Are you feeling resolute? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Climate Assessment have laid out one view of our future on the blue planet, a deeply unattractive one. Now we have a choice: curl up in a fetal position, sucking our thumbs, or resolve to go down another path: the one where we reverse global warming while enriching our soil, our culture, and our health. Also, while having fun and creating beauty, feasting and festivating—because let’s aim high, if we’re going to aim at all.
These new reports land a few weeks before Resolution season. So, if you’re feeling resolute, or just wish you were, if you’re inspired by the 15-year-old girl who’s been picketing the Swedish parliament every Friday, or the thousands of Australian kids who walked out of school to pressure their government to take action on climate, one thing’s certain. Action feels better than despair and has a better chance of getting us what we want.
What to do? Where to start? Luckily there’s a list, laid out in Paul Hawken’s 2017 book, Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming. His team offers eighty ranked solutions for reducing emissions and sequestering carbon, all current, happening, scalable, and urgent, with an additional 20 promising coming attractions. G.E.T. also published a book review on this in the June 2017 issue.
What’s on the list? Reduce food waste (#3). Electric vehicles (#26). Managed grazing (#19). Wind turbines onshore (#2) and offshore (#22). Heat pumps (#42). LED lighting (#33 household, #44 commercial). Solar: Farms, (#8); Rooftop, (#10); Hot Water (#41); Concentrated (#25). Likely, you already participate in several solutions. Going through the list, I found that my husband and I engage with sixteen.
Still, I feel far more enthusiastic and determined knowing that reducing food waste is the third-most powerful solution. With that in mind, I made it my mission to eat everything in my garden that the woodchucks and chipmunks missed. That intersected with solution #4, plant-rich diet, and turned me into a squash fanatic. I now have a bushel (not grown by me, but they traveled only six miles by Prius), and I plan to eat every single one of them before they spoil. At thirty cents a pound on the day Pete’s stand closed, this is also a frugal choice. The list is like that. Some solutions cost money, but many save money, and there’s a way for everyone to contribute.
So, look the list over and pick one or a few solutions to add to your daily life. For instance, I’m going to look for a feed laced with a tiny amount of seaweed for my parents’ elderly cows, to reduce their methane emissions. You might be planning to put in air conditioning after last year’s hot summer. Look into a heat pump (#42) instead.
You could also take a solution you already practice, learn more about it, and do better at it. I plan to be smarter at managing my animals’ grazing next summer. I also resolve to be the person who buys the ugly fruits and veggies. Like shelter dogs, they can be very sweet, and if nobody buys them, they become food waste.
In that same spirit, I’m also taking on refrigerant management. The Drawdown folks seem almost apologetic about making it their number one solution. Who’s going to care about such an unsexy topic? But that’s what the math shows, and progress has already been made. An amendment to the Montreal Protecol, called the Kigali Amendment, will phase out the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) for rich countries, starting in 2019 for high-income countries, 2024 or 2028 for poorer countries. Then-secretary of state, John Kerry, called it “the biggest thing we can do (on climate) in one giant swoop.”
The trouble is (and you might have guessed this), the United States has not yet ratified it, although, according to the (refrigerant) association, very much supports it.
Having informed myself, I plan to call my representatives in Washington and hope you will too. Mention the Kigali Amendment and ask what’s being done to get it ratified. Meanwhile, as usual, California has come out with refrigerant-management legislation. Other states could adopt those standards, as many of us already do on auto emissions. So, a call to your state representative would also be appropriate or a petition.
What piece can you take on? It should be fun, or beautiful, or otherwise make your life better. It should also involve joining with others. Paul Hawken writes,
…placing too high an enphasis on the individual can lead to people feeling so personally responsible that they become overwhelmed by the enormity of the task at hand….(But)What individuals can do is become a movement. As (Bill) McKibben writes: ‘Movements are what take five or ten percent of people and make them decisive—because in a world where apathy rules, five or ten percent is an enormous number.’ . . . The United States was founded on the premise that there are truths that are self-evident, and one of the unmentioned truths is that we only have one home. If we are to remain here, we must together take great care. To do that means we must become a “we,” a movement that is unstoppable and fearless. Movements are dreams with feet and hands, hearts and voices.
Jessie Haas has written 40 books, mainly for children, and has lived in an off-grid cabin in Westminster West, VT since 1984, www.jessiehaas.com.
Refrigerant page https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/materials/refrigerant-management
Refrigerant HQ https://refrigeranthq.com/us-stalling-kigali-amendment/
List of government contact numbers https://legislature.vermont.gov/people/downloads/member-information/, https://www.nh.gov/index.htm, www.masshome.com/govt.html, https://www.ny.gov/
Drawdown book review in G.E.T. http://www.greenenergytimes.org/2017/06/23/drawdown/