Listening to Bill McKibben

Last evening, I had the privilege of attending a free talk by Bill McKibben, a leading experts on climate change. He authored one of the first books on the topic to be written for a lay audience. The End of Nature was published in 1989. McKibben is also one of the founders of 350.org. Click the link to see what they’re about.

I want to share my take-aways from what I heard last night.

  • Time is short. Our window of opportunity to act is closing. We have to make big changes as quickly as possible.
  • The silver lining to the above point is that scientists have figured out what we need to do. (Mostly, stop using fossil fuels.) It’s a matter of actually doing it.
  • Oil companies knew about climate change and how bad it would be back in the 1970s and 80s, but they kept it quiet while redesigning all of their offshore rigs to withstand changes in sea level and sea chemistry. (Steam is still coming out my ears.)
  • McKibben believes we need to focus more on policy change than on personal lifestyle changes. If you can’t influence the federal government, then work on your state or city government. Urge universities and retirement funds to divest from oil companies. I get his point that the changes we need to make are so large and the time so short that we can’t reach our goal with only personal lifestyle changes done one person at a time. But I believe he downplayed the importance of it a little too much. One person can influence others and show them it’s possible to live differently, to help overcome resistance to change. One example — many folks in my neighborhood have planted milkweed in the past few years and I saw many more monarchs this summer than I have in recent years.
  • Organize! McKibben gave many examples of average citizens from many countries, races and economic strata joining together to stop environmental destruction. He showed us a photo of a group of kayakers preventing an oil tanker from leaving dock, as one example.
  • Older people should take risks to save the future for the next generations. If you’ve already got a successful career behind you, be the one willing to go to jail instead of a younger person who has more to lose by it. He practices what he preaches, by the way, having been arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience.
  • Don’t spend too much time and energy arguing with climate change skeptics. “Don’t ruin Thanksgiving dinner” because some folks are resistant to information and will never change their minds. McKibben said he has two standard responses to climate change skeptics. “I hope you’re right” or “You may not believe in climate change, but it believes in you.”
  • 70% of people do believe in climate change and the need to reverse it. Focus your energies on spurring the believers to action.

I’ve spent the last 24 hours or so thinking about what else I can do. I decided my next step will be adding my name to those calling for our local university to divest from fossil fuel companies. Let’s hurry and save the world, y’all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Readings for World Elephant Day

August 12 is World Elephant Day. These amazing creatures are in crisis and it’s largely down to human behavior. In the past ten years, their numbers have decreased 62%.

See the World Elephant Day website for more information, including ways we can help.

Since education is always an important component of any venture, here’s a recommended reading list:

Last Chain on Billie elephants

 

Last Chain on Billie by Carol Bradley. An examination of one elephant’s life in the context of a shameful history of abuse of circus animals in the U.S.

 

Eye of the Elephant

The Eye of the Elephant by Delia Owens and Mark Owens. The story of how one couple took on elephant poachers in Zambia and did their best to assist local communities at the same time.

 

 

Ivory

Ivory: Power and Poaching in Africa
by Keith Somerville. The ivory trade is the biggest threat elephants face. Poachers have decimated populations in order to get tusks to trade. Worse, much of the profit ends up funding terrorism. Don’t buy ivory!

 

One easy thing we all can do is limit our consumption of foods containing palm oil. Palm oil plantations have wiped out swaths of habitat for elephants and other wildlife.

Happy World Elephant Day! Let’s celebrate by working to save them.

 

 

Inauguration 2017 -The Bad Beginning

On this unpresidented day in American history, we need to take a lesson from literature, specifically A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Today we are all orphans in the charge of Count Olaf. But many of us are inventors and many of us are well-read, while others have sharp, useful teeth that can chew through the ropes. We only need to stick together and not give up.

That is all.

When the Refugees Came, or Why I Can’t Seem to Keep My Mouth Shut on Facebook

Memory from my childhood: I was about twelve years old, returning pop bottles for the deposits at a Safeway grocery store three blocks from my house in Kansas City. A wrinkled woman, not more than five feet tall, wearing a headscarf and a coat too heavy for the weather — probably someone’s grandmother — wheeled her cart toward the check-out lines. She had quite a bit of food.  I guessed she was shopping for the extended family.

The store was busy, lines at every register. I don’t remember what day of the week it was, but Saturday seems likely. I saw the woman stand still for a couple of minutes, scanning the scene, assessing the lines and then spotting one that was miraculously short. She rolled up to it and began unloading her cart of goods right under the sign that read “Express Lane. 12 items or less.” Continue reading

Earth Day Resolutions

I didn’t get to attend our city’s Earth Day celebration today because I was working. However, I have managed not to use a car all day. I walked to work. It’s not far, so I don’t save a lot of driving miles in one round-trip. On the other hand, I walk almost every time I go to work and I’ve had the same employer for nine years. It does add up. I figure at least 1,600 car miles displaced in that amount of time.

I’m continuing my effort to live a more environmentally friendly life by making one change at a time. Here are the steps I’ve taken since last Earth Day:

Reusable coffee filter. One of those things that pays for itself eventually. No more paper filters.

Reusable coffee filter in action.

Reusable coffee filter in action.

LED light bulbs. They’re much more energy-efficient than compact fluorescents, and contain no heavy metals. Also, they’re supposed to last longer – the package advertises 18 years. We’ll see. They’re still pretty expensive, so we’re replacing bulbs gradually, as they burn out.

Our new lighting.

Our new lighting.

Mesh produce bags.

I’ve been using canvas grocery bags for quite a while. But I was still tearing off the plastic bags from the rolls in the produce aisles at the grocery store when I wanted to buy a bunch of spinach or  several apples. Now I have these. They weigh next to nothing, so they’re not running up the price on fruit and vegetables by the pound.

Mesh produce bag

Mesh produce bag

No single one of these things is a huge change. But I hope, as with the walking, over the years it will add up enough to make a significant positive difference.

Next goal – a rain barrel or two.

 

Who Owns Your Stuff?

 

On October 29, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear an extremely important case.

If you ever buy or sell used items on eBay, craigslist, half.com, amazon.com or anywhere, this case affects you. Buying used is one of the main tenets of my life. It’s what makes life affordable. And I resell sometimes, especially books. If I’ve read it and know I’m not going to read it again, why not get back a couple of bucks, while giving someone else a bargain and the joy of reading?

This is not only an ownership issue. It’s an environmental issue. It’s the “reuse” part of “Reduce, reuse, recycle.” If you can’t pass on things you no longer need, what happens to them? Landfill?

It’s an equality issue. It would hurt lower-income folks disproportionately. Think of kids who have a computer at home for their homework, only because their parents found one used.

I keep re-reading information on this, and it never becomes more believable, even though it’s true. Thriftiness, financial responsibility and environmental stewardship could be criminalized. Crazy.

Spread the word, sign the petition, and don’t let it happen.