The title of this piece comes from remarks my friend Rev. Marcia Dinkins made at the PA Interfaith Power and Light Annual Meeting. I share this sentiment as a commitment to unrelenting action and advocacy for the essential transformation that must occur if our children are to have a safe and healthy future. There is no prospect for survival beyond this century unless we all take action to shift from a society based on extractive fossil resources to one based on regenerative and sustainable resources.
The transformation a sustainable future is in progress, but moving far too slowly. Every person can act. Every person matters. We can build a sustainable future with equity, resilience and shared prosperity for all of us.
2021 marked a threshold in the global perception of climate change action. Sixty-four percent of people worldwide believe climate change is a global emergency, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. https://www.undp.org/publications/peoples-climate-vote The “People’s Climate Vote” survey, conducted by the University of Oxford in conjunction with United Nations Development Program, asked respondents if climate change was a global emergency and whether they supported eighteen key climate policies across six action areas: economy, energy, transport, food & farms, nature and protecting people.
UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said:
“The results of the survey clearly illustrate that urgent climate action has broad support amongst people around the globe, across nationalities, age, gender and education level. But more than that, the poll reveals how people want their policymakers to tackle the crisis. From climate-friendly farming to protecting nature and investing in a green recovery from COVID-19, the survey brings the voice of the people to the forefront of the climate debate. It signals ways in which countries can move forward with public support as we work together to tackle this enormous challenge.”https://www.undp.org/press-releases/worlds-largest-survey-public-opinion-climate-change-majority-people-call-wide
In America, the picture is much more complicated. In October 2019, a Pew Research Survey found that about six-in-ten Americans (62%) said that global climate change was affecting their local community a great deal or some. And two-thirds of Americans (67%) said the federal government wasn’t doing enough to reduce the effects of global climate change. But there were wide political divides over the effects of climate policy. Partisanship is a stronger factor in people’s beliefs about climate change than is their level of knowledge and understanding about science. Democrats with a high level of knowledge about science (89%) said human activity contributes a great deal to climate change, compared with 41% of Democrats with low science knowledge, based on an 11-item knowledge index. Republicans with a high level of science knowledge (17%) were no more likely than those with a low level of knowledge (25%) to say human activity plays a strong role in climate change. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/04/21/how-americans-see-climate-change-and-the-environment-in-7-charts/
Each of us can commit to taking action on climate in the New Year- it is the most important gift we can give our children. Here are Five things we can all do to reduce climate causing carbon emissions every day:
1. Speak out and vote. Regardless of our means or station in life, every citizen has the obligation to participate actively in the process of government. We must hold our elected representatives accountable to act in the best interest of our future, not for vested interests mired in the fossil industries. Contact your state and federal Representatives and Senators at least once a month to urge action on climate and protecting our air, water and lands. It is time to restore government actions in support of people and communities instead of enhancing corporate wealth. Trickle down economics does not work. Never has, never will. Strong unions, strong communities, fair wages and good education and medical care for all citizens build the middle class and create a shared prosperity. You can find your federal, state and local elected officials here. https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials See the Reimagine Appalachia Blueprint for good information about policies that will help our region move away from fossil extractive industries , restore the land and build good jobs that support a shared prosperity for all of us. https://reimagineappalachia.org
2. Take responsibility for your own climate footprint. Energy use is the most significant contributor to the greenhouse gases that cause climate warming. Each of us can move our energy use toward zero carbon emissions with deliberate choices.
- Begin with learning how you use energy in your daily life. A carbon footprint calculator can help https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/household-carbon-footprint-calculator
- Implement low-cost and no-cost efficiency measures like setting thermostats higher in summer and lower in winter, sealing up leaks in heating ducts, windows, doors and vents; have an energy audit of your house and make the efficiency improvements that may include adding insulation to attic and walls, replacing windows and doors or upgrading the heating and cooling system. https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/do-it-yourself-home-energy-assessments
- Examine your appliances for efficiency and choose efficient options when replacing them. remember to unplug appliances when not in use- anything that has a clock on it, or that runs constantly whether in use or not, turn off computers and electronics when not in active use. “Vampire power” use can be a big drain on your electricity bill. Choose a 100% local renewable energy electricity provider. Here is a resource to guide how to switch. https://electricityrates.com/how-to-compare/switch-electricity-providers/renewable-energy/
3. Eat for Health and a Healthy Planet. Food choices matter for the health of our families and for the. health of the planet. Agriculture contributes to climate change in many ways, not only by carbon emissions from farm machinery and animal wastes, but also by the degradation of soil fertility from over-use of agricultural chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers derived from petrochemicals. Advocate for federal, state and local agricultural land practices that regenerate fertility of the soils a top priority. Agricultural lands in America were once blessed with 12 to 24 inches of topsoil; now more often one to four inches. Building up organic material in the soil through regenerative agricultural practices can sequester carbonated improve fertility of the land. https://rodaleinstitute.org/education/resources/regenerative-agriculture-and-the-soil-carbon-solution/
- Convert as much of your energy use to electricity as possible, especially large appliances like hot water heaters, clothes dryers (really consider hanging clothes to dry!) stoves, and heating systems. Modern high efficiency heat pumps can replace gas furnaces for heating.Here are some good resources to guide this effort https://www.rewiringamerica.org
- Adopt a solar photovoltaic energy system on your own property when you can. https://www.energy.gov/eere/solar/homeowners-guide-going-solar
- Eat lower on the food chain. You can eat much less meat, or eliminate it from your diet completely. Look for locally produced food and support local farmers, farmers markets and local produce in grocery stores. https://ourworldindata.org/food-choice-vs-eating-local
- Avoid food waste. In America, 40% of produced food goes to waste land food scraps and yard waste together currently make up more than 28 percent of what we throw away. Plan menus to use all of the food you buy. Compost food waste and additive to your gardens or to a community composting service. https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home
- Grow some of your own food. Community gardens are becoming more popular not only to improve access to fresh produce but also to connect people to the land and to improve urban and suburban spaces as habitat for pollinators and beneficial insects and wildlife. https://www.nal.usda.gov/legacy/afsic/community-gardening In the Pittsburgh area, Grow Pittsburgh https://www.growpittsburgh.org/garden-and-farm-resources/community-gardens/ and Phipps Homegrown Program can help https://www.phipps.conservatory.org/classes-and-programs/for-communities/homegrown
- Promote native plants and pollinator friendly landscaping. Many communities have adopted ordinances that allow local cultivation of bees and chickens, some include small goats as well as codes and standards that allow landscaping for wildlife and pollinators. http://www.panativeplantsociety.org/legislation-and-model-ordinances.html Here is a fact sheet for the City of Pittsburgh regarding their model ordinance. https://apps.pittsburghpa.gov/dcp/Urban_Agriculture_Handout_New_Legislation_Version.pdf In rural areas, promoting native grasses, shrubs and trees can increase the habitat and biodiversity in areas primarily dedicated to agriculture. Many of these spaces are virtual food deserts if they are dedicated to mono-culture crops like corn, soy, or grains over large areas. Ecolandscaping can help to improve land use for biodiversity. https://www.ecolandscaping.org/06/designing-ecological-landscapes/native-plants/featuring-native-plants-in-your-landscape/
4. Decarbonize your transportation. Transportation based on internal combustion engines replaced horses within the decade of 1903 to 1913 because cost, convenience and prestige drove a rapid innovation. Similar change can happen if we organize our transportation system to replace the internal combustion engine with electric engines and other transportation technologies. The first personal choice for reducing the transportation energy use is to drive less. Walk when possible, take public transit when possible, and drive conscientiously. Consolidate trips, avoid idling, and keep your vehicle properly tuned up. As you seek to replace your vehicle, shift to an electric hybrid model or to an all-electric model. Economic incentives are emerging for electric vehicles and for the infrastructure such as charging stations and service stations as well as advances in battery and storage systems. https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/taxevb.shtml This is a rapidly chancing arena, so watch for updates as the legislation emerges.
5. Stop using single-use plastic. Plastic has a tremendous burden on both health and resources as well as a high climate impact. (See this excellent presentation of the top 10reasons metro development is the wrong path https://drive.google.com/file/d/1UOWBJ7dClefyk6kJp92YRZHkGbH77qJz/view?usp=sharing and my article https://patriciademarco.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/mending-the-interconnected-web-of-life-a-call-for-regulating-endocrine-disrupting-chemicals-2.pdf)
- Carry re-usable bags for purchases. Some communities are adopting bans on plastic bags.
- Look at labels and choose non-plasttic options. There are hundreds of ways to eliminate plastics and I have written about this subject often on tis site. Se this resource for a step by step guide to eliminating plastic. https://myplasticfreelife.com/plasticfreeguide/
As we close this year, the climate battle rages on multiple fronts with the added punctuation of loss from the pandemic casualties. I find hope and confidence in the future in the eyes of so many colleagues fighting every day to improve our situation. I see it in the many hands of people turning to help each other through hard times. I feel it in the love and affection poured out in families and communities as we support each other through grief and sadness. I know it in experiencing the embrace of the living earth as each day dawns anew.May we celebrate the Gifts of the Living Earth in the coming year and for always.