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.
1. Join and participate in 350.org‘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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