So many life-and-death issues are on the line in the upcoming election: the speed and scale of climate/planetary breakdown (i.e. the habitability of our planet); protecting women’s lives, personhood, and bodily autonomy; protecting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; reducing the threat of gun violence; protecting marginalized and dehumanized groups of people; protecting and expanding workers’ rights; and the appointment of future Supreme Court justices and other judges, to name just a few.

I know it seems like people always say “This is the most important election of our lifetime.” In a sense, it’s almost always true, if you just add “…so far.” We can’t go back and change the outcome of past elections, and we don’t know what future elections will look like. But every election is extremely important and every outcome has serious and lasting consequences for our everyday lives—and many issues are becoming more dire over time—so the next election is always going to be the next best chance we have to influence the conditions we will be living in in the short term and the long term.

This election is different from previous elections in some important and disturbing ways: 1) New voter suppression laws are in effect: Since the last Presidential election, some states have passed laws that will make it harder for certain groups of people to vote, which could disenfranchise many of them; and 2) Insurrectionists are in office and running for office: This is the first Presidential election since the January 6th insurrection happened. A number of current elected officials at state, local, and federal levels (and other people who are now running for office) participated in that insurrection in one way or another, or are still actively denying the results of the 2020 presidential election (propagating the Big Lie); and many of them are already saying that they will not accept (or certify) the outcome of an election that does not go their way. We have a patriotic responsibility to vote against insurrectionists and election deniers in a landslide; and 3) AI deepfakes (video and audio) can now easily be used to impersonate candidates or others, to confuse or misinform voters. It can be difficult to tell what is fake or real, and even if they are debunked, last-minute deepfakes before the election could have an effect on how people vote (or whether they vote at all).

If the U.S. allows a corrupt, sociopathic, Putin-backed, adjudicated rapist, compulsive liar, grifting conman, and wanna-be dictator (along with his corrupt henchmen and family) to take power for a second time, it will likely be the end of our long, admirable experiment with American democracy and it will probably be the last legitimate election we have for a generation or more. Many people don’t realize how quickly a country can lose its freedoms and how far it can fall in the hands of an authoritarian. Our democracy is far from perfect now, but things can get much, much worse. Basic rights that we take for granted could suddenly be stripped away. We should learn from the recent experiences of countries like Hungary, Turkey, and Belarus. I can’t overstate how much I don’t want to live out the rest of my life under that type of rule (and how much you and almost everyone else would hate it too).

Ways to help voters and Get Out the Vote

Elections are decided by those who show up to vote and who vote for one of the viable candidates (in the U.S. system, third-party candidates are not viable at the national level), and particularly by voters in “swing states,” which will determine the Electoral College outcome of the Presidential election (please click here to tell your state representatives to pass the National Popular Vote Law in your state; it has been passed in 18 states so far and is getting close to the threshold needed to go into effect). Current “swing states” include: Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, North Carolina, Florida, and New Hampshire. Other “purple” states include: Ohio, Montana, Minnesota, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Virginia, Maine, Iowa, Nebraska, and Missouri, among others.

Here are some ways that each of us can make sure people are able to vote and to protect the election and democracy:

  1. Look up your state’s voter registration deadline and share that information with others you know, including anyone who might not yet be registered (or who has moved recently and might need to re-register). In some states, people must be registered more than a month before the election in order to vote in that election, while a few states allow people to register right up to or on Election Day.
  2. Remember to check your registration status at least once a year (including a month or two before each election, when you should still have time to re-register) and remind others to do so, as well. (Go to your state’s Elections/Secretary of State website, or contact your county’s Elections office to check your registration, or go to  Vote411.org.) Some states are doing overly aggressive “purges” of their voter registration rolls to “clean them up” but they could remove people who should not be removed. You should also make sure your registration has your correct address.
  3. Make sure people in your state (and people you know in “battleground/swing states”) know what types of ID are required for voting there now. In the last year or two, the requirements in some states have gotten more stringent (for example, some states will not accept student IDs). Did you know that 11% of American adults (26 million people) don’t have a current photo ID? If someone needs assistance with obtaining the required ID or getting it free of charge, they can call or text the VoteRiders hotline: 866-ID-2-VOTE (866-432-8683), or email info@voteriders.org (or contact Spread the Vote/Project ID).
  4. There is a greater need for poll workers than ever before. Sign up to be a paid poll worker through Power the Polls. It’s important to sign up well before the election so you will have time to get the required training. Because the GOP is threatening to use voter intimidation tactics at some polling places, and because some new poll workers might not always provide correct information to voters, it’s also necessary to have fair-minded poll monitors, or “poll watchers” or “election observers” on hand. Sign up to be a nonpartisan Election Protection volunteer; there are different roles you can choose from, to help on site or from home. (You might also be able to sign up as a partisan poll watcher through your local or state Democratic Party office.) Those who have a legal background (lawyers, paralegals, and law students) can volunteer through WeTheAction.
  5. Support some voting/election-related organizations (or campaigns) now. Please don’t wait until the fall to start helping them; that could be too late to make a difference. Here are some groups to consider supporting (or volunteering for):
  1. There are many different ways you can volunteer to help Get Out the Vote, in your state or in one or more of the swing states that will determine the Electoral College outcome of the election. You could volunteer for a specific candidate or campaign, or with your state or local Democratic party. Or you can do postcarding, texting, or calling through groups like:

You can find other ways to be involved in expanding voting access and supporting democracy in the Americans of Conscience Checklist, or through some of the other organizations listed under #5.

 

Important Information to Share

Please share some of the information and links provided above, as well as some of the following articles, on your social media pages, or by email or text, etc.  Many people seem to have already forgotten about so many of the outrageous things that DT has said and done over the years (and how awful it was to live through his first term), and many people are not really paying attention to what he’s saying and doing now. There are so many daily outrages, it’s hard to keep up with all of them or remember many of them. Most of us could use some periodic reminders:

Legal cases (thousands) and guilty verdicts against Trump (and the Trump Organization), from the 1970s until the present

Sexual misconduct allegations (and cases) against Trump, by 25 women

Selections from The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President

A Trump dictatorship is increasingly inevitable. We should stop pretending.” By Robert Kagan, Washington Post

How Far Trump Would Go,” by Eric Cortellessa, Time magazine

The Bloodbath Candidate, by Timothy Snyder

Charted: Trump world allies sentenced to prison,” Axios

Decoding Project 2025’s Christian Nationalist Language,” by Andra Watkins, Salon

Project 2025 tells us what a second Trump term could mean for climate policy. It isn’t pretty.” By Frederick Hewett, WBUR

Our Diagnostic Impression of Trump is Probable Dementia,” signed by thousands of licensed mental health professionals, on Change.org

Numerous enlightening articles on DT by Chauncey DeVega, Salon

 

Also see: 30 Major Climate Initiatives Under Biden, Legal Planet

We’ll be adding more information to this post soon and in the months leading up the election, and we’re also going to publish another election-related post before November. Stay tuned!

Related posts:

Twitter lists:

 

#VoteReady #GOTV #VotingMatters #ClimateVoter #YouthVote #VoteLikeYourLifeDependsOnIt

Share

May 9, 2024
[Click here to comment]

The Goldman Environmental Prize is the world’s largest and most prestigious annual award for grassroots environmentalists. Many people refer to it as the “green Nobel.” Goldman Prize winners are models of courage, and their stories are powerful and truly inspiring. “The Prize recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk. Each winner receives a financial award. The Goldman Prize views ‘grassroots’ leaders as those involved in local efforts, where positive change is created through community or citizen participation in the issues that affect them. Through recognizing these individual leaders, the Prize seeks to inspire other ordinary people to take extraordinary actions to protect the natural world.” Over the 35 years that the Prize has been awarded, there have been more than 220 recipients of the prize.

This year’s prize recipients (representing each of the six inhabited continental regions of the world) are:

  • Andrea Vidaurre—USA: “Andrea Vidaurre’s grassroots leadership persuaded the California Air Resources Board to adopt, in the spring of 2023, two historic transportation regulations that significantly limit trucking and rail emissions. The new regulations—the In-Use Locomotive Rule and the California Advanced Clean Fleets Rule—include the nation’s first emission rule for trains and a path to 100% zero emissions for freight truck sales by 2036. The groundbreaking regulations—a product of Andrea’s policy work and community organizing—will substantially improve air quality for millions of Californians while accelerating the country’s transition to zero-emission vehicles.” (Support/follow: The People’s Collective for Environmental Justice, and Moving Forward Network)
  • Marcel Gomes—Brazil: “Marcel Gomes coordinated a complex, international campaign that directly linked beef from JBS, the world’s largest meatpacking company, to illegal deforestation in Brazil’s most threatened ecosystems. Armed with detailed evidence from his breakthrough investigative report, Marcel and Repórter Brasil worked with partners to pressure global retailers to stop selling the illegally sourced meat, leading six major European supermarket chains in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom to indefinitely halt the sale of JBS products in December 2021.” (Support/follow: Mighty Earth, AidEnvironment, Environmental Investigation Agency, and Repórter Brazil; and please sign this petition.)
  • Teresa Vicente—Spain: “Teresa Vicente led a historic, grassroots campaign to save the Mar Menor ecosystem—Europe’s largest saltwater lagoon—from collapse, resulting in the passage of a new law in September 2022 granting the lagoon unique legal rights. Considered to be the most important saltwater coastal lagoon in the western Mediterranean, the once pristine waters of the Mar Menor had become polluted due to mining, rampant development of urban and tourist infrastructure, and, in recent years, intensive agriculture and livestock farming.”
  • Alok Shukla—India: “Alok Shukla led a successful community campaign that saved 445,000 acres of biodiversity-rich forests from 21 planned coal mines in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh. In July 2022, the government canceled the 21 proposed coal mines in Hasdeo Aranya, whose pristine forests—popularly known as the lungs of Chhattisgarh—are one of the largest intact forest areas in India.” (On Twitter, follow @SHasdeo and @CBARaipur)
  • Murrawah Maroochy Johnson—Australia: “Murrawah Maroochy Johnson blocked development of the Waratah coal mine, which would have accelerated climate change in Queensland, destroyed the nearly 20,000-acre Bimblebox Nature Refuge, added 1.58 billion tons of CO2 to the atmosphere over its lifetime, and threatened Indigenous rights and culture. Murrawah’s case, which overcame a 2023 appeal, set a precedent that enables other First Nations people to challenge coal projects by linking climate change to human and Indigenous rights.” (Support/follow: Youth Verdict)

Click on each recipient’s name to read a longer profile—or watch a brief video—about their remarkable efforts and achievements.

Posts on Goldman Prize winners from previous years:

Share

April 29, 2024
[Click here to comment]

If you’re reading this, you’re probably someone who is concerned about the climate crisis. And you might have wondered, “But what can I do about it?” (or “What should I be urging government and business leaders to do about it?”) If so, you’re not alone. These are excellent and frequently asked questions. And answers are out there—but some are more informed, concrete, and constructive than others.

Often, these questions are asked by people who either: A) have been too busy dealing with other responsibilities or activities in their lives to spend much time learning about climate issues, and who genuinely don’t know what the primary causes and solutions to climate change are, or B) are highly informed about climate issues and are overwhelmed by the wide range of contributing factors and potential solutions, to the point of decision paralysis. Regardless of whether the questions stem from a lack of relevant knowledge or an abundance of knowledge and overwhelm, almost everyone wants to know which climate actions would be the best, most effective uses of their limited time and money.

A small percentage of people who ask “What can I do?” are only asking in a rhetorical way, and they don’t really want answers or plan to do anything. Some folks are so attached to the status quo that they would rather say that “nothing can be done” than consider changing any norms or habits. But we know the situation is not hopeless and we are not helpless. We all have agency to make a difference, and most of us realize that widespread inaction will consign us and future generations of all species to a wretched future.

Fortunately, most people really do care and want to do something (and want our leaders to do more). A study found that most of us wildly underestimate other people’s level of climate concern and their support for climate action. But the vast majority of people in the world—more than 76% of Americans, and more than 86% of people worldwide—are concerned about the climate, approve of pro-climate social norms, and want more political action on climate. (See: 2024 study published in Nature Climate Change, and an article about it in Carbon Brief).

That said, concern, good intentions, pledges, and commitments are not enough. These must be converted into actual action. And we can’t leave it to others (or rely solely on our leaders) to do this for us. There’s no more time for delay. We need all hands on deck now—which brings us back to the “What can I do?” question. I think that the moment after this important question gets posed is the critical juncture where climate progress too often gets stuck. Too many people are not seeing or hearing (or finding) answers that are specific or substantive enough, in the media or online or from peers. Many people don’t have the time, energy, or knowledge base to do this type of deep research or to figure out how to interpret or implement vague or wonky recommendations. That’s why my aim is to provide some clear guidance and direction—nuts-and-bolts information that can help people move forward and turn climate concerns into concrete actions. Thus, I’ve provided a Climate Action Starter Pack (below).

There are so many ways we can make a difference, on our own or as part of a collective effort. Each of us can take actions within our various roles: 1) as citizens, who have the power and responsibility to engage with and speak up to our representatives, governments, and other institutions, 2) as members of our assorted social circles, networks, and communities, including our workplace; and 3) as individuals, family members, and consumers. As I see it, those roles translate into these general categories:

  1. Systemic/Civic Actions
  2. Social/Community Actions
  3. Personal/Household Actions

Arguably, the changes we push for and achieve in those first two areas—influencing and working with others, and demanding policy changes and actions from government, businesses, institutions, and other entities—will have the biggest impacts and are therefore the most necessary. Clearly, one household’s lifestyle changes won’t be enough to change the world or stabilize the climate. However, there is an interplay among all three of these areas, and we should not discount the powerful ripple effects that our personal actions and choices can generate. They can set a needed example for and inspire our peers (people are much more likely to do something if they know someone who has already done it) and they send beneficial demand signals to “the market.” And admittedly, it can be easier or more immediately gratifying to make personal/household changes that are well within our control than to try to shift policies and systems, which requires a sustained, collective effort. Ideally, we can each find a good balance of actions within all of these realms, from macro to micro.

Climate actions and choices can include things To Do and things Not To Do. They can be high-tech or low-tech/no-tech (which is often preferable). And they can be no-cost, low-cost, money-saving, or higher-cost (and high payoff) investments. Many people assume that all climate-smart choices are going to be expensive or complicated or require huge sacrifices. But many of them are none of those things. Some climate actions might require a little thought, effort, or time, but many will save you (and society) money and improve quality of life.

There are literally thousands of things any of us could be doing to mitigate climate change, but it’s not possible for any of us to do all of those things, let alone all at once. All we can do is start somewhere, where we are, and do whatever each of us can do, and then do more when we can. We don’t all need to do the same things, but we do all need to do something, and it makes sense to try to do some of the things that will make the biggest difference.

Climate Action Starter Pack

This guide includes some of the most important climate actions you can take, some of which are also easy and money-saving. This is not an exhaustive list of actions. It’s a set of recommended actions—a menu of options that can help you build your own Climate Action Plan. Many are basic, beginner level actions and some are intermediate (i.e., they might require more time or money).

You may already be doing a number of things that help slow climate change. You might find it motivating to make a list of the things you have done or are doing and check off the suggestions below that you already engage in, and then identify some ways you want to build on those steps.

No one would expect anyone to take every action in this post. I recommend picking 2-3 actions to focus on at first, to make it manageable. Then once you make progress on those, add a couple more. You could set reminders and deadlines for yourself and regularly update your plan. Aim to add more actions each month, quarter, or year. It could be helpful to do this with others in your household or with a group of friends or neighbors, for support and accountability.

Every climate advisor’s list of top actions will look a little different. I have developed these suggestions using a combination of sources, including Project Drawdown’s scientific analysis of top climate solutions, plus the Emergency Brake measures they identified (which are ways to make the deep emissions cuts that are needed immediately), as well as a Swedish study on the most effective individual actions for climate mitigation. And I’ve added my own commentary throughout on other important actions and “low-hanging fruit” (i.e., easy/quick, or free/low-cost choices), and some practical tips (and links) on how to implement the solutions.

I am presenting these suggestions within the three main categories that I mentioned above, but in the reverse order, from micro to macro: Personal/Household, then Social/Community, and then Systemic/Civic actions. However, please feel free to switch up the order and start with the broader systemic or community-level actions first. Or better yet, pick at least one or two solutions within each of these categories when creating your own Climate Action Plan:

I. Personal/Household Actions (and Choices)

To take actions that make the biggest difference (in terms of climate impact), you could prioritize your actions based on Project Drawdown’s science-based solutions. Two of the most effective, high-impact solutions that they identified through their methodology are related to food: Reduced Food Waste and Plant-Rich DietsThese are some personal actions you can take in those two areas:

  1. Reduce food waste: Refer to the numbered list in our recent Food Waste post.
  2. Shift to a more plant-based diet, i.e., eating less (or no) meat and dairy (a shift which also happens to be good for our health—as well as for the welfare of animals, and for land and water conservation): It’s easy to find delicious recipes online for meatless/vegetarian and dairy-free, vegan dishes, as well as vegetarian and vegan restaurants (those are search categories on Yelp), and plenty of information on protein-rich, plant-based or “plant-forward” diets. I’ve shifted to a mostly vegetarian and increasingly vegan diet. It’s gotten easier to do over time and I don’t feel like I’m depriving myself; I almost never crave meat anymore.

Click here for other top solutions identified by Project Drawdown. One of the other top solutions is Family Planning and Education (which I will cover in a later post).

Drawdown has also identified some “Emergency Brake” measures: “the fastest, largest, lowest-cost climate solutions we can deploy—right now” to make the deep emissions cuts that are needed immediately. Below, I’ve suggested some specific personal actions you can take to effect change within each of the Emergency Brake areas. Some of these actions are easier and cheaper than others; you might put a couple of these in Phase II of your Action Plan, and many are best addressed through Systemic/Civic actions (which appear later in this post):

  1. Reduce deforestation: Only buy paper products (e.g., toilet paper, printing paper) that are FSC-certified or 100% recycled content, and reduce your use of disposable paper towels and napkins by using sponges/rags and washable cloth napkins. Only buy wood products (e.g., lumber, furniture, etc.) that are FSC-certified or reclaimed or used. Also, avoid products that contain palm oil (or non-organic soy, which is often grown in the Amazon region), when possible; palm oil and soy plantations—along with cattle grazing—are some of the primary drivers of global deforestation.
  2. Reduce potent, short-lived greenhouse pollutants such as nitrous oxide, “black carbon”/soot, and methane: Don’t use synthetic/chemical fertilizers and pesticides (which produce high levels of nitrous oxide), and do buy or grow organic food. Replace gas-powered lawn equipment (e.g., mowers and leaf blowers) with battery/electric equipment (or even better, reduce or eliminate your need to mow by replacing your grass lawn with native groundcovers or a garden, and “leave the leaves” or use them as mulch on your plants); and avoid using vehicles fueled by diesel and avoid burning wood (and charcoal) as much as possible (because these contribute to “black carbon” emissions). And if/when you can, switch from “natural gas” (methane) to electric equipment and appliances (e.g., stoves, furnaces).
  3. Increase energy and fuel efficiency: Switch to highly energy-efficient equipment and appliances (e.g., Energy Star certified), which sometimes qualify for utility rebates or tax credits/deductions; weatherize/insulate your home, and adopt energy-saving habits (note: conserving water also helps save energy). To avoid excessive energy consumption, also avoid buying cryptocurrency/bitcoin or using unnecessary AI tools. Choose fuel-efficient vehicles (non-oversized vehicles that ideally are electric or hybrid; or electric bicycles and scooters/motorcycles)—or better yet, drive less overall, e.g., telecommute or reduce your commute distance, ride a bike, walk, take mass transit, or carpool.
  4. Reduce all types of waste: Reduce your purchases of new materials/products, and reduce material and packaging waste (as well as food waste—see above). Always reduce first (i.e., don’t buy what you don’t need), then reuse/repair what you have, and buy used or salvaged items or borrow/rent items when you can. (Note: There are local Buy Nothing groups all over, where people give their used items away for free, and some places have “tool libraries” or other venues where sharable items can be loaned or rented out). Lastly, recycle what you can. But be aware that many things are not readily recyclable, most plastics never actually get recycled and are shipped overseas, and recycling requires energy, plus melting down some materials—like plastics—can produce toxic emissions. It’s particularly important to avoid buying new plastic items (especially single-use, disposable items and all PVC items) and products with plastic packaging, as much as you can; I know this one isn’t easy, since plastic is everywhere. Plastics are made from toxic petrochemicals (fossil fuels) and they are a massive threat to environmental and public health, as well as the climate.

I want to expand on #4. I think it’s accurate to say that Buying Less Stuff is one of the most important things that all of us can do. In America, in particular, we are constantly pushed to buy, buy, buy—by companies and their advertisers, and also by our peers (or just from feeling like our social status depends on “keeping up with the Joneses”). People in the U.S. consume much more, on average, than people in any other country. The ultra-wealthy consume the most by far, but most middle-class Americans also buy way more than we need. Our materialism and gross over-consumption greatly affect our climate and cause the degradation of all aspects of our environment. A study published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology found that, globally, the stuff we consume (buy) is responsible for up to 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions and between 50 and 80% of total land, material, and water use. Everything that’s made has its own carbon footprint (“embodied energy”) and environmental impacts—throughout each stage of its lifecycle, from raw materials extraction through manufacturing and use and finally disposal, via landfill or incineration (neither of which makes anything go “away”—it just ends up in our air or soil and water).

Using a different methodology than Project Drawdown, an earlier study from Sweden— which specifically focused on identifying the most effective individual actions for climate mitigationfound that the choices that will most affect your own contributions to climate change are:

  • how many kids you have (particularly if you live in a high-income, high-consumption, high-waste country like the U.S.)—This decision has a much bigger climate impact than any other we can make as individuals.
  • how much (how often and how far) you drive and fly;
  • how much energy you use in your home and how much of the energy you/your utility company use is from clean, renewable sources vs. dirty sources [Note: If your utility does not use much renewable energy yet, they might offer a program you can sign up and pay for that helps support the development of renewable energy projects in your region, an option that would be considerably less expensive than adding solar panels to your own home, though that’s also a great solution and investment if you have the means, as is getting a highly efficient heating/cooling system, e.g., a “heat pump”];
  • how fuel-efficient your vehicle (or the vehicle you are driven in) is; and
  • how much meat you eat.

Many of those synchronize nicely with Project Drawdown’s top 5-10 solutions, even though Drawdown’s are not focused only on personal, individual-level actions. For more details on the Swedish study’s findings, click here (and scroll down to Part II of that post).

The final suggestion I would add to this list of Personal Actions is to think about which particular sectors or types of climate solutions you are most interested in or passionate about. Project Drawdown breaks the sectors down into: Electricity; Food, Agriculture, and Land Use; Industry; Transportation; Buildings; Land (Carbon) Sinks; Coastal and Ocean (Carbon) Sinks; Engineered Carbon Sinks; and Health and Education. You also might want to think about the skills, strengths, and resources you have that you can apply to the climate effort. Check out Ayana Elizabeth Johnson’s Climate Action Venn Diagram (and her TED talk) to jump-start your brainstorming. And OneGreenThing offers a free, quick “Service Superpower Assessment” quiz to enable you identify the “service type that best suits your personality.” Tools like these could help you pinpoint specific actions or approaches that are a good match for you and your unique set of interests and attributes.

Also check out the Climate Action Resources section towards the end of this post for links to tools and resources that provide additional guidance on taking climate actions.

II. Social/Community Actions

These are some ways to engage socially and as a member of your various social circles, networks, and communities (online and off), to help contribute towards cultural shifts:

  1. One of the best ways to get started is to plug into one or more of the many climate groups or initiatives that already exist. (This suggestion also has relevance to the Personal and Systemic categories of actions.) Find some climate organizations that have a strategy or tone that resonates with you or that seem like a good match for your particular interests. Follow a few groups, and then join or support at least one group—it could be national, international, or local. Also start following and reading some fact-based climate information/news outlets: see the Climate Resources list at the end of our previous post, and go to the last section of this post for links to some Climate Action Groups, Apps, Newsletters, and Books.
  2. Next, start sharing climate information from the organizations and media you follow, with your friends and social networks online or off. Or you could start by sharing some of the information provided in this post. Also talk about and share your own climate concerns and feelings with your friends and family; in addition to alleviating some of the weight of those feelings, expressing them will help let others know they aren’t alone (since most of us underestimate other people’s level of concern). You could also share some of the actions you’re taking and offer encouragement and support for others to take their own actions.
  3. Look into whether a local climate (or environmental) group has been established at your workplace, school, place of worship, and/or in your neighborhood or town. If not, you could consider starting one. (One idea: Form a Book+Action Group.) To identify specific actions to implement with your group, you could refer to the actions suggested in the Personal/Household and Systemic/Civic sections of this post, and discuss ways to apply a few of those within your group or community.
  4. Check out Project Drawdown’s Job Function Action Guides (for various types of employee roles and positions), to find ways to “make your job a climate job.” (Also, IT specialists, therapists, and architects can find job guides in this Climate Action Resource Library.)
  5. Food-based solutions: When hosting a group (or having a party), serve plant-based (vegetarian and vegan) foods. Or host a potluck where everyone brings some plant-based (and/or homegrown, locally-grown or organic) foods to share. And if you have a lot of food left over at the end, send leftovers home with any of the guests that can use them. If you don’t have many food containers you can give away, you could ask people to bring some of their own.

And last but definitely not least

III. Systemic/Civic Actions

The following are some of the most vital and influential actions you can take—pushing for societal, institutional, and systems-level shifts:

  1. VOTE for climate champions (and pro-democracy champions) at all levels of government: local, state, and national. Vote out climate deniers and “fossil fools.” Even if you don’t do any of the other things listed in this post, please vote in every election. It’s the least any of us can do. To go a little further, inform your friends about campaigns, candidates, and ballot issues. And regularly encourage people (especially young people and fellow enviros) to register to vote, to check their registration status (and their state’s voter ID requirements), and to vote. Additionally, if you are able to, support or volunteer with a campaign, or a voting/election group that helps with voter registration or Get Out the Vote efforts, or volunteer as a poll worker.
  2. Move your accounts out of the big banks (which include Chase, Citi, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo—for those of us in the U.S.), where your money is used to fund oil and gas projects (among other unsavory projects). Move your money into more socially and environmentally responsible banks (e.g., local credit unions or “fossil-free” banks). And if your employer offers a 401k or pension program (or you have your own stock-based investment accounts), find out whether they include fossil fuel company stocks; switch to, or ask that your employer offers, a fossil-free, socially responsible investment fund.
  3. Participate in actions organized by the climate organizations you follow. Actions could be online (e.g. signing on to petitions and letters to your representatives or others in positions of power) or offline (e.g., calling your representatives, or boycotting certain companies) as well as in-person/direct actions (e.g., sit-ins, marches, protests; or meeting with your representatives). If you’re not seeing good, current petitions or letters to sign onto, directly contact your federal, state, and local representatives and officials to demand that they urgently support, create, and enforce policies that treat climate destabilization as the emergency that it is, through executive and legislative actions that: end fossil fuel subsidies, stop permitting new fossil fuel infrastructure (including “natural gas” and petrochemical/plastics infrastructure), commit to >95% renewable energy goals and the rapid phase-out of fossil fuel use, and develop (and incentivize the development) of public and private renewable energy projects. I like to remind my government reps that the primary purpose of government is to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public for the common good. You can also urge your county to create a Community Choice Energy program, and pressure your electric utility company to rapidly make the transition to clean, renewable energy (solar, wind, no-dam hydro).
  4. Send messages and comments to media/news outlets (national and local), asking them to report more on climate change and climate solutions, and asking reporters to regularly interview climate scientists and experts who can accurately connect the dots between worsening “natural” disasters or extreme weather events and our destabilized, rapidly changing climate. (See Covering Climate Now for more ideas and resources.) You can also submit Letters to the Editor to your newspapers, about the climate crisis and solutions.

To address the two top food-related solutions identified by Project Drawdown, in a systems context:

  1. Reduce food waste: See the first section of our post on How to Reduce Food Waste (paragraphs 4-6) for some actions that focus on the systemic aspects of this problem. Also, if your city/county doesn’t have a local compost collection program (for food scraps and yard waste), ask them to start one.
  2. Reduce meat consumption: Ask your state or city governments and school district to institute policies requiring the provision of non-meat options in government and school cafeterias and through their food vendors. You could also ask your local restaurants (and your workplace cafeteria program, if relevant) to provide more non-meat options. Cafeterias could do “meatless Mondays” (or even go meatless every other day or always). I would also suggest that they should try to procure organic (and local) foods.

As for Project Drawdown’s Emergency Brake measures: There are many ways to address these systemically, only a few of which I’ll mention here. You might pick one or two of these for your initial Action Plan, and add others to later phases:

  1. Reduce deforestation: Send letters/sign petitions to federal and state government agencies and officials, asking them to stop allowing the clear-cutting of large forest areas, and to ban further logging in the few remaining old-growth and mature forests; ask the state, local, and/or federal government to amend their purchasing policies to specify FSC-certified wood products and 100% recycled-content and/or FSC-certified paper products. Also ask your local lumber and home improvement stores to sell FSC-certified lumber (and other types of wood products), and ask other retailers (e.g., office supply and grocery stores) to offer and promote 100% recycled (or FSC) paper products.
  2. Reduce methane, nitrous oxide, and “black carbon” emissions: Tell your federal and state representatives to require and enforce the plugging of all abandoned wells and methane leaks; to support laws and programs that drastically reduce farmers’ use of nitrous-oxide-producing fertilizers and pesticides (and support/incentivize the transition to organic farming); and to incentivize the phase-out of heavy-duty/commercial diesel trucks in favor of electric or low-emissions trucks. You could also ask your city or state to phase out and eventually ban the sale or use of gas-powered lawn equipment, at least on public properties (something that more and more communities are doing).
  3. Increase energy and fuel efficiency: Ask your representatives (or at your least your workplace) to require that all non-essential lights and equipment be turned off in buildings after hours, and to push for high-efficiency requirements in your state building code, as well as to regulate or rein in cryptocurrency/bitcoin “mining” and unnecessary uses of AI, which are creating enormous energy demands for server/data centers. Also, ask your state and city representatives to replace vehicles in their fleets (including school buses) with electric or fuel-efficient/low-emissions vehicles, and ask your City Council or County officials to add more bike paths/lanes and bike racks throughout your area.
  4. Reduce waste: Tell your federal, state, and local representatives to support zero-waste programs and zero-waste procurement (including packaging and plastics reduction) specifications within their government agencies, with an emphasis on source reduction and a ban on (or phase-out of) single-use, disposable products, particularly plastic products.

There is no definitive, one-size-fits-all list of the climate actions that each of us should take. This Climate Action Starter Pack serves as a general primer and includes a bunch of actions that most people can take. I also recommend taking a look at some of the Climate Action Resources in the next section, for other ideas and ways to get or stay engaged.

One’s climate actions and choices become more obvious and automatic as one’s climate/environmental ethic or mindset deepens. Gradually, you find yourself looking at almost everything you do and choose through a climate (and planetary health) lens. This doesn’t need to be seen as a burden; it is simply living within the reality of ecological limits. We already apply all sorts of other filters to our decisions (e.g., cost, aesthetics, convenience). It’s important to include climate and environmental considerations and shift towards prioritizing those over less consequential considerations.

I’m preparing a PDF checklist that summarizes all of the actions that I’ve suggested above. If you would like professional assistance with creating a customized Climate Action Plan for your household, workplace, or company/organization or other group, or if you want more prescriptive, step by step instructions or guidance on exactly how you can implement the strategies in your plan, I am a climate and sustainability advisor and I offer those services.

Climate Action Resources

The following are links to existing climate action groups, articles and guides, newsletters, apps, and books that might help you put your climate action plans into practice.

Climate Action Groups

These essentially function as support/action groups:

To find other types of group-based activities within climate organizations, see our larger list of Climate Organizations and peruse some of those groups’ websites.

Climate Action Articles and Guides

Climate Action Newsletters

Climate Action Apps

Climate Action Books

For lists of other books (plus films and videos) related to climate and other environmental topics, click here.

 

Again, if you would like professional assistance with creating a customized Climate Action Plan for your household, workplace, company/organization or other group, or if you want more prescriptive, step by step instructions or guidance on exactly how you can implement the strategies in your plan, I am a climate and sustainability advisor and I offer those services.

Related posts:

Share

April 8, 2024
[Click here to comment]

The climate movement has been growing much larger and building power in recent years. The vast majority of people in the U.S. and in the world are concerned about the climate and want to see more climate action. And there’s no shortage of climate-focused organizations. But we do need more people who’ve been sitting on the sidelines to join the existing efforts and turn their climate concern into action, so we can reach a critical mass. There is strength in numbers and in collective action.

strength in numbers

You don’t have to identify as an “activist” to amplify, support, or participate in the work of climate organizations, and you don’t need to wait for an invitation to join or to get involved—but if you’d like one, consider this your cordial, official invitation! All of us in the climate movement welcome you!

If you aren’t already familiar with a bunch of climate organizations, check out the list below. I recommend following at least a few of these (or other) climate organizations online (e.g., on social media) to get to know what they’re about and to get a sense of which ones have an approach or a tone that resonates with you the most. Then sign up to join—or get on the mailing list of—one or more of them. And start sharing their posts and actions with others in your social network.

This list of climate organizations is fairly comprehensive but it is not exhaustive. Most of the following groups are based in the U.S. and have a national or international scope, and most are non-profits. Many of these groups have regional or local chapters. (As I learn about other national/international groups over time, I will be adding more to this list.) Many other climate organizations exist, including local, grassroots groups and projects, all over the world. If you can’t find a local group, chapter, or committee in your town, you could start an informal climate group or project in your community, neighborhood, workplace, school, or religious congregation.

Note: In this first list, below, the organizations that are in bold type are the groups that I am most familiar with and feel most comfortable recommending, but all of these organizations have an important role to play. Are you familiar with some of these?

These are organizations for people in particular professions or demographics:

There are also a number of faith-based (religious) climate groups.

Also, many broad-based environmental organizations include climate issues among the spectrum of environmental issues they work on. After all, climate change affects and is affected by every other environmental (and social) issue.

And many other types of environmental organizations with a specific focus (e.g., environmental justice, youth/young people, health, land/forest conservation, animal/species protection, etc.) often also recognize and address climate impacts in their work.

If you would like assistance with identifying a few organizations that are the best fit for your particular interests or your preferred organizational strategies/approaches (e.g., legal, legislative/lobbying, direct action, education/awareness building, etc.), I’m a climate advisor and I can assist you with that.

If you would like to recommend a climate organization that isn’t on this list, please mention it in the Comments!

 

Climate Resources

The following are information sources—including some media/news sites—that provide science-based, fact-based information on the climate crisis and climate solutions. Most of these are based in the U.S.  These sites can help you get more informed or help you educate others about climate issues:

For other environmental and general news sources, see our post on Reputable and Fact-Based News and Information Sources.

For other types of climate resources, also see our post on Books, Films and TV, and TED Talks.

Other relevant posts:

Share

February 27, 2024
[Click here to comment]

This is the first post in a series (called Beautiful World), which I intend to publish every few months, featuring photos I’ve taken of various types of natural phenomena.  These photos provide a reminder of the awe-inspiring beauty of our planet and its natural wonders—a reminder of some of the living things and places we love that we are striving to protect and preserve.

Note: These photos are not meant to be used elsewhere without permission and without providing the proper credit: © M. Landman.  I am aware that AI generators have been rampantly hoovering up (i.e., stealing) people’s creative works and intellectual property, and I know there’s not a lot that I can do to stop them (I didn’t feel like taking the time to add a watermark to all of my photos, and also I think that watermarks sort of tarnish their look). But if you’re a real person (not a bot), I do hope you will be kind enough to ask for permission or at least provide the proper credit if you decide to take and use/post any of these photos.

Deschutes National Forest, Sisters, OR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Redwoods of Humboldt County, CA                    © M. Landman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Redwoods of Humboldt County, CA.  © M. Landman

Willamette National Forest, OR.   © M. Landman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Redwoods of western Sonoma County, CA           © M. Landman

Saugatuck Dunes State Park, MI.   © M. Landman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coast Range, Benton County, OR                         © M. Landman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oak canopy, Bothe Napa Valley State Park, CA.   © M. Landman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aspen trees, Hope Valley, CA   © M. Landman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mt. Tamalpais State Park, CA   © M. Landman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can view more photos (taken by me and by others) on our Facebook page.

Future installments in this photo series will be on themes such as: mountains, birds, flowers, bodies of water, trees/leaves, garden plants, etc.

 

Related post:  Re-Tree the World

Share

January 30, 2024
[Click here to comment]

Did you know that one-third of food is wasted, somewhere between the farm and the plate?  This is not only inefficient—it’s immoral, as 1 in 10 people in the world are malnourished (suffering from hunger and food insecurity), and food waste is also one of the major contributors to climate change. Most of the methane emissions from landfills are caused by food waste (AKA “organic waste”). Methane is one of the worst, most potent greenhouse gas pollutants.

Project Drawdown’s research has identified Reduced Food Waste as one of the highest impact climate solutions. (It’s ranked #1 or #4 in their list of solutions, depending on which global-heating timeline scenario you select.)

Reducing food waste is not only one of the best ways to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions; it’s also one of the easiest ways. And it shouldn’t cost you anything; in fact, reducing food waste should save you money. It’s the “low hanging fruit,” so to speak, of climate solutions.

Of course, like most climate solutions, the biggest changes need to happen at a systemic level. Tons of food waste (or “food loss”) happens before it ever makes it to consumers, in the agricultural and food retail industries and along the whole supply chain. Often, a sizable percentage of produce is never even harvested in the fields where it’s grown, or it gets thrown out during processing or in restaurants, grocery stores, and cafeterias, sometimes due to its imperfect appearance or over-ripeness (or due to expiration dates, for packaged foods).

Farmers can learn about ways to recover more of their produce that is lost/wasted, through the resources and services of experts like Lisa K. Johnson. Some areas have gleaning groups that will come pick any excess crops and donate them directly to soup kitchens, food banks, or to people in need. Surplus can also be distributed for use as animal feed, compost, or industrial inputs, or even converted to energy using anaerobic digesters.

The rest of us can ask the owners or managers of our grocery stores (and local restaurants and school cafeterias) what they do with their excess food, and nicely ask them to donate their extra produce (before it goes bad)—and any packaged foods that are nearing their expiration dates—to local food pantries and/or overstock stores. In 2016, France passed a law requiring supermarkets to donate (rather than throw out) all unused food products. We should push for similar laws in our own country.

There are also numerous ways that each of us can help reduce (as well as reuse/repurpose or recycle/compost) our own food waste. Some are these strategies are very basic and may seem obvious, while others you might not have considered, or they might require a little more knowledge or effort:

  1. Don’t buy more perishable foods (i.e., produce, meat, dairy, fish, bread, or anything you need to refrigerate) than your household is likely to be able to eat before the items go bad. (For example, don’t buy produce in bulk quantities unless you know you can use or share all of it in time.) Avoiding buying too much—and using up what you have—may seem like no-brainers, but they do require some thought and planning. And it’s easier not to over-shop if you have a fresh-foods market a short distance from your home so you can go there more often. Many fruits and vegetables will stay fresh longer if you keep them in the refrigerator, and breads and many other foods can be stored in the freezer for later use. One way to help make sure you use up what you have is to place the items you need to eat first (including leftovers) in the most visible parts of your fridge where you can’t forget about them, rather than pushed back and hidden behind other items that will last longer. If you can tell that you have gotten more than you’re going to be able to use of something, give the surplus to friends/family who can definitely use it, or donate it to a local food bank/pantry (or soup kitchen or shelter) while it is still fresh enough to eat.
  2. It’s widely known now that the “Best By” dates on packaged foods are not expiration dates, and those dates can often be “taken with a grain of salt.” Here are some guidelines on how long various foods will last before they actually go bad. If you have packaged foods that you may not be able to use before they approach their expiration dates, donate those to a food pantry or the like before they expire.
  3. Don’t shy away from buying fruits and vegetables that are small or strangely shaped or slightly imperfect, or packaged foods in boxes/containers that are slightly dented or misshapen. Check out these companies that sell such foods at a discount: Imperfect Foods, Ugly Foods, and Misfits Market.
  4. Buy some of your food from overstock stores, like Grocery Outlet (or Big Lots), which help keep overstocked (or close-out) products from being thrown out. This is another great way to save money. You can often find some organic and healthy foods at Grocery Outlet.
  5. You can find many great ideas for ways to reuse/repurpose your food scraps and leftovers. Just do a web search for phrases like “cooking with food scraps,” “recipes reusing food scraps,” or “creative ways to use food scraps or leftovers” and you’ll see so many ingenious suggestions. (People who have lived in poverty or on a low income have learned some of these tricks by necessity.) Any remaining non-meat food scraps that you can’t use you can give to people who have chickens or other animals that would be happy to eat them (or else compost the unusable scraps: see the last item, below).
  6. When you eat at restaurants, if the restaurant offers huge portions of food that are more than you can/should eat, consider sharing those dishes. If you have leftovers, only have those put in a take-out container if you’re fairly certain that someone in your household will finish that food later, or if you know that you can give it to a homeless person right away. (Otherwise, you’re just adding unnecessary packaging waste to more food waste.)
  7. If you have a large garden or fruit or nut trees that produce more than your family can eat, offer the extra bounty to neighbors and friends, or post something on NextDoor.com or elsewhere to offer it to other people, inviting them to come pick/harvest and take it; or if you have a lot of surplus, you could set up a little farm stand/free food pantry box (or add it to a free library box), or contact a local gleaning group (if there’s no local group shown on the map at that link, do a web search to try to find ones in your area, or ask around on local social media groups). If you have a bunch of fallen, over-ripe, or wormy fruit from your fruit trees, you could offer that fruit to people who raise pigs or chickens or who have lots of deer or other wildlife on a rural property.
  8. Consider volunteering with a local gleaning group. Members of your group could contact local farms and orchards to see if they have excess crops they’d like your group to harvest and give to those in need.
  9. Composting options: 1) If your town has a curbside composting program that collects food waste, you should be able to put your remaining food waste into your curbside compost bin. (Just bear in mind that, in some areas, the compost gets transported to another county, which is not efficient in terms of transportation emissions.) Some cities or regions also have composting services that companies or households can hire to pick up their food scraps/waste. 2) You could collect and give your food waste to a neighbor or local farmer who composts on their land and uses the compost to improve their soil. 3) Or you can compost your food waste on your own property, if you have the space and an appropriate spot for that (where it won’t be likely to attract raccoons or rats or create a nuisance for neighbors). You can find zillions of resources and tips online about how to do home composting. One of the easiest ways to do it (without having to buy or build a compost bin) is referred to as “composting in place“: just digging a small hole right in your garden and putting your food waste in the hole, as it’s generated, and covering it up for it to decompose and improve your soil.

One of the other top climate solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions is also food-related: shifting to a more plant-based diet, i.e., eating less (or no) meat and dairy, which also happens to be good for our health—as well as the welfare of animals—and it can also save you money. Online, it’s easy to find many delicious recipes for meatless/vegetarian or dairy-free/vegan dishes, as well as vegetarian and vegan restaurants near you, and lots of information and resources on protein-rich, plant-based diets. And if you do sometimes eat meat or dairy foods, be sure to make an extra effort to use those up and not waste them, for the sake of the animals they came from, and also because meat and dairy production account for such an enormous amount of land use (and deforestation), as well as water use.

Resources for more information on food waste reduction:

Also do a web search for organizations and companies in your city/county/state that focus on “food waste” or “food recovery” or “zero waste” to find out about efforts and opportunities in your region.

Related posts:

Share

November 21, 2023
[Click here to comment]

Public health (and individual health) depend on environmental health. 

While many conditions—e.g., cancers, neurological diseases and disorders, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes—have genetic risk factors, and some can also be triggered or worsened by certain viruses or by lifestyle choices (diet and exercise), many diseases are much more likely to occur when certain environmental exposures (pollutants) are also present. Prevention of diseases should not just be focused on lifestyle choices, but should also focus on protecting everyone by banning the environmental toxins that many of us are exposed to.

Many known and probable/suspected carcinogens, endocrine disruptors (including “obesogens”), and neurotoxins are in products that we use every day, and we’re also regularly exposed to toxins through polluted air, water, and soil/food.

Industrial, agricultural, and janitorial workers, and people living in low-income (or Industrial Ag.) communities, often suffer the greatest exposures to toxins/pollutants (and therefore, people in these groups often have shorter lifespans). But all of us face these risks to some degree, no matter how “healthy” our lifestyle or how wealthy our neighborhood is. We should all be outraged that any one of us and many of our loved ones could end up suffering or dying from diseases or disorders that are often caused—at least in part—by our typically involuntary exposures to toxic chemicals that should not be manufactured or used or emitted into the environment. Our society and regulatory agencies should be using the precautionary principle and keeping harmful chemicals and toxins (including oil, gas, and coal emissions, and petrochemical plastics) out of our environment. We must push for changes that protect everyone’s bodies and brains.

Climate destabilization and global heating are also creating significant problems for public health (and safety and survival), in so many ways: from extreme heat to other climate-driven disasters (wildfires and smoke, flooding, drought, etc.), to the increased incidence and geographic spread of infectious (and mosquito-and tick-borne) diseases, as well as the very real mental health impacts of experiencing and witnessing climate destabilization, traumatizing disasters and displacement. Any time you’re working to mitigate and slow climate change, you’re also working to protect public health.

Here’s a list of our posts that are most directly related to health:

And these are some organizations that are focused on environmental and public health:

Share

October 11, 2023
1 comment

BOOKS

Eleven recently published books that you might want to check out, read, and/or give to others:

Not Too Late: Changing the Climate Story from Despair to Possibility, short essays by a bunch of great climate experts and authors, edited by Rebecca Solnit and Thelma Young Lutunatabua

No Miracles Needed: How Today’s Technology Can Save Our Climate and Clean Our Air, by Mark Z. Jacobson

At Home on an Unruly Planet: Finding Refuge on a Changed Earth, by Madeline Ostrander

Our Fragile Moment: How Lessons from Earth’s Past Can Help Us Survive the Climate Crisis, by Michael Mann

The Heat Will Kill You First: Life and Death on a Scorched Planet, by Jeff Goodell

The Regenerative Materials Movement: Dispatches from Practitioners, Researchers, and Advocates, edited by the International Living Future Institute

Soil: The Story of a Black Mother’s Garden, by Camille T. Dungy

Alfie and Me: What Owls Know, What Humans Believe, by Carl Safina

Democracy Awakening: Notes on the State of America, by Heather Cox Richardson

Saving Democracy: A User’s Manual for Every American, by David Pepper

Fiction:  The Lost Cause, by Cory Doctorow

Also check out the books published by New Society Publishers and Chelsea Green Publishing and Island Press, for a wide selection of titles on sustainability topics.


FILMS

Four new documentary films that you might want to watch and/or mention to others (note: some of these might not be widely distributed via theaters or streaming until 2024):

The Last of the Nightingales  (32 min.; featuring Bernie and Katherine Krause; view trailer here)

Radioactive: The Women of Three Mile Island

King Coal

The Need to Grow: Save the Soil, Save the World

 

I continue to add books and films to this list as the year goes on and I learn about new ones. Do you have favorite books or authors or films to recommend? Please mention them in the Comments.

 

Related posts:

Share

August 24, 2023
3 comments

I much prefer focusing on preventive health than on emergency triage. I’d rather be writing about how to prevent climate destabilization and global heating from getting worse (and I’ve been doing that for years and will continue to do that), but tragically, we have entered the age of climate consequences, and adaptation has become necessary. The climate outcomes that scientists have been warning us about for decades are here, now, everywhere, and getting worse every year. Climate instability is already causing widespread suffering, misery, displacement and migration, medical emergencies, and death. If people continue to accept and allow the burning of fossil fuels (and the degradation of our natural environment) going forward, we will get to where we are headed: we will turn our once quite habitable and hospitable Earth into an uninhabitable planet more like Mars. We are creating Hell on Earth.

Globally, this has been the hottest summer on record (which has included the hottest day, hottest week, and hottest month ever recorded)—and it’s not just because of El Niño. The last decade (which included years with a heat-tempering La Niña) has also been the hottest decade ever recorded. Unlike the “heat waves” of the past, we are now experiencing more frequent “heat domes” with unprecedented, sweltering, record-shattering daytime and night-time temperatures, across large swaths of the planet, lingering for longer periods of time. The air, land, oceans and most other water bodies are now hotter than ever, with devastating and cascading consequences for all living things.

When we’re extremely hot, it can be hard to move, hard to work, hard to think, hard to function, hard to cope, and sometimes even hard to stay alive. Heat typically kills more people than any other type of extreme weather event in the U.S.  The number of heat-related deaths is often greatly underestimated, as heat is not usually listed as the “cause of death,” even when heat is what precipitated the organ failure or heart attack or other final outcome. This study estimated that there are approximately 12,000 premature deaths from heat exposure in the U.S. each year, and it projected that that number will rise to 50,000-110,000 premature deaths per year due to increased warming. Another study found that heat killed approximately 61,000 people in Europe during the summer of 2022. Correspondingly, emergency room visits skyrocket during heat waves.

Our bodies (and the bodies of other living organisms) can only survive temperatures within a certain range. High humidity can make it even harder to withstand high temperatures (which is why weather reports typically include a “heat index” or might even talk about the “wet-bulb” temperature.) Air pollution also tends to worsen during periods of excessive heat, which makes heat waves even more deadly. Studies show that the risk of a fatal heart attack may double during heat wave days and fine particulate pollution days.

Prolonged exposure to excessive heat can cause heat cramps, heat rash, dehydration (note: severe dehydration requires immediate medical attention), heat exhaustion, and heat stroke (which also requires immediate medical attention and can be fatal). See the graphic above for tips on how to tell the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and what to do if someone is showing symptoms of these.

Those who are particularly vulnerable to the dangers of extreme heat include: homeless/unhoused people (and their pets), older people, people who work outdoors (e.g., farmworkers, landscapers, construction and road workers, etc.), people who work and/or live in non-air-conditioned spaces, people who live or work in urban areas or “heat island” zones (areas that have a lot of dark and unshaded surfaces, such as asphalt pavement and roofs, and relatively few trees or green spaces), people with pre-existing health conditions or disabilities, infants and young children, pregnant women, incarcerated people, first responders, and athletes, as well as livestock, pets, and wildlife.

Basic tips for survival, health, and greater comfort in high heat:

For preparations you can make before summer heat waves to keep your home/buildings cool, scroll down to the section near the end on “Design strategies, home/building improvements and investments.” The following are immediate or short-term steps you can take to protect yourself and other living things from extreme heat:

  • Always stay well-hydrated (i.e., drink plenty of water throughout the day). Keep a water bottle with you wherever you go (but don’t leave plastic bottles in hot cars or sitting in the sun, where the heat will soften the plastic, which will then leach into your water). Also eat foods that are hydrating (e.g. fresh fruits, such as watermelon and cucumber). Avoid drinking alcohol or caffeinated or super-sugary drinks.
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothing.
  • Avoid going out into the heat (or exercising, watering your garden, or driving) during the hottest parts of the day (afternoon through early evening). Cancel or reschedule activities as needed. Early morning is the coolest time of day.
  • If you’ve been sweating a lot, drink even more, eat something salty, and make sure you’re getting plenty of electrolytes (potassium, sodium, calcium) and other minerals and nutrients.
  • If you’re feeling too hot, wipe a cold, wet washcloth on your face and body and/or run cold water over your feet and hands or head; or put some water in a spray bottle and spritz yourself as needed; or when you can, take a cool shower or bath. Or you can sit in front of a fan with a cool, damp towel on you or between you and the fan. If someone is over-heating (e.g., showing signs of heat exhaustion), put cold water (or ice/ice water) on the neck, armpits, inner thighs, and other places where heat gets trapped and a lot of blood vessels are just beneath skin, to help cool down the person faster.
  • No one should be left sitting in a non-air-conditioned, stationary car when it’s hot out (especially infants, children, elderly people, and pets). Rolling the windows down does not keep cars cool enough when the sun is beating on them.
  • If you’re outdoors: Stay in the shade as much as possible, and drink extra water. Take regular breaks from any physical exertion, or avoid it if possible. If you have a hand free, use a parasol (or an umbrella) to shade yourself from the sun.
  • If you’re indoors and you don’t have air conditioning or your A/C isn’t working (or doesn’t work well enough in extreme heat)—or if you’re trying to minimize your use of the A/C to conserve energy or money or to keep the power grid from collapsing and causing a blackout: Use fans (or evaporative “swamp” coolers in really dry climates); window fans can be especially helpful. Cover your windows by closing the shades, blinds, curtains, or shutters. If you don’t have opaque or thermal window coverings, you could temporarily put up big sheets of cardboard (ideally white, and make the white side face the outside) or rigid foam—or hang thick blankets or light-colored tarps (or sheets) inside or outside your south- and west-facing windows (for those of us in the northern hemisphere) or your windows that get the most direct sunlight, to keep the heat/sun out. If you have white (or reflective) tarps or old sheets, you could put those on the part of your roof that gets the most direct sun in the afternoons, or cover up part of your blacktop driveway, or cover your grill (or any other large metal or dark-colored objects near your home) with them (or a light-colored canvas carport or other shade structure) to reduce the heat island effect on or around your home. Avoid running the oven, stove, dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer on the hottest days, and especially during the hottest hours of the day. Turn off any lights that aren’t needed (especially any lamps that are still using old incandescent bulbs or halogen bulbs, as they emit a surprising amount of heat). Unplug appliances or electronics that you aren’t using. Any time it’s cooler outdoors than in (which it often will be at night and early morning), open your windows to get a cross-breeze (and give your A/C a break); you could also use a window fan as an exhaust fan to help push the warmer indoor air outside. It can be too hot to share a bed with someone else; if there’s nowhere else to sleep, you might find that sleeping on a floor is the coolest place to be. If you have a basement, that is probably the coolest area in your house.
  • Make sure you have a lot of ice (and/or ice packs) in your freezer and/or coolers, especially in case there is a power outage and you need to use the ice to keep yourself cool until you can get to an air-conditioned space.
  • If your house is too hot and you’re able to go somewhere else near-by, spend some of the afternoon hours in air-conditioned spaces, such as a library, mall/store/cafe, movie theater, or community center.
  • Click here for additional ”Tips from readers on keeping cool without A/C” (NPR).
  • Check on your neighbors and friends, especially elderly or disabled people and people who don’t have air-conditioning (or who are experiencing a power outage). Make sure they are not showing signs of dehydration, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke (see graphic above). If you have air conditioning and a little extra space, invite others who don’t have A/C to come over to your house. Or let others borrow or keep any extra fans you may have.
  • Share information about local cooling centers that are open in your community or county. Print and post/distribute that information at homeless shelters and service centers, senior centers, soup kitchens, food banks, and libraries (and through social media and community websites, e.g., NextDoor). Find out if there are local Mutual Aid groups or others who are helping distribute water or assisting people in need. If your town does not provide a cooling center (or a mobile cooling bus), contact your Mayor or city council or local emergency services department to request one, or help find a location that could serve as one (e.g., community center, church, etc.).
  • You could leave some bottles/gallons of water in front of your house, in a fully shaded area, with a sign letting people know they can take one if they need it. And you could donate non-disposable (and disposable) water bottles (or clean gallon jugs with caps) to a local homeless shelter or organization.
  • On days/nights with particularly extreme heat, if you are able, you could offer to pay for (or you could crowd-fund) an air-conditioned motel room for a homeless person or family or for people who don’t have air conditioning. Or make a donation to a homeless/low-income services group that is assisting people in your area or in a region that is even hotter.
  • Scroll down to the section below on “Design strategies, home/building improvements and investments,” for suggestions on preparations you can make before summer to keep your home cool.

Animals

  • Pets: Do not make pets stay outside (or in a dog house) if it’s cooler in your house. When they must be outside, make sure they can remain in full shade and have plenty of water (you could even fill a small kiddie pool for them to sit in or drink from). Do not walk dogs on artificial grass or on hot pavement (especially black asphalt, but on any pavement when it’s hot out); it will burn their paws. Do not leave pets unattended in your car without air conditioning running. Click here for information on hot weather safety (and signs of heat stroke) for pets. If you see someone else’s pet in distress or in danger, call 911 or your local Humane Society or ASPCA.
  • Livestock and horses: Give them plenty of water every day (making sure they never run out) and access to shaded and well-ventilated areas (with a good cross-breeze and if indoors, also fans, if possible). If they have no shade trees (or not enough to shade all of them throughout the afternoon without crowding) or a large-enough shade shelter outside, put up some type of shade canopies (e.g. canvas carports) for them. Hose them off with cool water when you can, or provide ice blocks for them to lick, or sprinklers, wading pools, or water misters when possible.
  • Wildlife: Put a bowl of clean water out daily for wildlife in your area (ideally in both your front and back yards); thoroughly wash the bowl out every day, if possible. I like to use a light-colored ceramic (or white plastic) bowl that won’t absorb much extra heat. (Note: Absurdly, many outdoor hoses have lead in them. Buy/use a lead-free hose, or get drinking water directly from a faucet.) Don’t set out deep buckets of water that tiny animals could fall into and not be able to climb out of. You can also leave fruit and vegetable scraps and other healthy food out for wildlife. And if there is no shade in your yard, you could put up a shade canopy/sail or make a temporary shade shelter (e.g., with old sheets or large cardboard boxes). Shade as much of your paved areas as you can to reduce the heat absorption on your property. If you see an animal in distress or in danger, contact your local wildlife rescue group.

Plants & Trees

  • Water plants at their base (near the roots) early in the morning. (On especially hot days, they might also need some water in the evening, but don’t soak plants too much before night-time.) Young or non-native trees (and new plants, planted within the last couple of years) especially will need regular watering during heat waves. Older, established trees may need some water every few days during heat waves.
  • Move potted (portable) plants to shadier areas or cooler areas, especially to protect them from the afternoon/western sun.
  • On especially hot/sunny days, you could put shade cloth (or a lightweight, white sheet) over the most vulnerable plants, or shade them with an umbrella, an easy-up canopy, or other portable shade structure.
  • Put a few inches of mulch (e.g., grass clippings, fallen leaves, wood mulch) around the base of plants (and place mulch several inches away from the base of trees). Do not buy peat.
  • Do not prune (or fertilize) plants on hot days.
  • Some plants will simply not be able to survive the increase in temperatures, and we’ll need to replace some plants with more drought- and heat-adapted plants over time.
  • Crops can benefit from having solar panels placed between rows for shading.
  • You can find lots of additional tips regarding how to protect plants and trees during heat by doing an online search.

———————————————–

Design strategies, home/building improvements and investments:

These are some design strategies and investments, which require some planning or preparation time to implement:

  • Put thermal/insulated window coverings on your windows (e.g., light-colored thermal “honeycomb” or “cellular” shades, “edge-sealed” shades, thick/lined drapes; or interior shutters), particularly on large, unshaded windows and west- and south-facing windows.
  • Add awnings, shutters, overhangs, exterior window shading screens, and/or shade trees outside of your home (particularly outside of west- and south-facing windows). Also plant trees next to dark, paved surfaces such as driveways and roads.
  • Make sure your home has enough insulation (especially in the attic and walls). This will also help you stay comfortable during cold periods.
  • Conventional air conditioners (especially old window units) use a lot of energy (and are therefore expensive to operate). And every time we use air conditioners to cool interior spaces, we’re heating the planet up even more. Much better air conditioning technologies now exist, and even better ones may be available soon. One option to consider is having a “heat pump” installed (also known as a ductless mini-split system; they provide both heating and cooling). These are much more efficient than traditional air conditioners, and there are tax incentives and rebates that you might be eligible for. Or in very dry climates, many people use evaporative “swamp” coolers rather than air conditioners. Whole-house attic fans can also help reduce the need for air conditioning. (Note: If you are replacing/getting rid of an old air conditioner, make sure that your HVAC company properly recovers and disposes of its refrigerants. A/C refrigerant emissions are a major contributor to global warming!)
  • When it’s time to replace your roof, choose light-colored roofing (and/or solar roofing tiles, or solar panels to shade the roof).
  • When you’re able to get new windows, choose windows that meet or exceed the Energy Star criteria (for your climate zone). They could be eligible for tax credits or rebates.
  • When it’s time to repave your driveway (or pathways), choose a light-colored paving material or pavers (rather than black asphalt paving), or better yet, replace some paved areas with light-colored pervious materials or vegetation. (Also ask your city to use light-colored—and ideally pervious—paving materials on city streets and parking lots.)
  • When choosing a car, in addition to choosing an electric or hybrid vehicle, choose one that’s a light color (e.g., white or silver) so it will not absorb as much heat.
  • Do NOT use artificial turf (fake grass). It becomes incredibly hot, even hotter than black asphalt, in the sun, and it can cause burns. Replace astroturf with native or adapted drought-tolerant plants, trees, groundcovers, or a clover lawn. Replace astroturf sports fields with real (but drought-tolerant) grass.
  • Solar photovoltaic panels can provide shade over roofs, pavement, and between rows of field crops.
  • Consider getting an electric battery backup system for your home; ideally, this would be tied into a solar photovoltaic (or wind turbine) system to keep your power (and cooling) on during extended power outages. You can also get an electric and/or solar generator to use during power outages (or off grid).
  • When designing any new home (or building), designers should incorporate passive cooling techniques. One ancient, passive cooling technique is the “wind catcher” design. And some building materials, such as rammed earth, have thermal properties that help keep homes cool in summer and warm in winter. Find other natural cooling strategies here.
  • Get light-colored shade structures/shelters (or canopies) for any large animals or livestock you have (or pets that have to spend hours outside) that will provide plenty of shade for all of them, without crowding. Also add shade trees to their outdoor areas. Look into water misting systems, sprinklers, or wading pools that you could add to their outdoor areas, and use fans, roof exhaust vents/fans, and open windows to ventilate their indoor areas.
  • Buy organically grown crops and plants (and native/drought-tolerant plants), which have been shown to have greater resilience to heat than chemically-grown (and many non-native) crops and plants. You could get a shade structure/canopy to place on your patio or deck or yard, to shade any potted/portable plants (and it could also shade your grill or other dark-colored or metal outdoor objects, or possibly shade part of your home/windows) from the sun on hot days.
  • There are SO MANY things we can all do (and our society, government, and industry must do) to try to stop global heating from getting worse. Please check out and commit yourself to some of our climate solutions in our other posts.

————————-

Sign this petition:

Urge OSHA to implement immediate heat standards
(Note: These standards also must be enforced everywhere.)

Articles:

Useful resources on heat health/safety:

Related posts:

Share

July 27, 2023
[Click here to comment]