five oil companies earned $137 billion in profits in 2011. One year. That isn’t income, that’s profits. Exxon alone spends $100 million per day searching for new sources of carbon. To add to the gigatons they already have. WTF?

Are you getting the picture?

That the coal, oil and gas companies are actively seeking the demise of humanity, civilization, most mammalian life on the planet? Because of money? Is it coming in loud and clear that this is the single biggest issue to face humanity ever? Like a gun to our collective heads?

We all have our issues that we work on: Palestine/Israel, or stopping violence against women, or better schools, or breast cancer, or rights for differently-abled kids, or the Democratic Party, or wolves, or PTSD in vets.

It won’t matter if we don’t solve this one.

It is easy to feel helpless in the face of such catastrophic news associated with climate change. But there are many things you can do personally. We have the power. Lets use it.

Here are 10, okay 11, things you can do:

1. Join and participate in‘s work, or another organization in your community. Be vocal, sign petitions, join marches, write or call Congress. Step up, help out. Ask for a national carbon tax and investment in renewables.

2. Check your IRA, 401k or organization’s pension plan to see if it is invested in oil and gas. It is a moral issue to profit off the demise of humanity and planetary life as we know it. Divest as quickly as you can or advocate for divestment. Invest your money in socially responsible funds that invest in renewables.

3. Join your company’s or organization’s “green team,” or start one. Energy use, water use, and waste streams all contribute to climate change. There’s so much that can be done to reduce, conserve, reuse. Get active. Ask. Ask about recycling in your community.

4. Use one of the many carbon footprint calculators online, or the Ecological Footprint calculator to see how much carbon you and your family are emitting. Sit down as a family and work out a plan to reduce over time as quickly as you can.

5. Begin to notice and implement ways you can conserve and reduce. Light bulbs, lower thermostats, motion sensors, consolidating errands, walking, insulation, low flow shower heads and toilets, sealing duct work, turning off computers and printers, turning off porch lights, switching to more efficient Christmas lights. Turn things off when not needed. You’ll save bucks too.

6. Put your money where your heart is. For those in Colorado, a donation to the Colorado Carbon Fund offsets the carbon emissions of household use, airline flights, and more. The Fund invests in local Colorado renewable energy projects. That creates local jobs and monitors carbon reduction to make sure its on the up and up. Your state may have a similar fund. If you are planning an event, let attendees know they can offset with CCF on your web page.

7. Shop local stores as much as possible for yourself and for gifts, rather than big box stores and online (shipping). Try to reduce packaging, shopping bags, cheap plastic items. Ask where things have come from, how far they traveled, notice what the store might be doing. Ask. Complain. Make some noise.

8. Eat locally as much as possible, support local farmers and local food. Support farmer’s markets and learn to grow your own. Ask questions in restaurants. Bring your own cup to the coffee shop and your own bag to shop. Carry your own reusable water bottle. Start composting your organic waste. Think before complaining about higher prices. Cheap food from overseas has a huge carbon footprint.

9. Start asking questions everywhere you go. Your grocery store, the local doctor’s office, your child’s school, the local rec center, the mayor’s office. Do you have a sustainability plan? What are you doing to conserve energy and water? What kind of lights are those? Where is the recycling? Can I compost? Advocate. It matters.

10. Support mass transit. Use it. Take the bus, take the train, vote for bonds. Carpool with colleagues, housemates, friends. Ride your bike. Just a few trips a week makes a huge difference.

11. Work with a local solar installer to lease a system for your house. It’s often not much more expensive, and sometimes less expensive, than the electricity bill you pay now. If your state laws need to be changed to make it financially more workable, get busy!

Begin behaving as if your life and your children’s lives depend on this. Because they do. No joke.

Thank you for caring and thank you for reading. Please share


Kelly Simmons is the former Director of the Boulder Sustainability Education Center, and has been teaching permaculture design and sustainable living skills, both nationally and overseas, for more than 6 years. She has a BA in Environmental Studies, a Masters in Education and a number of professional certificates in permaculture and sustainability. Kelly currently manages and teaches in the Sustainable Practices Program at the University of Colorado, Boulder, a professional development certificate program for working adults. She is a published author on permaculture topics, serves on the City of Boulder Solar Grants Committee, is a practicing Zen Buddhist and lives on an urban permaculture demonstration site in downtown Boulder with her family.


Ed:  Terri Tremblett

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13 Responses to “Here are 10 (Okay, 11) Things You Can Do about Climate Change. ~ Kelly Simmons”

  1. Mark Ledbetter says:

    How about moving to a big city and getting rid of your car? That might be the best thing you can do.

    I've been advocating over 40 years in a lukewarm sort of way for evironmentalism and ecological living. In all that time, it's only recently that I've seen a few environmentalists even consider the city. Even now, most are looking to escape the city, not embrace it as the only real solution. You can eat right, consume right, and advocate right all you want, but if you insist on doing it in a beautiful natural setting, you are likely doing more harm than an uncaring but car-less resident of NYC. That person might even be a tea-partier. You win the moral debate. He/she wins the reality debate.

  2. Mark Ledbetter says:

    PS, way to go Kelly! I just looked at your bio. I see you pictured with a bike, and it seems you are living urban, even if it's a very small urban. Do you do much advocating for people to move back to the big city?

  3. Ahimsahome says:

    Just forwarded this to Senator Mark Udall. Had just received some energy independence thing from him but these guys really scare me as they seem to really "sleep around" with both sides of the issues.

  4. CelloMom says:

    Thank you for spelling out where the responsibility lies: with each of us.
    Let us not forget to audit our cars: the single highest carbon emitter in the average US household. Walking and biking is great, but we do need to navigate our inherited infrastructure; so let us not do that in an SUV. If you can afford it, and EV or hybrid is great (if your electricity provider is not a coal plant); alternatively, cars with smaller engines are cheaper to buy and cheaper to run, and carbon-frugal. 140HP under the hood is enough to get you plenty of speeding tickets, you don't need 350HP.

  5. Thanks Mark. Yes, I live in the downtown of a small city. My personal opinion is that small cities are best, ones large enough for small mass transit. Large cities are impersonal, and have pretty difficult infrastructure upkeep issues, and getting folks to pull together can be hard – they often splinter into too many subgroups…… Portland may be the exception, or San Francisco, but I think these are anomalies. I'm thinking Houston, Chicago or Detroit. The sheer numbers can be daunting. Smaller cities are often surrounded by land that can provide space for quasi urban farming……

  6. Thank you yes. I didn't include electric cars because right now they are still pretty pricey for the average family. And actually, it really depends on each person. Someone who commutes long distances might fall into that category but someone who commutes short distances and lives in a MacMansion would be a higher emitter from their homes. Climate also makes a big difference. Air conditioning in the hot, sticky South is a HUGE carbon emitter, and coal fired electricity and natural gas heat in places like North Dakota and Minnesota are too, not to mention all those lights, big screen TVs and computer screens that are often in very large homes. And even though coal fired electricity is something we want to cut way down on, and powering your electric car with solar is a far better choice than coal electricity, it is ALSO true that powering an EV with coal electricity is far and away a better choice than a typical gas powered auto. The gas-powered auto is very, very inefficient at converting that high heat fire in the engine into power to the wheels, while a coal plant is pretty efficient at turning their high heat fire into electricity. There is some loss over the power lines, but it's generally negligible. Thanks for the comment!

  7. Mark Ledbetter says:

    Personally, I'm skeptical about electric cars. As mentioned above, they might be powered by coal-fired plants. Or, alternatively, you could power them with nuclear plants. Or hydro, meaning you'd have to dam more wild rivers and fill more valleys. Is that, like, some great improvement over gasoline?

    Maybe. But there's an even better way. And it kills two problems – the carbon spewing car and carbon spewing home – with one stone.

    Urban is the way to go. High density means good transport systems where work, shopping, coffee shops, schools, play, and yoga studios are all a short walk away. You don't even need a car to lead a normal life. And homes there are automatically energy efficient, without even trying. I mean, another apt. on the other side of your wall means great insulation and you only need to extend water pipes and electric lines a few feet to service the next family.

    But I see little enthusiasm in the environmental movement for urban living. Everybody wants to live in the middle of a natural paradise and do it with a car (requires miles of extra asphalt), plumbing (miles of extra pipes), electricity (piles of extra wires carried by high power towers) and all the rest. Going vegan, driving electric, and buying local a bit doesn't come anywhere near compensating for the damage.

    Move to the city! Kelly likes small cities, which is fine. But for advocacy, you have to advocate the big cities, too. There's a lot going for urban living if you can just get over the American prejudice against high density. For one thing, if people went high density, you'd have wildlands and farmlands just outside the city borders instead of suburbs and you'd have minimal per capita infrastructure.

    Or, you can live "ecologically" (and feel good and moral) in a beautiful natural setting, and just kind of avert your eyes from the destruction that low density living entails.

  8. I think you raise some really valid points Mark. Thanks for this comment. I'm against "moving to the country" unless one is doing so to raise food or fodder for others. The last thing that wild or semi-wild lands need is more development. And then there's the inevitable interaction with bears, coyotes, mountain lions and deer. The animals ALWAYS lose. Thanks for contributing!

  9. JennUm says:

    Incredible points! I hope the necessity for the urban alternative starts to become vocalized more!

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