climate

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 32 years that the Prize has been awarded, there have been more than 200 recipients of the prize.

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

 

  • Sharon Lavigne—Louisiana, USA: In September 2019, Sharon Lavigne, a special education teacher turned environmental justice advocate, successfully stopped the construction of a US$1.25 billion plastics manufacturing plant alongside the Mississippi River in St. James Parish, Louisiana. Lavigne mobilized grassroots opposition to the project, educated community members, and organized peaceful protests to defend her predominantly African American community. The plant would have generated one million pounds of liquid hazardous waste annually, in a region already contending with known carcinogens and toxic air pollution. (Support: RISE St. James, Stop Formosa Plastics, and Louisiana Bucket Brigade)
  • Liz Chicaje Churay—PeruIn January of 2018, as a result of the efforts of Liz Chicaje Churay and her partners, the Peruvian government created Yaguas National Park. Comparable in size to Yellowstone National Park, the new park protects more than two million acres of Amazon rainforest in the northeastern region of Loreto. Its creation is a key step in conserving the country’s biodiversity—safeguarding thousands of rare and unique wildlife species and conserving carbon-rich peatlands—and protecting Indigenous peoples. (Support: Instituto del Bien Comun and Amazon conservation organizations)
  • Kimiko Hirata—JapanAfter the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of 2011, Japan was forced to move away from nuclear power and, in its place, embraced coal as a major energy source. Over the past several years, Kimiko Hirata’s grassroots campaign led to the cancellation of 13 coal power plants (7GW or 7,030MW) in Japan. These coal plants would have released more than 1.6 billion tons of CO2 over their lifetimes. The carbon impact of Hirata’s activism is the equivalent of taking 7.5 million passenger cars off the road every year for 40 years. (Support: Kiko Network, Japan Beyond Coal, and 350.org)
  • Thai Van Nguyen—VietnamThai Van Nguyen founded Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, which rescued 1,540 pangolins from the illegal wildlife trade between 2014 and 2020. Nguyen also established Vietnam’s first anti-poaching unit, which, since 2018, has destroyed 9,701 animal traps, dismantled 775 illegal camps, confiscated 78 guns, and arrested 558 people for poaching, leading to a significant decline in illegal activities in Pu Mat National Park. Pangolins are the world’s most heavily trafficked mammal despite an international trade ban. Heavy demand for their meat, scales, and blood threatens pangolins with extinction; all eight pangolin species are on the IUCN Red List. (Support: Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, WildAid, and Pangolin Crisis Fund)
  • Gloria Majiga-Kamoto—MalawiConcerned about the environmental harm caused by mounting plastic pollution in Malawi, Gloria Majiga-Kamoto fought the plastics industry and galvanized a grassroots movement in support of a national ban on thin plastics, a type of single-use plastic. As a result of her dedicated campaigning, in July 2019, Malawi’s High Court upheld the ban on the production, importation, distribution, and use of thin plastics. This is the first Prize for Malawi. (Support: Break Free From Plastic, GAIA Zero Waste World, and Lilongwe Wildlife Trust)
  • Maida Bilal—Bosnia and HerzegovinaMaida Bilal led a group of women from her village in a 503-day blockade of heavy equipment that resulted in the cancellation of permits for two proposed dams on the Kruščica River in December 2018. The Balkans are home to the last free-flowing rivers in Europe. However, a massive hydropower boom in the region threatens to irreversibly damage thousands of miles of pristine rivers. This is the first Prize for Bosnia and Herzegovina. (Support: RiverWatch, Patagonia, EuroNatur, and EKO BISTRO)

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

Here’s the video about Sharon Lavigne:

 

Posts on Goldman Prize winners from previous years:

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June 16, 2021
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We plan to publish posts on the following topics (among others) over the course of this year:

  • Environmental Toxins’ and Air Pollution’s Links to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease 
  • A Green & Just Economic Recovery and Prosperity
  • (Anti) Nuclear Power and Nuclear Weapons Info.  (a resource listing)
  • Wildfire Prevention and Risk Reduction
  • Land Restoration, Remediation, and Regeneration
  • PFAS / PFOA: Forever Chemicals
  • Organizations for Women’s Rights and Equality
  • Promising, Under-Recognized Trends and Solutions

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

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April 27, 2021
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Cities, towns, counties, states, regions, and countries all over the world are making large strides towards shifting to renewable energy sources (e.g., solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower, biomass, and wave/tidal energy). In early 2018 we published our original post on this topic. This new post provides an update on where things stand three years later, in early 2021:

Within the U.S., the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 program reports that (to date, as of early 2021), more than 170 cities, more than 10 counties, 8 states, and 2 territories have adopted the ambitious goal of 100% clean energy (for at least electricity). Note: This is quite a bit more than just three years ago, when the stats were 50 cities, 7 counties, and only 1 state (Hawaii).  As of this year (so far), the 8 states and 2 territories that have committed to this goal are: California, Hawaii, Maine, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Virginia, Washington, as well as Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico!  The counties that have made this commitment are located in California, Colorado, Idaho, North Carolina, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington state.

Whereas three years ago, only five towns in the U.S. had achieved this impressive goal (generating 100% of their electricity from non-polluting, renewable sources), now five counties (unincorporated county areas) in California, as well as 47 cities and towns across the U.S. have achieved this goal. Most of those cities and towns are in California. The non-California towns are: Aspen, CO; Greensburg, KS; Rock Port, MO; Kodiak Island, AK; and Georgetown, TX. You can use the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 map to see if your city/town/county or other municipalities in your state have committed to or achieved these renewable energy goals.

Worldwide, many other cities and countries are also approaching and even reaching 100% renewable electricity goals. The Global 100 RE Strategy Group says that “To date, 11 countries have reached or exceeded 100% renewable electricity; 12 countries have passed laws to reach 100% renewable electricity by 2030; 49 countries have passed laws to reach 100% renewable electricity by 2050; 14 U.S. states and territories have passed laws or executive orders to reach up to 100% renewable electricity by between 2030 and 2050 [Note: That is more than the 10 identified by the Sierra Club above]; over 300 cities worldwide have passed laws to reach 100% renewable electricity by no later than 2050; and over 280 international businesses have committed to 100% renewables across their global operations.”

Countries that are powered or almost entirely powered on renewable energy (>90%) include: Costa Rica, Iceland, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Norway. Other countries with very high percentages of renewables include Portugal, Germany, Scotland, New Zealand, and Austria. Islands that now have >90% renewable electricity include: Eigg and Orkney (Scotland), Tasmania (Australia), Tokelau (New Zealand), Tau (American Samoa), and Samso (Denmark).

Note: Some of these countries, cities, and islands use primarily hydropower; large dams are controversial, as they are environmentally destructive to ecosystems and habitats. Some biomass (and landfill gas) sources can also be controversial. It definitely does not make any sense or pencil out (climate-wise/carbon-wise or otherwise) to cut down trees en masse (let alone ship their wood or wood pellets across the world) in order to make energy.

Some programs that help cities, regions, countries, and other entities move towards 100% include:

Also see these other resources on 100% renewable energy efforts:

We should all ask the leaders of our cities, towns, counties, states, and countries (mayors, city council members, county supervisors, governors, state legislators, congressional representatives, Senators, and President) to commit to a 100% (or at least 90%) renewable energy goal (as well as carbon-neutral and net-negative emission goals), and to enact forward-thinking policies right away to move rapidly towards those goals. You can share these program links with them, so they will be aware of networks they can join and resources they can use in setting their policies and meeting their renewable energy goals.

One way to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy sources at a local level is to create a county-wide, city-wide or regional Community Choice Energy (AKA Community Choice Aggregation, CCA) program. Per The Climate Center, “Community Choice agencies are local, not-for-profit, public agencies that provide electricity services to residents and businesses. Community Choice introduces competitions and consumer choices into the electricity sector with a focus on local, renewable energy to stimulate rapid innovations in clean energy systems.” According to Local Power, Community Choice energy programs now serve more than 30 million Americans, in more than 1,500 municipalities across the country. As of early 2021, there are 23 Community Choice energy programs established in California alone, serving more than 11 million people, providing more than 3,800 megawatts of new renewable energy capacity, and avoiding 940,000+ metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year! In addition to California, eight other states have also authorized Community Choice programs (so far): Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Virginia.

The Climate Center is also running the Climate-Safe California campaign, to try to push the state to set and achieve the goal of net-negative emissions by 2030 in California. You can read and endorse the platform via that link.

Energy efficiency is also critical. It is as important as shifting to renewable energy sources, because the less energy we need/use/waste (i.e. the lower the demand), the less we have to produce (supply) from any source. Simply adding renewable energy sources to the existing non-renewable sources will not help reduce pollution or slow climate change; renewable sources need to start to replace the existing fossil-fuel-based (oil, coal, and gas) sources. (All types of energy production, even non-polluting renewables, require material inputs and have some impacts.) The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) published a 2020 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, which concluded that “For the first time in four years, California took first place nationwide, edging out Massachusetts, the leader in the Northeast…. Rounding out this year’s top 10, are…Vermont (#3), Rhode Island (#4), New York (#5), Maryland (#6), Connecticut (#7), Washington, DC (#8), and Minnesota and Oregon (tied for #9). …Other regional leaders include Colorado in the Southwest, and Virginia in the South.”

 

This was our previous post on this topic:
Cities and Towns Achieving (or Approaching) 100 Percent Renewable Energy (2018)

Other related posts:

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February 23, 2021
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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 31 years that the Prize has been awarded, there have now been 200 recipients of the prize.

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

  • Leydy Pech—MexicoLeydy Pech, an indigenous Mayan beekeeper, led a coalition that successfully halted Monsanto’s planting of genetically modified soybeans in southern Mexico. The Mexican Supreme Court ruled that the government had violated the Mayans’ constitutional rights and suspended the planting of genetically modified soybeans. Because of the persistence of Pech and her coalition, in September 2017, Mexico’s Food and Agricultural Service revoked Monsanto’s permit to grow genetically modified soybeans in seven states. 
  • Kristal Ambrose—The Bahamas: Drawing on the power of youth activism, Kristal Ambrose convinced the government of The Bahamas to ban single-use plastic bags, plastic cutlery, straws, and Styrofoam containers and cups, to reduce plastic waste in and around the ocean and the Bahamas islands. Announced in April 2018, the nationwide ban went into effect in January 2020. (Organization: Bahamas Plastics Movement)
  • Nemonte Nenquimo—EcuadorNemonte Nenquimo led an indigenous campaign and legal action that resulted in a court ruling protecting 500,000 acres of Amazonian rainforest and Waorani territory from oil extraction. Nenquimo’s leadership and the lawsuit set a legal precedent for indigenous rights in Ecuador, and other tribes are following in her footsteps to protect additional tracts of rainforest from oil extraction. (Relevant organizations: Amazon Frontlines, Alianza Ceibo, Amazon Watch)
  • Chibeze Ezekiel—GhanaAs a direct result of Chibeze Ezekiel’s four-year grassroots campaign, the Ghanaian Minister of Environment canceled the construction of a 700-megawatt (MW) coal power plant and adjoining shipping port to import coal. The coal power plant would have been Ghana’s first. Ezekiel’s activism stopped the coal industry from entering Ghana and steered the nation’s energy future away from coal and towards solar and renewables. (Relevant organizations: Ghana Reducing Our Carbon (G-ROC) 350, Strategic Youth Network for Development, 350.org)
  • Paul Sein Twa—MyanmarSeeking to preserve both the environment and Karen culture in Myanmar, in December 2018 Paul Sein Twa led his people in establishing a 1.35-million-acre peace park—a unique and collaborative community-based approach to conservation—in the Salween River basin. The Salween River basin is a major biodiversity zone and home to the indigenous Karen people, who have long sought self-determination and cultural survival. The new park represents a major victory for peace and conservation in Myanmar. (Relevant organizations: KESAN (Karen Environmental and Social Action Network), ICCA Consortium)
  • Lucie Pinson—FranceIn 2017, Lucie Pinson’s activism successfully pressured France’s three largest banks to eliminate financing for new coal projects and coal companies. She then compelled French insurance companies to follow suit: between 2017 and 2019, mega insurers AXA and SCOR announced plans to end insurance coverage for coal projects. (Relevant organizations: Reclaim Finance, Coal Policy Tool, BankTrack)

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

Here’s the video about Leydy Pech of Mexico:

 

Posts on Goldman Prize winners from previous years:

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December 1, 2020
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These are a few recently published books that you may want to consider reading and/or giving to someone as a gift:

All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis (essays from more than 40 women who are at the forefront of the climate movement), edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katherine K. Wilkinson

The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet, by Michael E. Mann

Becoming Wild: How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty, and Achieve Peace, by Carl Safina

World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments, by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

And here are a few that aren’t primarily focused on environmental topics, but they are also important books for our time:

What Unites Us, by Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner  [also coming out as a graphic novel]

How to Fly (In Ten Thousand Easy Lessons) (poems), by Barbara Kingsolver

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, by Isabel Wilkerson

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, by Katherine May

Also check out the books published by Chelsea Green Publishing and New Society Publishers 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 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 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 27, 2020
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We hope you’ll follow our Twitter account, and also check out and Subscribe to some of the topic-specific lists we’ve compiled on Twitter, featuring other accounts (people and groups) worth following. Note: Click on the “Members” link to see the accounts you may want to follow within each list:

Climate: news, info, groups, leaders, scientists
(also see Katharine Hayhoe’s list of climate scientists)

Nuclear (weapons and energy/power): experts, news, information, anti-nuke groups, disarmament, arms control, etc.

Fracking: anti-fracking groups, leaders, news, and info

Environmental Justice (EJ): environmental, economic, and social equity-focused groups and leaders; BIPOC green groups, etc.

Animal protection: Animal rights, advocacy, rescue, and welfare/protection groups (for wildlife and for domesticated animals and farmed animals)

Wildfires and fire ecology: Wildfire prevention and risk reduction; land use/management; prescribed/controlled fires, forest/vegetation management, defensible space, building/home hardening; climate change/crisis

Voting / Elections: election information, election protection/integrity, voter education, voting rights

Democracy vs. dictatorship: experts on authoritarianism, autocracy, fascism, dictatorship, oligarchy, kleptocracy, theocracy, tyranny, political science, history

Media, news, facts, information: reputable, fact-based sources of information; journalism; fact-checking; countering disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda

Civil rights / Equality / Black America: racism, bigotry, discrimination, injustice, white supremacists/nationalists, police brutality, etc.

Indigenous / Native: news, info, groups, and leaders

Latino: news, info, groups, and leaders

Immigration and refugees: immigrant, refugee, migrant, and asylum rights and advocacy groups

Women’s rights: Women’s advocacy, representation, equality, bodily autonomy, reproductive rights, equal pay

Youth / young adult organizations: Groups of and for young people, students, Gen Z, millennials, etc.

Economic inequality: economic (in)justice, poverty, the ongoing redistribution of more $$ to the most wealthy, kleptocracy, predatory capitalism, exploitation, unemployment; labor rights, fair/living wage, unions

Veterans: news, info, advocacy groups, and leaders

National security: e.g., foreign policy, war, military, safety, peace

Legal minds: Lawyers / attorneys; legal scholars, analysts, experts; justice, Rule of Law, constitutional law, criminal law, etc.

Hate and extremism: Groups and experts working Against hate, supremacy, extremism, violence, conspiracy theories and cults (e.g. QAnon), radicalization / disinformation, and terrorism, including domestic terrorism

Sociopathy / pathology and pathocracy: Experts on Anti-Social Personality Disorders (psychopaths/sociopaths), malignant narcissism, pathocracy, con men, cults, brainwashing

Gun Control/Reform: Gun control organizations, trying to enact common-sense and widely supported policies that will help prevent gun violence and mass shootings (massacres)

We also have Twitter lists for specific states and regions, e.g. ArizonaGeorgiaMichigan, North Carolina, OregonTexasWisconsin; and Appalachia. We’ll be adding more lists (including other state lists) over time, and we also add more accounts (“members”) to our existing lists as we discover them.

See all of our Twitter lists here.

You can also follow/”Like”  The Green Spotlight on Facebook for daily posts.

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May 27, 2020
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Here are a few TED Talks that I’d recommend watching, in addition to the talks that I posted in the past (see Part I and Part II).

A Healthy Economy Should Be Designed to Thrive, Not Grow / Kate Raworth

 

How to Turn Climate Anxiety into Action / Renee Lertzman

 

The Shocking Danger of Mountaintop Removal (Coal Mining)—and Why It Must End / Michael Hendryx

 

A Climate Change Solution that’s Right Under Our Feet (Soil) / Asmeret Asefa Berhe

 

How Empowering Women and Girls Can Help Stop Global Warming / Katherine Wilkinson

 

This Could Be Why You’re Depressed or Anxious / Johann Hari (author of Lost Connections)

 

More:

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March 30, 2020
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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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These are some recently published books that you may want to consider reading and/or giving to someone as a gift:

The Overstory, by Richard Powers  
(This is a novel, and it won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize.)

Erosion: Essays of Undoing, by Terry Tempest Williams

Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?, by Bill McKibben

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, edited by Paul Hawken

Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution, by Peter Kalmus

Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country, by Pam Houston

The World-Ending Fire: The Essential Wendell Berry

Renewal: How Nature Awakens Our Creativity, Compassion, and Joy, by Andres Edwards

Confessions of a Rogue Nuclear Regulator, by Gregory Jaczko

Call Them by Their True Names: American Crises (and Essays), by Rebecca Solnit

Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life, by George Monbiot

Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis, by George Monbiot

Our Wild Calling: How connecting with animals can transform our lives—and save theirs, by Richard Louv

Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel, by Carl Safina

I’d also recommend taking a look at other books written by the authors listed above, as well as books by Rachel Carson, Elizabeth Kolbert, John McPhee, Annie Dillard, Bernie Krause, Joanna Macy, and Barbara Kingsolver.

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

Another book I would recommend is the following [disclosure: it was written by a family member]. Though it is not directly related to environmental issues, it does impart important lessons on non-violent dissent (and the folly of violence) that all activists and social movements (including environmental activists and movements) can benefit from:

Looking for Revolution, Finding Murder: The Crimes and Transformation of Katherine Ann Power, by Janet Landman (2019)

 

Note: Please try to buy books from independent bookstores (or Barnes & Noble), rather than from Amazon. There are probably over a dozen compelling reasons not to buy anything (but especially books) from Amazon. Also avoid choosing one- or two-day shipping unless it’s really necessary; overnight/airplane-based shipping has an enormous environmental footprint as well as a serious cost to worker safety.

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

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November 25, 2019
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