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Studies have shown that exposure to various environmental toxins—which people can be exposed to via the air, water, soil, or the use of certain products—seem very likely to contribute to the development of a number of neurological and neurodegenerative disorders and diseases (including Alzheimer’s, other types of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, MS) and can also harm neurological development (e.g., intelligence) in children and babies’ developing brains.

My father died of complications related to Parkinson’s disease, after enduring the myriad physical and cognitive indignities of that disease for many years. So this issue is very personal for me. But everyone should take it very personally that any one of us and many of our loved ones could end up suffering or dying from neurological or other diseases (such as cancers) 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. My dad was definitely exposed to some of the chemicals and air pollutants that have recently been associated with neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s. That makes me angry. It should make everyone angry and motivated to push for changes that protect everyone’s bodies and brains.

Some alarming facts and statistics to consider:

  • At least one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. (It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.) Deaths from Alzheimer’s more than doubled between 2000 and 2019. (Source: Alzheimer’s Association)
  • COVID-19 is causing an increase in Alzheimer’s and dementia. In 2020, COVID contributed to a 17% increase in Alzheimer’s and dementia deaths! (Source: Alzheimer’s Association)
  • Parkinson’s is the second most common neurodegenerative disease, after Alzheimer’s disease. (Source: Parkinson’s Foundation)
  • Globally, disability and death due to Parkinson’s disease are increasing faster than for any other neurological disorder. The prevalence of PD has doubled in the past 25 years. PD is the most common movement disorder. (Source: World Health Organization)
  • Air pollution is associated with approximately 7 million premature deaths every year, worldwide. (Source: World Health Organization)
  • Almost the entire global population (99%) breathes air that exceeds WHO guideline limits and contains high levels of pollutants. (Source: World Health Organization)

While many neurological and other diseases can have genetic risk factors, and some can also be triggered or worsened by certain viruses, or by lifestyle (e.g. diet, exercise) choices, many diseases are more likely to occur when certain environmental exposures are also factors. Public health (and individual health) depend on environmental health. Prevention of these diseases should not just be focused on lifestyle choices, but should focus on protecting all of us by banning the environmental toxins that anyone can be exposed to.

Neurotoxins (toxins that studies have linked to neurological disorders/damage) include, but are not limited to:

  • certain types of pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides (e.g. paraquat, glyphosate/Roundup, maneb, etc.);
  • chemical solvents (e.g., trichloroethylene: TCE);
  • mercury (exposure primarily comes from coal power plant pollution, but it can also come from silver/amalgam dental fillings and from the cremation of those fillings, and from the ingestion of some types of seafood, as well as other sources) as well as lead and other heavy metals;
  • particulate air pollutants from the burning of fossil fuels, via power plants and via vehicles and other forms of transport (as well as particulates from wildfire smoke, which is increasing each year due to climate-driven heat and drought).

These are some recent Parkinson’s-specific articles and resources:

And these are a few articles on environmental risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s, other forms of dementia, and various other types of neurological disorders/brain damage:

Beyond Pesticides has compiled summaries of many recent studies and findings on the various neurological (and other health) effects associated with exposure to various chemical pesticides (and herbicides, fungicides, and related toxins):


ACTIONS

Please sign this petition:
Tell the EPA: Ban Paraquat, an herbicide linked to Parkinson’s disease

And you can sign these other petitions from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and from Beyond Pesticides.

You could also join the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) study (whether you have Parkinson’s or not) to help further the research.

At the very least, please share the information provided in this post. And buy only organically grown food (and plants/seeds); avoid the use (and unsafe disposal) of toxic chemicals and hazardous products whenever possible; do what you can to reduce air pollution (e.g. minimize how much you fly or drive; and reduce material consumption/purchases); and support policies, public officials, candidates, and companies that promote non-toxic alternatives to the many chemical-intensive and polluting products and industries that are killing so many people and damaging our brains.

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For additional information on the connection between environmental toxins and public health (and organizations that are focused on these issues and trying to prevent or reduce these problems), please see our past post on:

Health Impacts of Toxic Chemicals and Pollutants

Here’s a small selection of the organizations focused on these issues:

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September 29, 2022
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These are some of the topics (among others) that I hope to publish posts on over the next year or so:

  • Organizations for Women’s Rights, Health, Liberty, and Equality
  • Making the Shift from Climate Worrier to Climate Warrior, Fueled by Love and Rage
  • (Anti) Nuclear Power and Nuclear Weapons Info.  (a resource listing)
  • PFAS / PFOA: Forever Chemicals
  • Flood Prevention / Stormwater Management Strategies
  • Ecological and Equitable Economic Prosperity
  • If I Had Millions of $$…This is How I’d Spend (Redistribute) It
  • Toxins’ and Air Pollution’s Links to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other Neurological Diseases [NOW POSTED]

Check back soon to see some of these posts!  In the meantime, please check out our current and past posts. Thank you for reading The Green Spotlight and sharing the information with others.

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August 30, 2022
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Ever-worsening climate change (which is causing more extreme and prolonged heat, droughts, and thus vast areas of extremely dry vegetation: e.g., trees, shrubs, and grass) is adversely affecting the world’s fire ecology. There have been increasingly widespread fires in most western (and many southern) states in the U.S.  and across almost every region of the world, including the Arctic (e.g., Siberia and Alaska), Canada, Australia, the Amazon/Brazil (where fires are often intentionally started to illegally clear rainforest land for cattle grazing), and in Africa and Europe. Wildfires have always happened to some degree, but the size and intensity, the times of year, and the locations of many of today’s wildfires are unprecedented. Nations, states, municipalities, communities, policymakers, neighborhood groups, builders and designers, land owners, building owners and home owners, and individuals all have a part to play in helping reduce wildfire risks, preventing wildfires from spreading into built environments, and creating more fire-adapted and resilient communities and structures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a resident of the western United States, I have been negatively affected by the worsening wildfires (more frequent and much bigger, hotter fires) and the ever-longer fire seasons that we’ve been experiencing these past 5+ years. The regular and explosive fires that can now happen almost any month of the year, mass evacuations, red flag warnings, hazardous and acrid-smelling smoke in the air (tiny particulates that get deep into your lungs and can make it feel like you’re sucking on a filthy truck exhaust pipe any time you’re outside) sometimes lingering for weeks at a time, apocalyptic burnt-orange/brown skies that block out the sun, sooty ash (including tiny pieces of people’s books/homes/lives) covering every outdoor surface (requiring the use of windshield wipers to clear car windshields), extended power outages, and major disruptions to work and life in general have taken a toll on millions of us. And many of us know people who have lost their homes and their sense of security—and who became climate refugees, facing displacement and years of insurance headaches and PTSD and nightmares—because of these fires. I have some good friends who went through this trauma in 2017; they had to flee a giant wildfire at night and barely got out alive. I helped sift through the rubble and toxic ashes of their destroyed home and work studio; it looked like a large bomb had been dropped on their property, which had formerly been an oak woodland paradise and a sort of refuge. That was an intense and emotionally jarring experience, and it left a mark on me. Last year, after many years of living in a beautiful and beloved but increasingly fiery region (with dwindling water resources), my husband and I moved to a wetter, more affordable area that has less fire risk (less risk for now, though I know conditions will continue to change and no place is safe from climate-related calamities).

When doing this research on wildfire risk reduction resources, I was heartened to discover that there are many experts (e.g., fire ecologists, pyrogeographers, and all types of fire science aficionados and fire safety officials) doing good work, and some smart and positive efforts are underway to lessen the wildfire risks going forward. For example, there is a growing understanding among land managers, fire agencies, policymakers, and state and county staff of the need for some prescribed fires (AKA controlled/managed burns or “good fire”): a once-traditional, indigenous practice to reduce dry and dead vegetation (fuels) and to safely mimic and manage what would occur naturally if most wildfires hadn’t been suppressed over the last century. I’ve been glad to observe that, in some areas at least, prescribed fires have been happening more frequently, despite the permitting hurdles. I’ve also read about prescribed burns (as well as greenbelt buffers) that did, in fact, help protect some neighborhoods from recent fires.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless in the face of the increasing number of catastrophic wildfires fueled by dangerous climate conditions. But we are not helpless. There are numerous actions we can take as a society, as communities, and as individuals/households to prevent or minimize further destruction.

Community-scale wildfire mitigation efforts include policies and practices regarding: state, regional, local, and neighborhood-level land use/management (of public and privately owned lands), e.g., forest management, prescribed fires/controlled burns, greenbelt buffers / Urban Growth Boundaries (for the wildland-urban interface), zoning that restricts building (or re-building) in fire-prone (or flood-prone or other disaster-prone) areas, and the development of fire-resilient infrastructure.

Property/Building-scale policies and practices (for land owners, building/home owners, and residents) focus on sites and structures: e.g., defensible space around residential and commercial structures, landscaping / vegetation management; home/building hardening and protection (design, building, remodeling, retrofitting); and Indoor Air Quality / air ventilation and filtering, for smoke protection and remediation.

The following websites and organizations can help you identify and implement a number of concrete actions that could protect your community or your own family and residence from wildfires:

I. General / Community-Scale Resources

Click here to see brief descriptions of these resources, or to see some more California-specific resources (in an annotated listing I developed for the U.S. Green Building Council’s Redwood Empire Chapter last year).

Also visit our Wildfire and Fire Ecology list on Twitter, which includes many of the above resources and others.

Articles:


 

 

 

 

II. Property & Building-Scale (Site & Structures) Resources

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Click here to see brief descriptions of these resources, or to see some more California-specific resources (in an annotated listing I developed for the U.S. Green Building Council’s Redwood Empire Chapter last year). Also visit our Wildfire and Fire Ecology list on Twitter, which includes many of the above resources and others.

Doing everything we can to prevent or manage the spread of wildfires and to protect people, animals, and structures from wildfires and from wildfire smoke pollution (for the long term) also requires that we do everything we can NOW to help mitigate and slow climate change, as our fast-changing climate is the primary driver (the accelerant) of these increasingly catastrophic wildfires. See the links below for some other relevant recommendations.

Related posts:

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April 27, 2022
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While almost all of our posts can be used to inform or educate yourself or others, here are some of our posts that provide some direct resources for learning (for adults or children/youth). Many of the resources in these listings are also very entertaining:

Films and TV Programs

Books

TED Talks (videos)

Other Resources

What are some of your favorite, recommended educational resources on environmental topics? Let us know in the Comments.

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February 23, 2022
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Each day, we post one or two morsels of illuminating information or inspiration on The Green Spotlight’s Facebook Page. If you have a Facebook account, we hope you’ll click on the page’s Like button (if you haven’t already “Liked” or “Followed” the page) and also Share the page or some of its posts with some friends.

Please visit the Page to get a sense of the various topics that it covers. To make sure that Facebook will continue to show you our posts on your Facebook homepage/newsfeed, visit our page regularly and give a thumbs-up to (“Like”) your favorite posts.

We also have a Twitter page, and these topic-specific Twitter lists, which you can follow. Thanks for being a part of our online communities!

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January 27, 2022
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These are a few recently published non-fiction books that you may want to consider reading and/or giving to others as a gift:

Under the Sky We Make: How to Be Human in a Warming World, by Kimberly Nicholas, PhD

Water Always Wins: Thriving in an Age of Drought and Deluge, by Erica Gies

Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World, by Katherine Hayhoe

The Power of Tranquility in a Very Noisy World, by Bernie Krause (author of The Great Animal Orchestra)

Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest, by Suzanne Simard

100% Clean Renewable Energy and Storage for Everything, by Mark Z. Jacobson

Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation, by Paul Hawken

Our Time is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America, by Stacey Abrams

Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take, by Paul Polman and Andrew Winston

The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity, by David Graeber and David Wengrow

And here are two novels (fiction with wisdom on the climate) to read:

Bewilderment, by Richard Powers

The Ministry for the Future, by Kim Stanley Robinson

 

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

Please buy books from independent bookstores to keep them in business (you can find the ones closest to you on IndieBound.org)—or from Powell’s Books, Barnes & Noble, or Better World Books—rather than from Amazon. There are numerous good reasons not to buy anything (but especially books) from Amazon. (And remember, when you pay the lowest possible price for books, the authors, publishers, and warehouse workers are all likely to receive a lot less for their work.) Also, when buying online, avoid choosing one- or two-day shipping unless it’s actually necessary; overnight/airplane-based rush shipping has an enormous environmental footprint as well as a serious cost to worker safety and sanity.

Consider buying gift certificates from local, independent bookstores for your family or friends.

For online audio books, check out Libro.fm, which also helps support your local independent bookstore.

Do you have some favorite books or authors to recommend? Please mention them in the Comments.

Related posts:

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November 11, 2021
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I’ve been wanting to share some links and info. on a few very promising and impactful (but under-utilized) developments, trends, efforts, and solutions that I think more people should know about, spread the word about, and get involved in—namely: 1) land restoration, regeneration, and rewilding; 2) Community Solar; and 3) alternatives to plastics (and to animal leather and meat, etc.)  I may develop more in-depth posts on a couple of these topics in the future.

 

I. Land restoration: remediation, regeneration, rewilding

Check out these sites for some great information on land (and habitat) restoration projects and programs:

Loess Plateau, ChinaEcosystem Restoration Camps: “A global movement of people that is creating an abundant earth. We repair broken ecosystems together and, in doing so, provide humanity with hope and a better future. Our big goal is to have one million people come together by 2030 and restore degraded ecosystems in 100 camps around the world.” Find out where their current camps are here (see map).

Regeneration International: Their mission is “to promote, facilitate and accelerate the global transition to regenerative food, farming and land management for the purpose of restoring climate stability, ending world hunger and rebuilding deteriorated social, ecological and economic systems.”

The Rewilding Institute (AKA Rewilding Earth): Their mission is “to develop and promote the ideas and strategies to advance continental-scale conservation in North America and beyond, particularly the need for large carnivores and a permeable landscape for their movement, and to offer a bold, scientifically-credible, practically achievable, and hopeful vision for the future of wild Nature and human civilization.”

Half-Earth Project: “With science at its core and our transcendent moral obligation to the rest of life at its heart, the Half-Earth Project is working to conserve half the land and sea to safeguard the bulk of biodiversity, including ourselves.”

And for a great story on a Brazilian couple who replanted and restored a 1,500-acre forest, see this article. They have been written up on many other sites, as well, including Smithsonian Magazine. Their organization is called Instituto Terra.

Also related to regenerative land use: I’ll be creating a post about permaculture at some point.

Related posts: Sustainable Land Use and Land Stewardship Posts; and Re-Tree the Worldand Sustainable Agriculture, Farming, Gardening, and Food;and Animal Protection / Biodiversity Organizations and Resources

 

II. Community Solar  

Community Solar is also sometimes known as Shared Solar or Solar Gardens.

“Community Solar refers to local solar facilities that are shared by multiple community subscribers who receive credit on their electricity bills for their share of the power produced. Community solar provides homeowners, renters, and businesses equal access to the economic and environmental benefits of solar energy generation regardless of the physical attributes or ownership of their home or business.” (Source: Solar Energy Industries Association: Community Solar—go to this link for more information on where it’s being implemented)

For more information on how community solar works and its benefits, see:

Solstice: Solar for Every American

Department of Energy: Community Solar Basics

I also plan to write a post about renewable energy micro-grids, as well as solar-wind hybrid systems.

Related post: Municipalities, States, and Countries that are Achieving, Approaching, or Committed to 100% Renewable Energy (in particular, see the paragraph about Community Choice Energy, or Community Choice Aggregation local power programs)

 

III. Alternatives to petroleum-based plastics and other problematic materials

Ecovative Design: This company is making mushroom (mycelium)- and hemp-based (“MycoComposite”) biodegradable/compostable foam-like packaging, mycelium-based leather-like textiles, skin care products, and now also meatless meat.

Other entrepreneurs have made other types of bioplastics (including pleathers) from: banana peels or banana leaves; avocado pits/seeds and peels; agave fibers; hemp; and vegan “leather” from nopales cactus.

Hemp alone is extremely versatile. Its fiber, seeds, and oil can be used to make: fabric/textiles (e.g., clothing, rope); Hempcrete and other building materials; bioplastics; biofuel; foods and drinks (and animal feed); CBD products; paper products; and other products and materials. Hemp has many environmental benefits and advantages over other materials that it can replace. For more information, check out Vote Hemp, the Hemp Industries Association, or other groups.

Related posts: How to Identify Greener Products; and Health Impacts of Toxic Chemicals and Pollutants

 

I hope you’ll check out the links in this post, share them with others, and add any relevant recommendations or information in the Comments. Thanks!

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October 30, 2021
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More than 4,088 businesses around the world—from more than 77 countries and 153 industries—have now become certified as B Corporations, as of September 2021.  (Over the last two years, despite the pandemic, more than 1,000 companies became B Corps.) “B Corps are for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.” The B Impact Assessment gives companies (which can be product or service companies) a score based on how they perform on metrics for impact on: their communities, the environment, workers, customers, and internal governance.

B Corporations provide undeniable proof that companies do not need to be greedy, exploitative, polluting, or extractive / resource-intensive (as far too many corporations are these days) in order to be profitable and successful. By showing how business can be used as “a force for good” in society, B Corps provide an antidote to the model of predatory capitalism that has become more or less accepted as the status quo in many countries, including the United States.

2021’s Best for the World ratings highlight the hundreds of businesses that have scored in the top 5 percent of all Certified B Corporations on the assessment, categorized within the five impact areas and within their corresponding size group (i.e., number of employees). Again, the five impact areas are: Environment, Community, Workers, Customers, and Governance.

Click here for more information and to see some stories and profiles of the Best for the World honorees.

And click here to find other B Corps, including ones based in your region. (You can search the directory by location, name, industry, or keyword.)

A few of the largest or most well-known B Corporations are: Patagonia, Seventh Generation, Ecover, Method, Ben & Jerry’s, Earthbound Farm, Eileen Fisher, Athleta, Danone, Natura, and New Belgium Brewing Co. And a few other B Corps that I like to highlight include: Alter Eco, Dr. Bronner’s, W.S. Badger Co., Avocado, Pela, Beneficial State Bank, New Resource Bank, and RSF Capital Management.

Any company can take the B Impact Assessment, a free and confidential tool that allows you to start to “measure what matters” and to compare your company’s practices with others.

 

Related posts:

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September 30, 2021
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High-Impact Climate Actions and Choices that Make the Biggest Difference

If you’re not already aware of how dire the climate crisis is becoming (and how much worse it will get if our civilization continues on with “business as usual”), consider this past year’s news of extreme heatwaves, droughts, and massive fires across the Arctic, the Amazon, Australia, California, Africa, and elsewhere; and the increasingly catastrophic storms, hurricanes, and floods that have been happening throughout the world. Also take a look at the graph below of global carbon dioxide levels over time, and seek out more information on climate change from reputable sources (see the links list at the very bottom for several media outlets and non-profits), including articles like these:

What humanity chooses to do (or not do) in the next year or two—and over this decade—to lower greenhouse gas (carbon) emissions will determine how catastrophic things will get in the future and how quickly. The only way we will be able to slow and lessen the climate crisis enough to keep our world habitable and hospitable to life is to make big, bold, powerful, and effective changes rapidly and at scale. While smaller problems also matter and small, incremental changes and solutions are worthwhile and can really add up when many people take them on, it is crucial that we understand and focus on the biggest problems (i.e., planetary-wide crises) we all face, like climate change, and understand which choices, behaviors, actions, and policies have the greatest impact on accelerating vs. slowing climate change. Being aware and informed about which types of human activities are contributing the most to worsening climate destabilization empowers us to make the changes that will generate the most significant results. We’re not actually helpless, even though we may sometimes feel that way. Knowledge is power, and what we don’t know or understand could very well kill us (along with most of the rest of life on earth).

Several studies have been done recently that help identify the practices (at the societal level and at the individual/household level) that contribute to (or mitigate) climate change the most. Something that’s notable about the findings of these studies is that many climate solutions don’t cost much if any money, and many can even save quite a bit of money (whereas climate inaction is already costing all of us a LOT, and the cost of inaction is much higher than the cost of taking significant actions would be. See “Climate change’s giant impact on the economy,” New York Times.) In fact, many climate solutions simply involve making the decision NOT to do something (e.g., not cutting down trees, not wasting food, not eating much meat, not having many kids, not flying often, etc.) rather than actively doing something or having to pay for something.

I.

Project Drawdown is a world-class research organization that reviews, analyses, and identifies the most viable global climate solutions, and shares these findings with the world.”  They organize their solutions into the following categories: a) Electricity Generation, b) Food, c) Women and Girls, d) Buildings and Cities, e) Land Use, f) Transport, and g) Materials.

Most of these solutions require some systemic, societal, institutional (e.g., government policy and industry-driven) changes, but it’s important to recognize that all of us as individuals and as communities can support and promote these types of broad-based changes, through our votes, policy advocacy, education and awareness building, and our own behaviors, habits, and lifestyle choices (which can not only reduce emissions, but also serve as role modeling and as examples and inspiration for others, helping to change the culture and shift consumer demand).

The Top 15 Highest-Impact Solutions identified by Project Drawdown are as follows (click each of the links below for descriptions, details, and cost/savings analyses). Many people are not yet aware that some of these strategies are so important:

  1. Refrigerant Management (leak prevention and proper, careful disposal of HFCs in refrigerators and air conditioners; phase-out of HFC chemicals and and replacement with safer, climate-friendly alternatives)
  2. Wind Turbines [onshore]
  3. Reduced Food Waste
  4. Plant-Rich Diet
  5. Tropical Forests (preventing deforestation, and doing restoration and reforestation)
  6. Educating Girls
  7. Family Planning
  8. Solar Farms (utility-scale solar power plants)
  9. Silvopasture (integrating trees and pastures into a single system for raising livestock)
  10. Rooftop Solar (distributed, small-scale solar PV systems <1MW)
  11. Regenerative Agriculture (practices that enhance and sustain the health of the soil by restoring its carbon content, thereby sequestering carbon; e.g., organic production, cover crops, compost, crop rotation, no-till or reduced tillage, etc.)
  12. Temperate Forests (protection/preservation and restoration)
  13. Peatlands (protection/preservation, fire prevention, and restoration of bogs, which store a lot of carbon)
  14. Tropical Staple Trees (planting perennial crop trees)
  15. Afforestation (growing new forests on land that is not currently forested, especially degraded agricultural, pasture, or mining land; preferably a diversity of native and adapted tree species rather than mono-cropped plantations)

Policy-makers, industry/business and institution leaders, foundations and philanthropists, nonprofit organizations, and all of us as citizens should take these findings into account when deciding which climate strategies we should prioritize and amplify, and the types of projects and programs on which we should focus most of our time, energy, and money.

I recommend taking this short, interactive, online quiz on CNN’s website: “The most effective ways to curb climate change might surprise you.” The quiz is based on Project Drawdown’s findings, and it indicates which changes can be made by individuals/households, by industries, and/or by policymakers. (Note: Many of the changes can be made or influenced by more than one of those.)

Project Drawdown published its research conclusions in a book: Drawdown: The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming, edited by Paul Hawken.

II.

In addition to Project Drawdown’s useful findings and recommendations, another recent scientific study (from 2017, by Seth Wynes and Kimberly Nicholas) has identified some of the highest-impact personal choices and actions each of us can make/take to reduce our own contribution to climate change:

Climate Mitigation: Most Effective Individual Actions

Their data showed that the following are the highest-impact decisions and actions; sadly, they also found that education and government recommendations (in the US, EU, Canada and Australia) have been failing to focus on most of these (and instead they often mention and prioritize lower-impact actions). We should all aim to achieve at least two or three of these, and ideally all of them:

  1. Having a small family rather than a large one (i.e., having few or no kids). This decision makes a bigger impact than any other we can make as individuals, by orders of magnitude beyond the others. Researchers have found that each additional person (in a developed country) ends up contributing an average of 58.6 tons of CO2-equivalent (tCO2e) emissions to our atmosphere per year. [Note: The carbon footprint of U.S. households is about 5 times greater than the global average, as we Americans consume so much more than people in most other countries. (Source)]
  2. Going car-free (or at least driving as little as possible, and ideally switching to an electric vehicle or a very-low-emissions, high-MPG hybrid vehicle)
  3. Avoiding airplane travel (or flying as little as possible).  [From a New York Times article: “In 2016, two climatologists published a paper in the prestigious journal Science showing a direct relationship between carbon emissions and the melting of Arctic sea ice.” They found that one passenger’s share of emissions on a 2,500-mile flight melts the equivalent of 32 square feet of Arctic summer sea ice. And cruise ships are even worse; “even the most efficient cruise ships emit 3 to 4 times more carbon dioxide per passenger-mile than a jet,” along with other serious air and water pollutants. And container/cargo ships use even filthier fuels.]
  4. Buying/using green, clean energy (e.g., via your utility if they offer this, or by installing solar or wind). [A note from me: FIRST always use conservation and efficiency to minimize any over-use/waste of energy! One of the best ways to do this is to avoid living in a home that is too big for the size and needs of your family. It’s wasteful to have to heat or cool—and furnish—rooms or spaces that you don’t really use.]
  5. Eating a plant-based diet (or reducing your meat consumption)

For more information on this study, see this article/analysis, as well as this concise Grist post and its infographic (shown above), which provides a good visual sense of the relative difference in impacts from each of the choices or actions/inactions. To learn about additional personal actions and decisions that can make a difference, beyond the five identified by the study above, check out the book Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living, Expert Advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists (Island Press, 2012).

For some of us, the five choices above don’t seem like big sacrifices to make, and in fact many can drastically improve our own lives (as well as everyone else’s). But in our highly individualistic and materialistic culture, many of us are taught that we can (and should) do whatever we want (any costs and harms to our community or society or public health be damned). We are too often conditioned to believe that we are inherently entitled to do anything we want (and buy anything that we can afford), and we are not often encouraged to think about whether or not we should do (or buy) those things. Americans, in particular, often tend to feel entitled to get as large and gas-guzzling a vehicle as we want, and many of us tend to drive and fly as often and as much as we want, and buy as much as we can, acting almost as if this is somehow our inherent, God-given right. Please question the assumptions, expectations, pressures, and social conditioning that you/we have been brought up with. These beliefs are not universal “human nature;” they are culturally taught. Consider the benefits of self-restraint and self-regulation. Think about the concept of “enough.” Think about: “Live simply so that others may simply live.” Consider your neighbors; consider vulnerable populations; consider other species; consider future generations. Consider and be considerate of the common good.

Lastly, always remember (and remind others) that almost any choice or change that you make or that society makes to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions will not only help stabilize the climate; it will also reduce air pollution (as well as water pollution and ocean warming) and thus improve and protect public health and well-being in other very direct and often immediate ways.

 

Related posts:

Related resources:

See our Twitter list of Climate groups, scientists, and leaders

 

These are some organizations focused on the climate crisis and climate solutions:

And these are a few media / news and information sources that provide fact-based information on climate change:

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January 30, 2020
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