Tag Archives: Individual Action

Some thoughts and links

Hello,

Not that you’re not already busy enough, but I’ve been reading some really interesting things lately that I think are both important and enriching. No obligation to read any of these things, but in case you have an interest in expanding your environmental repertoire, read on.

Most importantly: the climate talks at Copenhagen are less than a month away. This is SO important for the future of climate legislation and the health of the globe. I found this great site, called Hopenhagen, to educate about the conference and provide a few ways to take action to ensure that the US is posed to take the strongest possible stance against climate change.

Next, I loved what Majora Carter, founder of Sustainable South Bronx, had to say about climate change in this Grist Video. She called it an “extension of the civil rights movement.” How captivating.

For those already involved: What do you think about Adam Sacks’ article “We have met the deniers and they are us” Very provocative, infuriating, and most of all, scary.

I wrote to my ecology professor about this, and his answer was important, I think.

The article is largely because he finds it necessary to attack the small efforts people are making on climate change, while not really knowing the immense work being done worldwide to address it.  He is no doubt getting the attention he is seeking, but he is not helping us move forward in my opinion.  Driving his readers to guilt and frustration—which is what I believe his article does—is not a very effective way to intensify the needed response.

My immediate reaction was to call up on Google: “Global Warming: The Complete Briefing” — a book now in its 4th edition, by my friend and colleague John T. Houghton.  I suggest you do the same… Even checking out its description on Amazon.com (which will come up on Google) and looking over the reviews will remove most, and likely all of your frustration.

So, even though there is more that can be done, these negative words are not supporting or motivating, and therefore are not useful. (In my opinion, although I’d love to hear your thoughts.)

Finally, another thing on the mind is meat. It’s hard to think of the holidays without bringing images to mind of large family feasts. I was disappointed at Thanksgiving time, however, about the lack of conversation surrounding sustainable, local and organically-raised meats, instead of the supermarket, industrial variety. I think this season would be a great time to support a local farmer and take the time and few extra bucks to buy some of his or her meat for the holidays. What do you think? Here’s a list of some CSAs in the midwest that can get some of you started with this, called the Land Stewardship Project. (and here’s a national one)

Alright, I think that’s enough for now. I would love (and have wanted) to write more, but my school schedule has been very rigorous and exhausting lately! I had a great time celebrating thanksgiving with my family and friends and now the post-thanksgiving battle til winter break begins! (Hence, getting up at 5 to write a paper!)

Anyway, I hope all is well and sorry for being so intermittent.

Love,

Jenny

Also, I recently rediscovered my first video project ever. Although I’m not so sure remembering to turn off the lights will cut it anymore, this is definitely still fun to look back on!

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We can only go up from here- SO LET’S!

It seems that the more I learn about the environment, the more depressed I tend to become. The list of things in need of “fixing” on this planet (chemical waste, mistreatment of workers here and in third world countries, government catering to big corporations, extinction, deforestation, pollution, landfills, incineration) can be described in many ways, but “short” is not one. Each year hundreds of scientists, agencies, researchers, and notably, the IPCC (though that isn’t yearly), come out with a report stating how bad-off our planet is and how we can’t possibly afford for it to get any worse. And then it does. So, I read and read and read all day long about this trend and this perpetual “brokenness” of so many things and then, occasionally I get a breath of relief.

I remember that the name for this blog is true and is possible. I remember that the people I’m surrounded by and learning from are good people, and that there are others who are inherently good too. I remember that although we may not know the best source of renewable energy or the best way to convince Americans to stop over consuming (or even understand what that means), we do have many tools to get things started, increase the conversation, make changes to our lives and in the lives of those we love, and improve our happiness, relationships, health, and planet by doing so. As I explained in my post a few posts back, we all can make real, beneficial change when it comes to the environment.

Since I am new at this and don’t always have the answers, I often look toward others who might. Colin Beavan is one dude whose writing I love to read and who really knows how to take the edge off climate-related fears by replacing fear with action. (Although this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t learn. In fact, to understand the base of my concerns for tonight in particular, you could watch this INCREDIBLE video and have even more incentive to read the rest of this post).

Anyway, he, with the help of some smart people at his non-profit, The No Impact Project, have created a great way to educate, inspire and mobilize many individuals in a practical and easy possible way. While Beavan improved his life during a years’ worth of living at no impact (or as little as possible), he has created a way for us amateurs to do it for just one week. While I don’t usually recommend recipes I haven’t tried or lend cars I haven’t driven, I have kept up with Beavan’s blogs and learned about his ideas enough to know that he’s got some really good ideas. So, I’m gonna vouch for this one and hope that you’ll join me in my No Impact Week coming up next Sunday, October 18th as a great, non-partisan way to do what you can. I bring it up now since you’ll want to plan and learn more, and they recommend that you sign up, download (but not print) their How-to Manual (which can also give you a better idea of what the week will look like than the video) and get ready to make the best of your week.

They realize that we can’t all make every change (No compost? No bike? That’s ok), but they provide helpful suggestions to doing the best we can to contribute, and they have organized it in a manner that will be easy to follow and informative. They have also strongly advocated for the personal benefits one can gain (as Beavan did) during such a “carbon cleanse.” Of the project, Beavan said,

“We hope that after focusing for just over a week on how our daily habits impact the world around them, our readers will see the effect our actions have in a new light. It will be very interactive and social – and empowering.”

Read more here

Or, watch this short clip to learn what the week is about:

If that’s not motivation enough, or if you’re like me and want to learn more about Beavan’s other genius ideas, look around his site. Here were some pages I enjoyed:

Colin’s How-To’s

The Frequently Asked Questions, especially these:

5. How will taking these small steps have any real impact on climate change?
Every small behavior change you make or every political action you take adds to a growing wave of change and influences your community to get on the ball!  Read more here.

6. Do I have to be a hippie, activist, granola eater to participate in the experiment?
No.  And that stereotype is so passe’.”

Top ten Eco-lifestyle Changes

Story of Stuff

I hope you’ll join me in discovering these benefits together!

-Jenny

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You. Yeah, you.

I’ve always wished I was more into politics. In fact, it may or may not have been a new years’ resolution for the past… oh, 4 or 5 years to know enough to aptly carry myself in a political conversation without looking like an idiot. While I know I may be judged by stating my unintentional ignorance, I do think that political awareness is a skill really; a personality type.

But, it’s also a civic duty…which is what gets me every time.

So, since I consider myself fairly involved and am interested in something where knowing current events is particularly important, I’ve reinstated my new years’ resolution (since as of September 18th it is now the year 5770 according to the Jewish calendar) and recently decreed that I will dedicate more time to make myself “in the know.”

Boxer-Kerry Bill, bring it on.

ANYWAY

Before making this decision, I often thought about the idea of individual versus collective action. How effective can a person really be if calling their representatives, protesting, and running for office isn’t their cup of tea? While it is easy to lose faith in the political system, I certainly would not advocate for us to try to combat climate change (or other social issues) without the help of government as well. So, while I intend to become more politically active, I also highly value an individual’s capability to make positive, meaningful, and important changes in their own lives and the lives of those around them.

I know No Impact Man, Colin Beavan, wasn’t saying he was uninterested in politics when he spoke, but last week, the environmental news blog, Grist, interviewed him partly on this topic and I really valued what he said. In case you didn’t click on the link, Beavan and his family recently completed a year of living “off the grid” in New York, making as small of an impact as possible and, throughout the year, blogged and wrote a book about the experience. (They even made a movie about it. Which looks sweet.) Anyway, here were a few excerpts that I thought were enlightening:

(Or you can read his whole interview here)

1. There are real reasons to make lifestyle changes outside of the policy realm:

“I think there are two main arguments on individual lifestyle change. One is that we have to change our way of life no matter how much technology we get, no matter what regulation we get, because we have to get to 350 [parts per million of carbon dioxide] and because Americans generate five times the carbon emissions per capita as the Chinese. Our consumption-based economy, I would argue, doesn’t work for the planet. It doesn’t work for the people either.

2. The changes we make individually affect culture more than do political changes:

“If we’re going to get the legislation we need and then keep it next time there’s a Republican administration, then we have to go beyond just using our political power to leverage the rest of the country into doing what we want. We have to change the culture. And you can’t change the values of the culture through legislation.”

3. But… we should still participate in politics:

“I don’t believe in individual action over collective action. I believe in both. It’s what I call engaged citizenship, a combination of both living your values in your own life and also living those values in your community life, volunteering for nonprofits and putting pressure on your political representatives.”

4. Here’s how to get your foot in the door:

“The problem is when people stop at using canvas bags or changing their light bulbs. I believe in robust lifestyle change instead.  For people who aren’t yet involved, who aren’t already in the choir, I find that the two big ways to start are with local food and bicycling. Once you get people to make those changes, then you can start getting them involved in politics.”

5. Those who already care are responsible to motivate those who don’t know or don’t care:

“We need to all of us put our shoulders at the doors of change and push and not worry about criticizing each other as much as supporting each other in all the various methods. Somebody will have a breakthrough, and we all need to be cheering each other on.

We have to find an on-ramp into environmental politics, because it’s just not growing fast enough. The more attempts at on-ramps that we can think of the better.”

6. Forget partisanship and political ideology. Just do what’s right:

“Collective action is at the root of liberal ideology and individual action is at the root of conservative ideology. To straddle individual and collective action feels like, whichever side you’re on, you’re betraying your political heritage. To suggest that we should do both is strangely radical. It’s almost like you need a whole new political party.”

Interesting, right?

I think he’s right on though. There will always be some who are more politically involved than others (hopefully I’ll be moving toward the ‘more’ end of the spectrum by 5771!), but it is truly important to make real, passionate, and steadfast efforts in our own lives, and I think these changes can add up in a really vital way. And it seems that Colin agrees.

In fact, in my research, it seems that Thoreau agreed as well.

“For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be: what is once well done is done forever.”

So, throughout the rest of this year while I acclimate myself to current events and the feel of political participation (no matter how small), I will also maintain a strong focus on my personal choices and my ability to positively influence others.

And I hope you’ll join me. Or, you know, write a letter to the editor.

-Jenny

P.S. Or, call your Senators about the climate bill. 1Sky will tell you how.

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