11 January 2019

What Will You Do? A Birthday Request

I’m turning 55 this month. Facebook has been encouraging me to set up a donation link and ask all my friends to contribute to my favorite cause. Instead, I’m asking my friends to do something about the environment.

Climate change has become a huge problem, and we are all going to be affected in our lifetimes. You don’t need me to tell you all the ways we’re doomed.

I’m not going to tell you what to do — we need action in so many different spheres and at so many different levels. If you’re going to keep up a commitment, it has to be to something that you feel is meaningful and that you are comfortable doing. 

We need government action, we need corporate action, and we need individual action. We need carbon taxes, we need businesses to adopt environmentally responsible processes, we need better public transit, we need better pedestrian and bike routes, and we need to stop consuming and wasting so much stuff at the individual level.

Maybe you’d be comfortable making a weekly phone call to an elected official — local, state, or federal — urging them to take positive action on some issue concerning the environment. Maybe you hold stocks, and you can try to persuade the corporations you invest in to take more environmentally responsible actions. Or you are vested in a retirement account and you can persuade its managers to disinvest from fossil fuels.

Maybe you want to try giving up fast fashion, spending more money on fewer items of clothing that will last longer. 

Maybe you want to try eating lower on the food chain, or cutting back on beef and dairy, which are worse for the environment than vegetable sources of protein but also worse than chicken and eggs.

Maybe you think it would be an interesting challenge to give up single-use plastics, whether water bottles, take-out containers, or soap and shampoo bottles. Maybe you can persuade your favorite take-out place to switch to paper containers. Maybe you’ll get a reusable coffee cup and get your coffee shop to put your morning brew in it instead of into paper or styrofoam.

Maybe you want to turn down the heat and put on a sweater, or in the summer turn up the heat and put on a fan. Maybe you can buy your electricity from a company that uses renewable sources, or even put solar panels on your roof.

Maybe you’re willing to give up your lawn, and the chemical fertilizers and pest control chemicals you’re using to maintain it, and instead create a yard full of native flowers and shrubs that will attract bees and butterflies and birds, and native trees that will do those things plus sequester carbon and provide summer-time shade that will reduce your need for air conditioning.

Maybe you believe environmental justice should be our biggest priority, and you want to volunteer for a few hours a month with an organization that helps both people and the environment.

Maybe you’re contemplating a move, and you want to choose a new home based in part on environmental criteria: well insulated? In a multi-unit building, so it can share heating and cooling via walls adjacent to other units? Close to public transit so you can take a bus or train to work or to school? Close enough to work so that you can walk or ride a bike?

My own commitments for the year are to recommit to a number of environmentally responsible habits, including use of public transit, avoiding take-out, and keeping my shopping for anything other than necessities to a bare minimum, and to get back to blogging about environmental issues. My goal will be to post weekly. Once a month, I’ll tell you what I am doing myself to help the environment. In other posts, I’ll provide more information about the things I’ve mentioned above, along with links to sources, as well as other ideas about things we can do to make the world a better place, big as well as small.

Do I have 55 friends who are with me? Please post in the comments section, or if you’d rather be anonymous, message me. Thank you.