sustainability (general)

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:

The following are immediate or short-term steps you can take to protect yourself and other living things during a period of extreme 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.”)

  • 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: 1) Use fans (or evaporative “swamp” coolers in really dry climates); window fans can be especially helpful. 2) 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/styrofoam—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. 3) 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. 4) Avoid running the oven, stove, dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer on the hottest days, and especially during the hottest hours of the day. 5) 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. 6) 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. 7) 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. 8) 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). Give them extra water indoors, as well. 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 you generally shouldn’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.

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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.

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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:

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July 27, 2023
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The mission of Project Drawdown is “to help the world stop climate change—as quickly, safely, and equitably as possible. We do this by advancing effective, science-based climate solutions and strategies; fostering bold, new climate leadership; and promoting new climate narratives and new voices.”

Project Drawdown’s researchers have identified more than 90 climate solutions (specific strategies), and they have estimated how much each one of those strategies could reduce heat-trapping (greenhouse gas) emissions globally, to determine which ones can make the biggest impact in mitigating climate change. They note that their listing is “extensive but not exhaustive” and their research is ongoing and will continue to be updated.

On their Table of Solutions, you can sort the solutions’ climate impacts based on two different scenarios—or timelines—of emissions reduction efforts: Scenario 1 is in line with a 2˚C temperature rise by 2100, while Scenario 2 is in line with a 1.5˚C temperature rise at century’s end (a better scenario, to be sure, but one that is becoming less attainable every day that our societies fail to act with the needed urgency).

I looked at the solutions for both scenarios, and I found that both scenarios include the same group of solutions within their Top 15—just in a different order. (Beyond the first 15, the solutions start to differ somewhat across the two scenarios.) Here I’ve listed the 15 highest-impact solutions that Project Drawdown identified for Scenario 1, as of June 2023. Click on the links to learn about each one:

Top 15 Climate Solutions

  1. Reduced Food Waste
  2. Plant-Rich Diets
  3. Family Planning and Education
  4. Refrigerant Management
  5. Tropical Forest Restoration
  6. Onshore Wind Turbines
  7. Alternative Refrigerants
  8. Utility-Scale Solar Photovoltaics
  9. Clean Cooking
  10. Distributed Solar Photovoltaics
  11. Silvopasture
  12. Methane Leak Management
  13. Peatland Protection and Rewetting
  14. Tree Plantations on Degraded Land
  15. Temperate Forest Restoration

Start by selecting 2-4 of the solutions above, and think about (or research/Google) at least one way that you can participate in or contribute to each of those solutions. Then write down and commit to those actions and do your best to make them happen in the near term. (Then maybe you can add some more goals and solutions to your list, and/or help others achieve them.) While many/most of these climate solutions require action by government and industry in order to be fully and readily implemented, there are almost always some things that we can do as individuals and as communities to push them forward and to push government and industry in the right direction. Government and corporate policies, funding and investments, and climate programs and efforts should aim to prioritize the most effective climate solutions and strategies, as well as all strategies that can be implemented immediately or quickly (and/or easily or most affordably), as time is of the essence.

[UPDATE: After this post was published, I published a post on How to Reduce Food Waste. And here’s my April 2024 post on Climate Actions for All of Us, which also addresses plant-based diets and other actions.]

To see the other 75+ solutions identified by Project Drawdown, visit and peruse their Solutions Library.

Project Drawdown organizes their solutions by sectors, as follows:

Sources: Food, Agriculture, and Land Use; Electricity; Other Energy; Buildings; Industry; Transportation

Sinks: Land Sinks; Coastal and Ocean Sinks; Engineered Sinks

Society: Health and Education

Interestingly, of the Top 15 solutions listed above, almost half of them (7) count as Land Sinks, while 3 of them fall within the area of Food, Agriculture, and Land Use; 3 are within the Buildings sector; 3 are within the Electricity sector; 2 are within Industry; 1 is related to Health and Education; and 1 is related to Other Energy (methane gas).

Also check out the new Drawdown Roadmap, which is a series of videos (and graphics) that demystify climate change’s specific causes and solutions, and show “how to strategically mobilize solutions across sectors, time, and place, engage the power of co-benefits, and recognize and remove obstacles.” These videos provide useful, one-of-a-kind summaries that can serve as a great resource for businesses, investors, philanthropists, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. I think they could also serve as a good learning tool for high school or college students. For other short, educational videos from Project Drawdown, see their Climate Solutions 101 series, which includes interviews with a variety of climate experts.

NOTE: We featured an earlier iteration of Project Drawdown’s research findings in our 2020 blog post “Sweat the Big Stuff: The Most Effective Climate Strategies,” which also featured other scientific findings on the highest-impact climate solutions, including high-impact individual choices.

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June 27, 2023
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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 34 years that the Prize has been awarded, there have been more than 215 recipients of the prize.

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

  • Diane Wilson—Texas, USA: “In December 2019, Diane Wilson won a landmark case against Formosa Plastics, one of the world’s largest petrochemical companies, for the illegal dumping of toxic plastic waste on Texas’ Gulf Coast. The $50 million settlement is the largest award in a citizen suit against an industrial polluter in the history of the US Clean Water Act. As a part of the settlement, Formosa Plastics agreed to reach ‘zero-discharge’ of plastic waste from its Point Comfort factory, pay penalties until discharges cease, and fund remediation of affected local wetlands, beaches, and waterways.” (Support/follow: San Antonio Bay Waterkeeper)
  • Alessandra Korap Munduruku—Brazil: “Alessandra Korap Munduruku organized community efforts to stop mining development by British mining company Anglo American in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. In May 2021, the company formally committed to withdraw 27 approved research applications to mine inside Indigenous territories, including the Sawré Muybu Indigenous Territory, which contains more than 400,000 acres of rainforest. The decision protects a critically threatened area of the Amazon—the world’s largest rainforest and a globally significant carbon sink—from further mining and deforestation.” (Support/follow: Associação Indígena PARIRIAPIB, Amazon WatchCOIAB, and sign this letter.)
  • Tero Mustonen—Finland: “Since April 2018, Tero Mustonen led the restoration of 62 severely degraded former industrial peat mining and forestry sites throughout Finland—totaling 86,000 acres—and transformed them into productive, biodiverse wetlands and habitats. Rich in organic matter, peatlands are highly effective carbon sinks; according to the IUCN, peatlands are the largest natural carbon stores on Earth. Roughly one-third of Finland’s surface area is made up of peatlands.” (Support/follow: Snowchange Cooperative and Global Peatlands Initiative)
  • Delima Silalahi—Indonesia: “Delima Silalahi led a campaign to secure legal stewardship of 17,824 acres of tropical forest land for six Indigenous communities in North Sumatra. Her community’s activism reclaimed this territory from a pulp and paper company that had partially converted it into a monoculture, non-native, industrial eucalyptus plantation. The six communities have begun restoring the forests, creating valuable carbon sinks of biodiverse Indonesian tropical forest.” (More here; and support/follow the Rainforest Action Network (RAN).)
  • Chilekwa Mumba—Zambia: “Alarmed by the pollution produced by the Konkola Copper Mines operation in the Copperbelt Province of Zambia, Chilekwa Mumba organized a lawsuit to hold the mine’s parent company, Vedanta Resources, responsible. Chilekwa’s victory in the UK Supreme Court set a legal precedent—it was the first time an English court ruled that a British company could be held liable for the environmental damage caused by subsidiary-run operations in another country. This precedent has since been applied to hold Shell Global—one of the world’s 10 largest corporations by revenue—liable for its pollution in Nigeria.” (See Conservation Lower Zambezi and sign their petition.)
  • Zafer Kizilkaya—Turkey: “In collaboration with local fishing cooperatives and Turkish authorities, Zafer Kizilkaya expanded Turkey’s network of marine protected areas (MPAs) along 310 miles of the Mediterranean coast. The newly designated areas were approved by the Turkish government in August 2020 and include an expansion of the MPA network by 135 square miles (350 sq. km) of no trawling/no purse seine, and an additional 27 square miles (70 sq. km) of no fishing zones. Turkey’s marine ecosystem has been severely degraded by overfishing, illegal fishing, tourism development, and the effects of climate change—and these protected areas help mitigate these challenges.” (Support/follow: Mediterranean Conservation Society)

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

Here’s the video about Diane Wilson:

 

Posts on Goldman Prize winners from previous years:

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April 24, 2023
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It’s been a while since I’ve posted a selection of quotations, and this seems like a good time to do so. Many of these quotations offer wisdom on extractive or polluting industries and activities, and on cultivating an environmental ethic:

“There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.”
— Wendell Berry, “How to Be a Poet”

“Someone needs to explain to me why wanting clean drinking water makes you an activist, and why proposing to destroy water with chemical warfare doesn’t make a corporation a terrorist.”
— Winona LaDuke

“We can continue pushing our earth out of balance, with greenhouse gases accelerating each year, or we can regain balance by acknowledging that if we harm one species, one forest, one lake, this ripples through the entire complex web. Mistreatment of one species is mistreatment of all. …Making this transformation requires that humans reconnect with nature…instead of treating everything and everyone as objects for exploitation.”
Suzanne Simard, Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest

“We abuse land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
— Aldo Leopold

“Conservation will ultimately boil down to rewarding the private landowner who conserves the public interest…. Incentives are more promising than penalties.”
— Aldo Leopold

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
— Upton Sinclair

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
– Maya Angelou

“It is possible to both be proud of your life and want better for your children.”
— from the new film, King Coal

“…[Human]kind is challenged, as it has never been challenged before, to prove its maturity and its mastery — not of nature, but of itself.”
— Rachel Carson

“Man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself.”
— Rachel Carson

“An organism that is too greedy and takes too much without giving anything in return destroys what it needs for life.”
— Peter Wohlebben, The Hidden Life of Trees

“The trees act not as individuals, but somehow as a collective. …What we see is the power of unity. What happens to one happens to us all. We can starve together or feast together.”
Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants

 

Note: I also recently added quotations to an earlier post, Re-Tree the World.

You can find our other Quotations posts indexed here, and a long set of Quotations here.

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March 24, 2023
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I know that no one really wants to think about or hear about COVID anymore. People are tired of it, “over it,” and “done with it.” But unfortunately, it’s not done with us; it’s not over, and it may not be for quite some time, as it keeps mutating into new variants. As of the end of February 2023, there are still more than 22,000 people hospitalized with COVID across the U.S.  For the years 2020-2022 (the last three years in a row), COVID-19 has remained the 3rd most common cause of death in the United States (behind only cancer and heart disease), and among adults and children, it’s the top cause of death among all infectious and respiratory diseases (beating out flu and pneumonia). “In January and February of 2022, COVID-19 was the number 1 cause of death for people ages 45-84.” (Source) In total, according to data from the World Health Organization, as of February 19, 2023, “more than 757 million confirmed cases of COVID and over 6.8 million COVID deaths have been reported globally.” And in the United States, COVID has killed more than 1.1 million people (with confirmed cases of COVID) so far (as of February 2023), but that’s most likely a significant undercount, given the much higher number of “excess deaths.”  Meanwhile, recent research has found that at least 10% of serious COVID infections result in Long COVID, which is an often debilitating illness. More than 65 million people worldwide are already suffering from Long COVID. Many people with Long COVID are not able to work or function well in daily life.

Many of us who work on climate issues have noticed (with sadness and dismay) the similarities in the way that many people have been dealing (or not dealing) with the COVID pandemic and with the climate crisis. Too many people are living in denial: choosing to deny, ignore, dismiss or downplay real problems. Denial is a very powerful coping mechanism, often used when we feel overwhelmed or powerless or fearful about something, but denial often goes too far, way beyond where it serves us well, and then it can become dangerous and even deadly. Many people want so badly to not be seen as over-reacting to something that they over-correct and under-react. It seems to be the human condition to often be scared of all the wrong (low-risk) things, while dismissing and ignoring the real risks that we should be concerned about and doing something about.

And then some people are behaving as if they have a death wish or have lost any type of basic survival instinct, or even any desire to protect others (whether they be family, friends, co-workers, the many immunocompromised folks they may come across, let alone their community or humanity at large) from sickness or potential death or disability. It’s been sobering to see how non-chalant, callous, and even sociopathic some people have been about this. This is another way in which some people’s response to COVID has been similar to people’s response to the climate crisis. A disheartening number of people have shown that they are unwilling to accept or tolerate the most minor inconveniences or sacrifices (e.g., wearing a mask in certain situations; or, say, flying less frequently or choosing a more fuel-efficient, less polluting vehicle) for the collective good (even when doing so is also for their own good/safety/health or that of their own family members). This extreme level of individualism is particularly acute in the United States, where too many people seem to be stuck in an adolescent “I can and will do whatever I want” (regardless of the consequences or the harm to others) frame of mind, and some have thrown toddler-grade tantrums in response to things like mask mandates or even to polite requests or suggestions.

The Scientist article and diagramThere are many important and substantiated facts about COVID that many people seem to be unaware of, in part because many public health leaders and public officials have not been sharing the facts or data or basing policies on them, having seemingly given up on trying to stop or slow the pandemic, possibly because of all the public backlash and hostility they’ve received during past attempts to institute protections (and necessary mitigations/restrictions) to save lives. There are, however, some medical experts and scientists (e.g., epidemiologists, virologists, immunologists, doctors, nurses) who continue to try to get people to understand the reality of the situation and what people (and government and other institutions) should be doing to get it under control. As with the climate crisis, individual and voluntary actions and state-specific protections (though they are helpful and important) are simply not enough to solve or put an end to this collective, global problem.

The following are 10 important facts people should (but often don’t) know about COVID. This isn’t alarmism or fear-mongering. Please see the list of articles further down for more details and research data. If more people were aware of what the current reality is, they might be more likely to take all viable and appropriate precautions:

  1. It appears that many people’s immune systems have been impaired/damaged/dysregulated by having had COVID in the past, and experts are finding that that COVID-caused immunodeficiency (or immunosuppression) is most likely why so many people (including and especially kids and infants) have gotten so ill from the flu, RSV, and any other bug that comes along. (It’s not actually due to so-called “immunity debt,” which is a questionable concept.). It’s also why so many people have been getting bacterial infections that can send them to the hospital (e.g., pneumonia, Strep / scarlet fever, Staph, UTIs, etc.): because their bodies’ immune systems can’t fight them off on their own. Untreated (or untreatable) bacterial infections can lead to sepsis and death.
  2. People can readily get reinfected with COVID (i.e., having had COVID does not mean you are immune from getting it again, especially as the virus keeps mutating), and sometimes people fare worse on later infections than the first.
  3. COVID can cause significant mental, neurological, and blood clotting/circulatory problems (e.g. strokes, embolisms, heart attacks) and long-term/permanent organ damage (e.g., heart, lungs, liver, brain, kidneys, intestines, etc.) and even diabetes—months or years after the initial infection, and even in people who had a relatively mild or even asymptomatic case of COVID in its acute phase. These risks go up with each additional COVID infection.
  4. COVID infections seem to be able to reactivate dormant viruses or infections that someone has had in the past (e.g., mono: EBV; lyme, etc.).
  5. Many hospitals and other workplaces are understaffed because their staff has had so much COVID-related illness, and a lot of people with Long COVID haven’t been able to go back to work due to their ongoing, debilitating symptoms.
  6. Getting the latest COVID booster (vaccine) drastically reduces one’s chances of being hospitalized or dying of COVID. It also seems to reduce the chances of getting Long COVID.
  7. Airplane air filtration is rarely as good as the airlines claim. When people bring air quality monitors on-board, they typically find very poor levels of ventilation, not just when the plane is on the ground but also when it’s in flight. Bear in mind that on almost any flight you’re on, at least one person is likely to have COVID (or some other infectious disease). It is very important to wear a good mask throughout any flight you’re on (and to not remove the mask). I’ve known numerous people who have gotten COVID (and other viruses) after being on flights.
  8. If you’re traveling/flying (or going to be with a group of people indoors), the experts advise that you: isolate for at least a few days before and after the flights/visits/events; take a COVID test (ideally a PCR test) before and a few days after the trip/visit (for several days in a row, as tests—especially at-home rapid tests—sometimes won’t show a Positive result until someone has had the virus for 5 or more days); always wear an N95 (or KN95 or KF94) mask when indoors with a group (or when you’re with a medically vulnerable or immunocompromised person) or on public transportation or when you experience any potential symptoms; and ventilate indoor air as much as possible (opening windows or using HEPA filtration or Corsi-Rosenthal Box filters are the best strategies).
  9. If you have had (or currently have or think you might have) COVID, you may want to ask your doctor about whether it’s safe for you to take some type of anti-coagulant (blood thinner) for a while, to prevent blood clots. One natural blood-thinning supplement (which may be safer and more effective than baby aspirin) is called Nattokinase; it can be found at some natural foods and supplement stores or websites. In addition, to help lower your chances of getting COVID or of preventing a COVID infection from becoming serious, do what you can to keep your immune system functioning properly, e.g., get plenty of sleep; eat nutritious organic (and unprocessed) foods; and make sure you’re getting enough Vitamin D3, other necessary vitamins (like C, the B vitamins, etc.). You could also look into taking supplements like Quercetin (which also has blood-thinning properties) and/or medicinal mushrooms (see Dr. Weil’s info; and Host Defense products). (Note: I am not a medical professional, and you should consult with a medical professional before taking anything.)
  10. If you don’t know whether you’ve had the COVID virus in the past, you can get the “nucleocapsid antibody” test for COVID (offered by various labs, including LabCorp). This is the only type of COVID antibody test that can identify past exposure to the virus itself and not also pick up on antibodies developed from vaccination. This might be helpful information to have in case you end up getting any Long COVID symptoms (or sudden changes in your cardiovascular health or other brain or organ issues) down the road. Research is ongoing to identify the best treatments for various Long COVID symptoms and conditions.

Please take a look at some of these useful, recent articles and research findings about COVID and Long COVID:

I also recommend reading the articles on COVID and Long COVID that were written by Ed Yong between 2020-2022.

Some of the top doctors, scientists, and other experts I recommend following re. COVID and public health are: Eric Topol, Wes Ely, Claire Taylor, Elizabeth Jacobs, Ziyad Al-Aly, Peter Hotez, Erin C. Sanders, Taison Bell, Celine Gounder, Theresa Chapple, Julia Raifman, Angela Rasmussen, Lucky Tran, Megan Ranney, Shikha Jain, Lisa Iannatone, Dr. Natalia, Nurse Kelsey; Hannah Davis, Morgan Stephens, and others included here.

Some groups and resources you might want to know about and follow online are: Voices of COVID, Faces of COVID, Survivor Corps, COVID Survivors for Change, Patient-Led Research Collaborative for Long COVID, Putrino Lab, Long Covid Research Initiative, The Long COVID Survival Guide, Long COVID Advocacy, Long COVID Justice, Long Covid Kids, Project N95, Mask Together America, Marked By COVID, and others included here.

Other useful resources:

Related post:

COVID Response and Relief: Ways to help or to get help or information

 

See our COVID/Long COVID/Public Health Twitter list for updates and new findings.

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February 28, 2023
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These are a few recently published books that you may want to consider reading and/or giving to others as a gift:

The Climate Book: The Facts and the Solutions, by Greta Thunberg

Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future, by Elizabeth Kolbert (also the author of The Sixth Extinction)

An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us, by Ed Yong (also the author of I Contain Multitudes)

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

Call Us What We Carry (poems), by Amanda Gorman

The Flag, The Cross, and the Station Wagon: A Graying American Looks Back at His Suburban Boyhood and Wonders What the Hell Happened, by Bill McKibben

Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could, by Adam Schiff

The Storm is Upon Us: How QAnon Became a Movement, Cult, and Conspiracy Theory of Everything, by Mike Rothschild

Beyond Belief: How Pentecostal Christianity is Taking Over the World, by Elle Hardy

Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention—And How to Think Deeply Again, by Johann Hari

Another book I would recommend is the following [disclosure: it was written by a family member]. It came out a few years ago, but it imparts important and timely lessons on the folly of violence (and the value of non-violent dissent) that all social movements and activists can benefit from:

Looking for Revolution, Finding Murder: The Crimes and Transformation of Katherine Ann Power, by Janet Landman

 

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 20, 2022
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So much is at stake in the next election (climate, democracy, Rule of Law, voting rights, women’s personhood, health and reproductive rights, etc.). Please double-check to make sure you’re registered to vote (and your registration information is accurate and up to date), then vote (early—in person or by mail, if those are options where you are), and encourage and help others you know to vote—and to make sure they have the required type of ID—especially young or first-time voters or people who have moved. (If you vote by mail, read all instructions very carefully, sign where indicated, and make sure your signature is representative of your official signature so it should closely match the signature they have on file and is not likely to be rejected. Drop it off at an official drop-off location, or mail it in well before the deadline so it will arrive in time. Make sure you use adequate postage, if postage is required. Then check for verification that it was received and counted.)

Here is a listing of our most recent posts related to voting, elections, and democracy (in the United States):

Key voting resources/websites:

On Twitter, please follow these lists of key groups and experts:

and our lists that are specific to:

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October 17, 2022
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This is a listing of some legal organizations that I recommend following, learning more about, and potentially supporting. They all use the law to try to serve and support the common good in various ways: to protect humans and human rights, civil rights, and civil liberties; to protect animals and the rights of non-human species; and/or to protect nature, our shared environment, and the livability of our planet.

Many human/societal/commercial/industrial activities and practices that are considered “business as usual” are not only unjust, but are truly ecocidal, genocidal, and collectively suicidal, and really ought to be legally deemed (and prosecuted as) Crimes Against Humanity and the planet. Currently, only some of these existential wrongs can be addressed and enforced through legal avenues. While the law has typically focused on the rights of humans (and human entities, such as companies or organizations), efforts have been ramping up to also establish/enact and secure the Rights of Nature (including rivers, etc.) as well as Non-Human Rights for other species.

In recent years, some countries have amended their constitutions, enacted laws, or issued court decisions recognizing the legal rights of nature. Those countries include: Ecuador, New Zealand, Bolivia, Panama, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, and Bangladesh. And recently, the UN formally declared that access to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is a universal human right. However, this is a non-binding resolution; the hope is that it will help spur countries to improve their environmental laws and the implementation and enforcement of those laws.

Environmental law/rights

Animal rights

Also see: our Twitter list on Animal rights and protection; and our related post: Animal Protection, Rescue, and Advocacy Organizations

Human/civil/constitutional rights
(including voting rights, bodily autonomy, reproductive rights, etc.)

For additional organizations and legal experts, see our Twitter lists on:

 

Related posts: Posts related to Democracy, Elections, Voting, and Social Change

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August 2, 2022
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photo by M. LandmanFor the love of all that is good; for the sake of a habitable planet with a survivable climate, for the sake of democracy and voting rights, for the sake of our personhood, bodily autonomy, self-determination, and fundamental rights and civil liberties, for the sake of reducing the threat of gun violence, for the sake of children and the future of humanity; to protect Social Security and Medicare for elders and people with disabilities; to protect LGBTQ people and immigrants/refugees and every marginalized and dehumanized group; and for so SO many other reasons I shouldn’t have to list here: PLEASE (yes, I’m begging), please vote, and also do something to help Get Out the Vote and get people you know to vote (Blue) in the upcoming elections and in all elections—especially young people or others who may not have voted before (or who have moved and need to re-register) and people who live in swing/”purple” or “red” states or districts. Help them get registered; they might just need a little nudge or a link or a form. Then take them with you to vote or to drop off your signed mail-in ballots.

Too often, many Democrats and young people sit out elections as if they don’t matter (especially when the presidency isn’t on the ballot), and as a result, progress gets significantly rolled back or obstructed (which has very real effects on people’s everyday lives, livelihoods, and their future), locally and nationally. If we don’t expand the Dem’s razor-thin Senate majority, secure the House majority, add more Dems to many state legislatures, and get more Dem Secretaries of State, Attorneys General, and Governors elected or re-elected in swing states (where Republicans are actively working to elect SOS’s and AG’s who will refuse to certify any voting result that doesn’t go their way), it is not an exaggeration to say that we are likely to lose our democracy and so many things we hold dear (or take for granted), including many of our basic rights and liberties.

Here are some groups I recommend joining or supporting (and amplifying); click on a few, and pick one or two!

 

Focused on state and local campaigns/races:
Environmental/climate voter groups:

On Twitter, please follow these lists:

Voting / Elections

State and Local Dem Groups

and our lists that are specific to:

We might add other state lists later this year, and we add more accounts (“members”) to our existing lists as we discover them.

 

Related blog posts with more information:

 

Please share a few of the links above with your friends and/or on social media, now and before October/November. Thank you!

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July 8, 2022
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