Happy New Year, everyone! I’m feeling pretty eco-unfriendly after flying across the Atlantic for a 10-day holiday visit. But that’s what I get for not living near my immediate family. Eco-tip: don’t leave your hometown! (Seriously. Don’t move to a new faraway city just for fun. And if you still have a “bucket list,” this is the time to shred it.)
We *must* make this year count when it comes to avoiding the worst consequences of climate change. This article from Nature explains why the next few years until 2020 are so crucial — if we can make carbon emissions peak now and start to decrease, we will have time to transform our economy and culture to one that can live with the vastly reduced resources it must use in the future. But if we keep curving upward with emissions and temperature rise now, certain processes such as arctic ice melt will happen at such a fast rate that we won’t have time to plan and react. To avoid this “jump to distress,” we must act in bold ways now.
So, given the supreme importance of this year and the next two, what are your green resolutions for 2018? I believe it’s time for BIG actions, and that means more than waste-free lunches and turning off the lights when you leave the room. That means politics, and major lifestyle changes, and putting skin in the game through carbon offsets and investments to support those who are doing more to shift our economy than any one of us can do alone. Here’s what I’m doing. I hope you’ll comment below and let me know if you’re in, too.
1. Stop Flying
I resolve to make decisions that minimize how much my family and I fly. When I hear about the folks in Puerto Rico who are living in newly primitive conditions due to a hurricane that wiped out all the rainforests, or the kids who are starving in Venezuela, it seems really pathetic that taking fewer international trips counts as a big, bold action for me, but habits and expectations can feel hard to break. Over the past few years, I’ve replaced many plane trips with train trips, which also aren’t carbon-free, unfortunately. But I’ve still flown now and again. For now, I’ll buy carbon offsets for my carbon crimes, but I hope by the end of 2018, I’ll have stopped flying for good. And I also hope to inspire at least one or two other people to scrap their bucket lists and find more sustainable hobbies than international leisure travel.
2. A Key Year to Participate in Politics
We must get a #BrandNewCongress in the US; one that will fully support the Paris Climate Agreement and take big steps in the right direction. I’ve been really encouraged by how many friends marched, canvassed, or volunteered for campaigns for the first time in 2017. I really think more and more instability is coming our way as a planet, and we *desperately* need sane, proactive people in charge to help us weather it. Choosing to work on campaigns in 2018 instead of continuing one’s regular career seems quite logical to me. Or taking the earnings from that career and investing heavily in victories wherever they seem within our grasp. In 2017, we flipped a Senate seat from Republican to Democrat in Alabama and regained control of the Virginia state legislature for the first time in decades. And it’s not even necessary to kick out all the Republicans per se — just the ones who are greedy, corrupt, and anti-science, or those who want to maximize chaos on Earth to hasten the second coming that they think is coming. There is hope. We just have to act on it.
3. Reduce waste
I resolve to compost, recycle, and help others find ways to do the same. This is not a big, bold action, but I’m always discouraged when I see how frequently it is not done. The high school where I’m teaching this year in Hungary is my first target. Composting and recycling are like gateway actions to an environmentalist mindset, I think, so it’s nice to help people get started with it.
4. Buy Nothing New This Year
The best way to reduce waste is to reduce all the stuff coming into one’s life. I’ll continue to strive towards buying nothing new, and keeping old stuff in circulation longer by giving away what I have, finding ways to repurpose broken or torn items, supporting businesses that sell used stuff, etc.
Buy Nothing groups, makerspaces, pop-up repair events, and hands-on skills fairs all do the same thing. They re-build that scrappy, resourceful mindset that I find folks here in Hungary still have. With more and more natural disasters, it wouldn’t hurt to develop the inventive mindset and skilled, hopeful ingenuity that people who’ve lived through various kinds of deprivation have. Being able to cook from scratch, to sew, to darn socks and fix broken electronics, and to build what you don’t have all come in quite handy when a hurricane wipes out all the roads and electricity on your island, for example. Political crisis also causes deprivation, and inventiveness. Check out this hit parade of DIY solutions from Cuba! My DIY posts have been among the most successful on this blog, so I think the 99% are already embracing this mindset out of necessity. I’m glad it’s a trend!
5. Boost Those Who are Helping
I’ll continue to invest in eco-friendly projects in the 3rd world through Kiva, and park long-term investments with visionaries like Elon Musk, who need support as they shake things us in the energy and transportation sectors. Tesla stock is volatile, though, and soon to be ‘on sale’ thanks to price drops, perhaps. So I’ll proceed with caution and remember, I’m not giving investment advice here! I will say, though, that as the trash of 7+ billion humans piles up, my dividend-paying investments in Waste Management (WM) and Republic Services (RSG) have done well this year at 21% and 18% growth, respectively.
For those on a budget, the carbon offsets I mentioned above fund renewable energy projects on farms around the US and methane capture and use at defunct coal mines and landfills. You can contribute monthly or just pay your dues for the year, at whatever level you can.
6. Reduce Populations
Well shoot, this is a tough one, isn’t it. It is glaringly evident that one reason we keep emitting more carbon is that we keep growing our population. I can’t very well resolve to cull the overgrown herd of humans on the Earth. I can refrain from growing new humans, which is sad for my one kid who wants a sibling, but c’est la vie.
Accepting that human populations need to decrease leads one to certain actionable stances, though. First, we *must* support access to birth control, and talk to our anti-abortionist friends and family about this sensitive issue. More birth control leads to fewer abortions, so we really should be able to put that wedge issue to rest.
Second, the way we think about illness and death must change. They are devastating, they are sad, but they are part of nature. And if we want nature to continue, we can’t keep trying to stymie this part of it. In fact, I would go so far as to say that more death is coming our way no matter what we do, and we’d better start getting used to it again. When I read the recent NYTimes article about the infants starving to death in Venezuela because no infant formula was available, I felt really awful and wanted to help right away. By all means, their government should accept foreign aid and we should provide that aid. Instead, they are providing free sterilization to women there, which I guess is another solution, and one that actually helps the global problem. They were selling oil for imported food and products, I guess, and then they found out how unsustainable that was at their current birth rate. Instead of subsidized food, subsidized birth control might sometimes be the better option. Wherever possible though, let’s achieve that without making parents have to watch their infants starve to death, though. Sheesh.
Saving a healthy baby’s life by providing infant formula is such a cheap and easy fix that it really is cruel not to do it in today’s world. But how about saving the lives of sick and barely viable infants at the cost of millions of dollars and who knows how many barrels of oil (for plastic and energy)? Or of prolonging the lives of the elderly because we are not prepared to let them go? I’ll let each reader decide where they stand on those questions personally, but I’ll just say that I don’t contribute to medical charities. I know such things are so very important to enough people that they will be well funded without me.
What pulls our heartstrings less is the big picture of where our planet is headed and what suffering it is likely to cause in coming years unless we do something BIG. I’ve said a lot here about what I’ll do this year. How about you?