Sunday, December 31, 2006

Change From the Inside Out

In lieu of making a laundry list of New Year's resolutions that I probably won't keep, I decided I would choose one global crisis and write about how we can try to address this issue at the personal, local, national, and global level. I have chosen the issue of global warming, more accurately referred to by scientists as climate change.

Climate change is an issue that has received plenty of news coverage in the United States, but not nearly enough action. What's the hold up? Your favorite coping mechanism and mine- DENIAL.

The bad news is, we are already pretty deep into the quicksand of climate change. The good news is, we can do something about climate change. While it may be too late to reverse all of the damage we have done, we can at least put the breaks on climate change and slow down this global catastrophe that could potentially turn Florida into an underwater scuba diving site and Stowe, Vermont into a beach resort.

For any of you who may be skeptical that global warming is actually happening, here's some's information from, the website connected to Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth.

The vast majority of scientists agree that global warming is real, it’s already happening and that it is the result of our activities and not a natural occurrence.1 The evidence is overwhelming and undeniable.

We’re already seeing changes. Glaciers are melting, plants and animals are being forced from their habitat, and the number of severe storms and droughts is increasing.

The number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled in the last 30 years.2
Malaria has spread to higher altitudes in places like the Colombian Andes, 7,000 feet above sea level.3
The flow of ice from glaciers in Greenland has more than doubled over the past decade.4
At least 279 species of plants and animals are already responding to global warming, moving closer to the poles.5

There are some who will still deny the crisis of global warming. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), outgoing chairman of the Committe on Public Works and the Environment, has made a name for himself, by calling global warming, "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the the American people." You can read Inhoff's climate change update speech in its entirety, presented to the senate on January 4, 2005. The whole thing is pretty frightening so, if your political views are anything like my own, you might want to got get yourself a glass of wine before you start reading.

If you still think that global warming is a hoax, you should probably stop reading here, call your grandma or someone at least thirty years older than you and ask them if they have seen a dramatic change in climate in their lifetime.

Good, now that Al Gore and/or Grandma have convinced you that global warming is a reality, let's talk about action . We'll start at the personal/individual level since that is the part that is most difficult for our "all about me" American culture. Since this blog is already pretty long, I will write about the local, national, and global level over the next week.

What? Driving makes you feel free, you say. When you hit the road, it's like you're the only one in the world? Guess what? You're not. Just look at your fuel gauge. Have you ever seen it go up after you have driven 150 miles? The only way to bring that fuel gauge back up for most cars (except cars that run on veggie oil) is to go to a corporate gas station and pump your car full of gas that has been sucked out of the earth. The desire for this "energizing" fossil fuel is the cause of violence around the world. Just look at the War in Iraq. It is pretty clear at this point, as the civil war escalates in Iraq and 3,000 th American soldier is declared dead, that we are not there to restore democracy. We are securing access to oil supplies.

OK, so you agree, but how can I drive less. Here are some steps to cut down on driving.

1. Shop Local: Shopping locally is a win-win situation. See my pre-holiday posts process versus product and Liberal Coffee, Independent Books, and Smart Dogs and about this topic. Most big-box stores such as Wal-Mart or Target are not located in a pedestrian friendly area. Many of them are inaccessible to public transportation. So, the only way to get there, is in the four-wheeled oil burner. Even if you live close to one of these retail calamities, once you get there, you will have the pleasure of driving around in circles, looking for a place to park your individual-mobile next thousands of others. If you're anxiety level rises high enough during this search for a parking spot, you may be lucky enough to flee your car without looking where you parked it. When you're finished buying all the plastic shit that can fit in your car, you will have the pleasure of walking a great distance around the not-so-scenic parking lot looking for your car. I imagine the freedom factor associated with that automobile will have worn out by then.

Here's another scenario. Live in a community that supports a vibrant downtown, where you can either walk, bike, or take public transportation to family-owned retail businesses. Even if the products cost a little more, you will save money on gas and therapy bills. With that extra money, you can go meet a friend for lunch. Now, that sounds like freedom!

2. Carpool: The reality is many of us have to drive, particularly to get to our jobs. The industrial parks where many jobs are located are rarely connected to public transportation. If you are in this situation, try carpooling. You can find someone to carpool with by putting up a sign in the staff lunchroom, putting up a notice at your local grocery store or co-op, or sending out that dreaded all-staff e-mail. I do not recommend hitchhiking as a way to find someone to carpool with.

3. Quit your job, sell your car, and live off the government: It might do them good to have a taste of their own medicine. (Warning: Do not blame me if this plan doesn't work)

Let me know how these suggestions go, particularly if you choose #3

I have a few more suggestions, but I need to go take a walk. Check back over the next week for more suggestions on what you can do to combat global warming/climate changing.

In the meantime, here are some interesting articles to read on this topic.

James Howard Kunstler's article entitled Making Other Arrangements the most recent issue of Orion (my favorite magazine)

Bill McKibben's article entitled Energizing America in the most recent issue of Sierra magazine.


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