tips

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 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 (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, 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, and cultural 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. Consider your neighbors; consider vulnerable populations; consider other species; consider future generations. Consider 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

Read: Elizabeth Warren’s impressive climate plans to tackle the climate crisis

 

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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The only thing that is truly certain in this life is that all of us will die. We don’t know when or how, but we do know that ultimately we cannot avoid death. Impermanence and death are inevitable, universal, and unavoidable parts of life.

Rather than live in denial or in fear of that fact (as so many people do), we should strive to face it and prepare for it to the extent that we can. That way, we can have a role in trying to ensure that our end of life experience and our post-death legacy are in keeping with our values and that our loved ones know what we want and won’t have to muddle through all of our death care decisions and post-death details and arrangements without any of our guidance when they are in the process of grieving.

Each of us has an impact on our environment not just during our life, but after our death. Conventional modern burials and cremation both have significant negative impacts on the environment. Death is natural, but the ways our modern society usually processes dead bodies is far from natural (or benign). Embalming fluid is a toxic mix of formaldehyde, benzene (both of which are carcinogens), and methanol. (Some shocking stats: Embalmers have a 13% higher death rate, 8 times higher risk of leukemia, and 3 times higher risk of ALS than the general population. Sources: See link at the end of this paragraph.) Caskets and vaults use vast quantities of natural resources, such as wood (including tropical hardwoods), steel, copper, bronze, and/or concrete, and can leach iron, lead, zinc, and cobalt into the soil. Meanwhile, cremation uses a lot of energy (burning fossil fuels) to reach a temperature of 1900 degrees F for more than 2 hours, which produces considerable CO2 emissions. Cremation also releases mercury—a dangerous neurotoxin—into the air (due to the incineration of people’s silver dental fillings), as well as other by-product air pollutants (e.g., dioxins, nitrogen oxide, and particulates). For additional impacts and statistics, click here.

Fortunately, alternatives to conventional burial and cremation are now available in many areas, as the interest in natural burial is growing. Increasingly, people are opting to be buried without being embalmed (or else being embalmed using non-toxic, biodegradable fluids, or temporarily preserved using dry ice); wrapped in a shroud or placed in a biodegradable casket or container; and buried in a natural setting (rather than in the typical mowed and manicured lawn cemetery that uses toxic herbicides, fertilizers, and pesticides), where their body and its nutrients can decompose into the earth (dust to dust), allowing them to contribute to new life. An added bonus is that natural burial options are often considerably less expensive than conventional casket (or vault) burials.

The Green Burial Council certifies funeral products, services (funeral homes), and cemeteries and burial grounds that meet their criteria. While definitions of “green” can vary, these are their general criteria: “The Green Burial Council believes cemeteries, preserves, and burial grounds can broadly be considered green if they meet the following criteria: caring for the dead with minimal environmental impact that aids in the conservation of natural resources, reduction of carbon emissions, protection of worker health, and the restoration and/or preservation of habitat. Green burial necessitates the use of non-toxic and biodegradable materials, such as caskets, shrouds, and urns. Hybrid, natural, and conservation cemeteries choosing to follow these basic guidelines fall under the general category of green cemeteries, as opposed to conventional lawn cemeteries that require concrete, plastic or other vaults or liners, and allow embalmed bodies and exotic wood or metal caskets.”

For specific details on their certification criteria for burial products, services, and venues, check out the Green Burial Council’s Standards.

You can find a list of certified providers and products on the Green Burial Council’s website. You can also find providers listed at AGreenerFuneral.org.

Other innovative natural burial options are emerging, including human composting (accelerated decomposition/recomposition: to convert human remains into soil, e.g., Recompose; see the Smithsonian article link below), using mushroom mycelium to help digest and neutralize toxins in our bodies during decomposition, to prevent them from leaching toxins into the ground (e.g., the Infinity Burial Suit), and an egg-shaped biodegradable burial pod (Capsula Mundi).

 

Green burial resources:

And these are other useful resources on related issues of death, death care, and end of life:

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August 20, 2019
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This is a selected listing of some of our posts on topics that are directly related to social and political action or activism:

 

Also see the daily news posts on our Facebook page.

 

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July 15, 2019
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Climate change (AKA climate instability/breakdown) is increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather, “natural” disasters, and emergency events. Unfortunately, many disasters are made even worse by human land use and development practices. In the last few years, many disasters (especially hurricanes/typhoons, floods, wildfires, heat waves, and landslides) around the world have been catastrophic, causing unprecedented amounts of damage and numbers of deaths (and injuries and illness), and creating thousands of climate migrants and refugees. No region is immune to climate-related disruptions and disasters; while some places are at higher risk than others (and some places are even becoming uninhabitable), there’s no truly “safe” place to live. Beyond climate disasters, anyone can also experience manmade disasters (e.g., industrial accidents or explosions), power outages, and severe storms. The more prepared you and your neighbors are, the more resilient you and your family and community can be.

Here’s something that most of us should be doing right now (everyone really, but especially those of us who are in areas that are at risk of flooding, hurricanes, fires, earthquakes and/or tsunamis, severe winter weather, or extended power outages): Assemble your emergency supplies, and make evacuation/safety plans (including meeting spots, out-of-area contacts, etc.). You should have emergency supply kits (AKA “go bags”/backpacks) stashed in your home (preferably near an outside door) or in a shed, garage, or another out-building, as well as in at least one of your family’s cars, and ideally also at your place of work. Businesses and schools should also have emergency supplies and evacuation plans in place.

There are many good emergency checklists out there (see the Ready.gov and RedCross.org lists and the other resources that are listed at the end of this post). To get started, below is a basic list of some important things to grab (if you are able to) before exiting or evacuating your home/building in an emergency, followed by a list of some of the items to assemble now and keep in your emergency kits. Print out and start reviewing your checklists ASAP and keep a copy of them in a memorable place (e.g., in or next to your emergency kit/bag or on your refrigerator, and also keep a copy on your phone) so that you can easily refer to them in an emergency, when you may not be able to think very clearly. Start assembling your emergency kits even if you can’t pull everything together at once. Having something ready is better than nothing; you can keep adding to your kits over time or add kits in other locations.

 

GRAB BEFORE YOU GO checklist

The following are some things that probably can’t or won’t be saved in your emergency kits ahead of time, but that you should try to grab before leaving your house (or wherever you may be when an emergency strikes) if time allows:

  • Pets (and any other domesticated animals) — with their collars on (w/ ID tags or microchips that have current contact info, ideally more than 1 phone number); plus leashes, carriers/crates, meds; water, food, bowls, towels; cat litter/box (if applicable)
  • Wallet and Keys; purse / bag (w/ checkbook)
  • Cell phone (and charger cord)
  • Eyeglasses
  • Important meds
  • Sturdy shoes; warm jacket
  • Laptop and charger  (and/or computer back-up drive)
  • Portable safe / small valuables [plus the safe’s key, if applicable]
  • Some photos / photo album(s)

+  Your emergency kits/bags  [see below]

 

Evacuation Tips:

  • If evacuating due to a coming wildfire or flood or hurricane/storm, leave early (ASAP) and try to take all or most of your vehicles with you (if roadways aren’t congested yet and you have enough time and drivers) to get them out of the danger zone, so they won’t get burned or flooded and destroyed. Make sure your evacuation vehicle’s gas tank is full or close to full.
  • If there’s a fire, hurricane, or tornado in the vicinity and/or you need to evacuate your home for any reason, turn off the gas line if you have time. After an earthquake, turn off the gas and water lines to your house until all aftershocks are over and the utility companies have been able to check the lines for breaks or leaks. Note: Keep the right-sized/adjustable wrench near-by the gas shut-off. Try it out before you need to use it.
  • Also see CalFire’s Pre-Evacuation Preparation Steps, as well as these additional wildfire evacuation tips.

During or immediately after an emergency event or on days with extreme high or low temperatures or power outages, check on your neighbors, family, and friends, especially those who are elderly, disabled, ill, homeless, or living alone, and those who have infants or special needs.

—————————————————————–

EMERGENCY KIT / “GO BAG” checklist

(This is a partial list of items to be assembled in advance, before an emergency happens.)

It’s best to put your emergency supplies in backpacks or other durable, water-resistant, and easy-to-carry bags. You can purchase pre-assembled emergency supply kits/bags, but make sure to supplement those with other important items that haven’t been included:

  • Grab Before You Go list (see above), printed out as a quick reference
  • Contacts List (including emergency services numbers, doctors’ names/numbers, and your out-of-area contact, etc.: print this out ahead of time and save copies in key locations and online)
  • Important papers/documents (e.g., copies of IDs, birth certificates, passports, insurance papers, deeds, legal docs, Will, bank and credit card account info., copies of prescriptions)
    [Tip: Take photos of your IDs, debit/credit cards, and other important documents and save those and key contacts on your phone and remotely in “the cloud” so you can retrieve them from your account even if you lose your phone or computer.  For more suggestions on protecting documents and valuables, see this AARP article.]
  • Cash (including some small bills); an extra credit card

[Tip: Consider getting a waterproof and fire-rated safe for your home, or rent a safe deposit box elsewhere, to hold some of your valuables, important papers, jewelry, heirlooms, extra cash, and some family photos, etc. If it’s the type of house safe that’s bolted down, you may have to leave it behind in an emergency but you may be able to recover its contents later. If it’s portable (i.e., light enough to carry and not bolted down), you may be able to take it with you during an emergency/evacuation, but that type is more susceptible to being stolen (if your home is burglarized). If the safe has a key, be sure to keep a key in your emergency kit or on your keychain or somewhere you’re likely to find it in an emergency. If it has a combination lock, make sure you can remember the combination or write it down somewhere secure/in “the cloud.”]

  • WATER to last several days; and water purifier bottle(s) or tablets
  • Toilet paper
  • Spare meds (including any prescription meds)
  • First Aid Kit  (you can buy one off-the-shelf or make your own)

  • Pet/animal kit (if applicable)
    [extra collars and leashes, meds; carriers/crates; water, food, bowls, towels; extra cat litter and portable litter box; spare ID tag with current contact info, ideally more than 1 phone number; if microchipped, make sure your contact info is current in the database]
  • Special items for any infants, elderly, or disabled members of the household (e.g., baby food, formula/bottle, diapers, wipes, critical meds, assistive devices, etc.)

AND:

  • Food / snacks  (non-perishable) [check expiration dates and refresh items every year]
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste (and other essential toiletries)
  • Spare/old set of eyeglasses
  • Spare set of clothes (esp. underwear, socks) and shoes
  • Hats, scarves, gloves
  • Flashlights; lantern; headlamp; candles
  • Lighter / matches
  • Soap and detergent
  • Bags (garbage/grocery, etc.)
  • Towels; rags, paper towels
  • Small radio
  • Batteries
  • Back-up/storage/solar charger
  • Work gloves
  • Utensils; can opener; camp kitchenware set
  • Tools: Wrench and pliers, knife, multi-function tool, etc.
  • Blanket / thermal emergency blankets
  • Tent, sleeping bags / camping supplies (grill or camp stove?)
  • Duct tape
  • N95-rated smoke/dust masks;  safety goggles
  • Fire extinguisher  [Also, watch an online tutorial on how to use one, or ask your fire dep’t. to show you]
  • Whistle
  • Tarp(s)
  • Bucket
  • Gas can
  • Flares
  • Reflective vest or other visibility gear
  • Safety helmet
  • Hydrogen peroxide (for disinfection)
  • Propane canister
  • Crowbar
  • Solar-powered or hand-cranked gadgets (e.g., radio, flashlight, charger)
  • [And ideally, a solar generator, or a solar PV system with battery storage]

Also, make sure you have hoses, buckets, a shovel, and at least one fire extinguisher on your property, for putting out spot fires. And regularly make sure all of your smoke detectors are working and have new batteries in them.  (Earthquakes, downed power lines, broken gas lines, fireplaces, oven/stove use, batteries, and various other things can cause fires in or around your house, so these tips apply even if you are not in wildfire country.)

You can find other “Go Bag/Kit” lists at Ready.gov’s Build a Kit page and Red Cross’ Survival Kit Supplies page.

Note: I’ll be creating PDF versions of my checklists above, so they can be downloaded and easily saved and printed. Check back for the PDFs. I will also periodically add to and make improvements to this post and these lists.

————————————————————

For additional and more comprehensive information and other tips on emergency preparedness and disaster response/relief, please go to:

Ready.gov

Red Cross: How to Prepare for Emergencies

Also download the Red Cross’ various mobile apps to your phone (for Emergency, Earthquake, Flood, Hurricane, Tornado, First Aid, Pet First Aid, etc.), and follow your region’s Red Cross branch on social media.

Nixle local alerts (by text/phone)

To sign up for Nixle alerts, text your zip code to 888777.

Also check with your County or City (e.g., emergency management office) and your local electric/gas utility to see if they have local emergency alert/notification systems that you can sign up for. And consider signing up on NextDoor.com to receive neighborhood/community notices (including public safety notifications from your local Sheriff’s department).

Resilient Design strategies

Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies
      Disaster Hotline for the Disabled: 800-626-4959

ASPCA Disaster Preparedness information re. pets/animals

HALTER Project (Horse, Livestock, and other animal emergency response & prep.)

Ready for Wildfire
Fire Safe Council
Fire Adapted Communities Network

CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams)

Team Rubicon

Mutual Aid Disaster Relief

International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) disaster response teams

Other disaster response training programs (a listing)

FEMA  (Federal Emergency Management Agency)

Unfortunately, FEMA is becoming less and less reliable as a source of assistance, due to underfunding and a considerable increase in catastrophic disasters. It is important for towns and states to form their own emergency/disaster response initiatives, so that communities can be more prepared and self-reliant, both during the immediate aftermath of a disaster and the longer-term recovery. If your town or county doesn’t already have an emergency preparedness and/or disaster response team or group, consider organizing one for people and/or for animals, or join one of the disaster response groups listed above. (Here’s a good website that was created by one small town’s emergency response team.) Or you can get involved by: setting up or attending a local CERT training, becoming a Red Cross volunteer, becoming a Search & Rescue volunteer for your county/region, getting certified in CPR and First Aid, or training to become a volunteer firefighter (which is especially helpful if you live in a rural area).

 

Related posts:

Later this year, I hope to publish a post on Sustainable Emergency Shelters (e.g., temporary or permanent dwelling/housing units that can be built quickly and efficiently for refugees, homeless people, and people who have lost their homes in disasters).  For the time being, we have a post on Modular, Prefab, and Compact Options for Green Homes and Structures, which may provide some helpful links for people who are looking to rebuild a home or create a temporary dwelling while they make rebuilding or relocation plans.

I’ll also be creating PDF versions of the checklists in this post, so they can be downloaded and easily saved and printed. Check back soon for the PDFs.

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January 22, 2019
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To make your gifts more meaningful, mindful, beneficial, and green (and avoid contributing to: mindless material consumption,* exploitative corporations & sweatshops, excessive resource use, and waste), consider opting for the following types of gifts. (You could also let family members know that you prefer to receive these types of gifts if they are struggling to figure out what to get for you or they tend to get you things you don’t want or need.)

  1. Charitable donations to non-profits, on the recipients’ behalf
  2. Experiences (e.g., events, concerts, shows, activities, day trips, memberships, parks pass, dining out)
  3. Time, assistance, services (e.g., meals, child care, rides to appointments, housecleaning, home repairs/maintenance, etc.)
  4. Homemade, handmade, or homegrown goods (e.g., art, crafts, foods, knitted items)
  5. Trees planted in someone’s honor or in someone’s memory (via One Tree Planted, The Nature Conservancy, 8 Billion Trees, Cool Earth, the Green Belt Movement, etc.)
  6. Locally made or locally grown goods
  7. Goods bought from small, local, independent businesses
  8. Fair-trade goods (or “Made in the USA” goods)
  9. Goods from socially and environmentally responsible companies (e.g. B Corporations, benefit corporations, 1% for the Planet businesses)
  10. Green goods, e.g., Organic, non-toxic, recycled, natural, and/or energy-saving or water-saving
  11. Books (ideally from small/independent bookstores) or music
  12. Subscriptions to online media (newspapers, magazines, etc.)
  13. Eminently useful items (e.g., foods, emergency kits/supplies, socks/clothing, organic seeds, solar generators, money) or things you know the recipient wants and needs
  14. Durable items (not cheaply made or disposable)
  15. Re-gifted or lightly used items; family heirlooms; or antique/vintage goods
  16. Socially responsible investments (e.g., fossil-fuel-free stocks, green bonds, etc.)

* A study published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology shows that the stuff we consume (buy) is responsible for up to 60 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and between 50 and 80 percent of total land, material, and water use. And people in the U.S. consume much more, on average, than any other country.

Also avoid buying or using wasteful, disposable packaging or wrapping items. I often put gifts in gift bags, which can be readily re-used, or I just put a nice ribbon around some gifts (and use no wrapping). If getting gift cards, try to select electronic e-cards or paper cards rather than single-use plastic cards.

As for product gifts, a few of my favorite product companies include: Patagonia, Coyuchi, Earthkind, Bees Wrap, Indigenous (clothing), REI, Pact (clothing), Real Goods, Good Light candlesand Lifekind(Wherever you get gifts from, please try to avoid making purchases from Amazon and Walmart, which are exceptionally exploitative companies.)

Lastly, if you’re planning to get a Christmas tree for the holidays, consider some alternatives to the usual chopped-down tree, such as buying or renting a living (potted and replantable) tree (do a web search for the words “living Christmas trees” or “live xmas trees” and your county name to see if there are places near you that offer these; or just go get a live, plantable tree from a nursery). Alternatively, you could put ornaments or lights on a tree that’s already growing outside in your yard. Or get creative and make (or buy) a wreath or a table/mantle garland decoration from evergreen trimmings, and forego having an xmas tree at all (gasp!). In a climate crisis (which is what we are in now), and with millions of trees being destroyed by wildfires, drought, deforestation/development, logging, disease, and climate-driven pests every year, I think it’s entirely fair and appropriate to question and reconsider some traditions (such as our Great Annual Xmas Tree Massacre) and start up some new ones; don’t you? Regardless of what you choose to do for Christmas, you can always make a donation to a reforestation group or a local tree-planting group, have trees planted as a gift in someone’s honor, or plant a tree (or three).

Useful online resources:

 

Relevant posts from the past, for additional suggestions:

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November 21, 2018
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Before the next election, you may be looking for ways to step up to help make sure that more people will vote, are able to vote, and know their voting rights and their local voting rules, and to try to ensure that everyone’s votes will be properly counted.

If you haven’t already signed up with a group or a campaign to help Get Out the Vote (GOTV) or to help with election protection efforts (e.g., serving as a poll worker or poll monitor or hotline volunteer), below are links that will make it easy for you to get plugged in. Pick one (or two) groups or activities and sign up as soon as possible so that you can get whatever training and materials you need. And if you’re willing to go to a swing state or swing district near you, get on board right away so you have enough time to make your plans. You don’t have to be an extrovert; there are all sorts of GOTV activities to choose from.

Further down this post, we’ve also listed where you can go to find voting guides or other information about who and what will be on your ballot, so that you can do your research and be as well-informed as possible about what you’ll be voting on before you go vote.

 

Poll workers

Become a poll worker in your city or county (WorkElections.com)

Also see this compendium of state-by-state requirements:
Be a Guardian of Democracy, Be a Poll Worker!

 

Poll monitors / watchers / observers

Common Cause: Volunteer to be an Election Protection poll monitor

Election Protection’s Protect the Vote: Volunteer, non-partisan poll monitors

Election Protection / We the Action: Field Program (for lawyers, paralegals, legal professionals, and law students)

Parties and campaigns also assign partisan poll monitors to the polls.

 

Hotline volunteers

Election Protection / We the Action: Call Center (for lawyers, paralegals, legal professionals, and law students)

 

Get Out the Vote (GOTV) groups

(reaching out to registered voters via texts, calls, door-to-door canvassing, postcards, or events, etc., to increase voter turn-out)

Note: Some states allow same-day voter registration on Election Day. As of 2018, they include: California, Colorado, Connecticut, DC, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. (And North Dakota doesn’t require registration.) A few states (including CA and MT) also allow in-person, late registration in the days/weeks leading up to Election Day. Other states may be adding same-day/Election-Day voter registration soon. Contact your county’s elections office for details on voter registration deadlines and Early Voting options.

For a list of additional GOTV and voting advocacy groups (and more tips), see our earlier post.

 

Voting Guides, Voter Education: What and Who Is On Your Ballot?

These sites can help you learn about the candidates and the issues that you’ll be voting on:

To be really well informed, also be sure to read the information provided in your state’s and county’s official voting/ballot guides (they should be mailed to you, or be available on your state and county elections websites). I’d also recommend reading multiple editorials and endorsements from trusted newspapers in your state and from trusted organizations (e.g., your local Sierra Club chapter, your state’s League of Conservation Voters, your state’s or city’s League of Women Voters, NRDC Action Fund, Let America Vote, Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood, or VoteVets.org). Be wary of claims made in TV and radio ads and mailers. Many ads (though not all) are funded by special interests, rather than groups that represent the public interest (the common good). Also, mailers could fraudulently claim to be from your local party or other entity, or could contain other false information (about voting dates, poll locations or hours, your registration status, voter ID requirements, etc.). Beware, and do not allow yourself to be intimidated or suppressed from going to to vote. If in doubt about your local voting rules or poll location, check with your county’s elections board/office or your Secretary of State’s elections office.

 

Election Security and Voting Rights

At the very least: Make sure you bring the correct ID or proof of residency/address (if your state requires that; see VoteRiders or contact your state’s elections office to find out exactly what’s required). Vote early if your area offers Early Voting options (then you’ll have more time to help others get out to vote on Election Day). If you are in one of the states or counties that uses electronic touchscreen voting machines, ask if you can use a hand-marked paper ballot instead. And you should make sure you get your ballot receipt after voting, and keep it until the election has been certified and you’ve verified with your county or state that your vote was counted.

If you experience or witness any voting problems or irregularities, report them immediately to the Election Protection hotline: 1-866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) [or 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA for Spanish); or text “Our Vote” to 97779. (Put those numbers in your phone now.) Also report problems to your County elections office and your Secretary of State; and if the problems are not resolved, you could also report them to your state’s party, the DNC, local campaign headquarters, and/or to local media or on social media.  If a poll worker tells you that your voter registration isn’t active or is incorrect in some way, please contact the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline before you accept a provisional ballot or before you give up and leave.

Some states that have done massive/overzealous “purges” of voters from their voting rolls in recent years (per the Brennan Center) and/or who have a recent history of using voter suppression tactics, include: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. So these are states that need extra GOTV and election protection (e.g., poll watching, and well-informed poll workers) assistance and vigilance. [Note: Of those 18 states, the only ones that currently allow same-day/Election-Day registration are: Colorado, Illinois, Maine, and Wisconsin. So if voters in those states have been wrongfully purged, they can re-register on Election Day and vote.]

Check out (and distribute) the tips sheet below for some additional recommendations, and you can find more information on election protection/security and voting rights here:

Tips (many not obvious) to Protect Your Voter Registration and Vote Against Hacking and Glitches,”  by Jenny Cohn, attorney and election integrity advocate

Also see our new post:

State-by-State Voting Information for the 2020 Election

and our earlier post:
Voting and Election Tips and Resources, 2018

Please read and share/post this tips sheet. Thank you!!

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October 26, 2018
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Please check out some of the sites and organizations listed below. Follow, share, and support a few of them (and share this post with others). Check/verify your voter registration status before each election (and re-register if it needs to be corrected or updated), and encourage others to do so, too. And find a way to get involved (e.g., by registering new voters, volunteering for a campaign or a voting advocacy organization, or working at or monitoring the polls on election day; see the second half of the post, after the links listing, for more detailed suggestions). But even if you do nothing else, please VOTE. 

I’m not too proud to beg and plead. It’s not an overstatement to say that our future and the collective future of humanity, our democracy, and our planet will be substantially determined by the outcome of the upcoming election. (Far too few voters showed up to vote during the last mid-term election and the last presidential election, with some disastrous results.)

vote411%20election%20needs%20-_0Vote in your state’s primary, as well as in November’s General Election. There are always important state and local issues on every ballot. Voting in the primary is also a great opportunity to do a “dry run” before the General election in November. It will give you a chance to verify that you are still properly registered, figure out where your polling place is, and make sure you have the required ID (if any), etc.

Voting / Election Information
(check your current voter registration status, register or re-register to vote; get ballot/election information, ID requirements, poll location, etc.)

You can contact your County’s elections office or your State’s Secretary of State office re. your registration or for voting rules and requirements. Or see:

Fact-checking resources (for info. on candidates’ claims and statements):

Also see our new post (2020): State-by-State Voting Information for state-specific links.

 

Voting-Related Advocacy Groups

* The asterisked groups make endorsements of specific candidates.

Environmental:

General:

 

Consider volunteering for or donating to your favorite candidates (for state, local, or federal offices) or to some of the election/voting groups listed above, or to political/campaign groups* such as:

 

“Voting isn’t a valentine. It’s a chess move.” – Rebecca Solnit

[As I interpret this quote, it basically means that your vote should be strategic and rational. You don’t have to love or be thrilled about the preferred, viable candidate or think s/he’s perfect or will agree with you on every single thing; almost no person will. And even if you feel that you’re choosing the “lesser of two evils” in a given race, that is always the more responsible thing to do than to allow the worst of two evils to win… Better is good. Better is always better than worse.]

It’s important to recognize that voter suppression laws (including many restrictive ID laws and fewer voter protections, enabled by the Supreme Court’s evisceration of the Voting Rights Act), voter intimidation efforts, voter roll purges in some states, voter database hacking (Russia is known to have “scanned” all states’ voter rolls in 2016, and database breaches were detected in many states!), and other such forces will continue to have a negative impact on our elections, so we need to do everything possible to counteract and outweigh all of these attempts to curtail people’s right to vote.  I feel an extra responsibility to vote, since so many people who should be able to vote will not be able to (some only because they’re seniors or students who haven’t been able to go get the required form of ID in time, or formerly incarcerated people who have done their time but are still disenfranchised).

 

Here are very specific ways you can help—10 steps you can take between now and election day—to try to ensure a high turnout and the best possible election outcomes:

1. Verify that you are still registered to vote (at your correct, current address): Go to 866OurVote.org or Vote411.org or RockTheVote.com and click on your state and follow the links, or contact your county’s elections office (or Secretary of State’s office) directly. Tens of thousands of voters may have been (wrongly) purged from the voter rolls in several states. (States that have done extremely aggressive purges include: Georgia, Texas, Colorado, Indiana, Illinois, Nevada, Nebraska, Kansas, Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Arizona, Alabama, Arkansas, Maine, and New York.) Make sure you aren’t one of the voters whose name has been purged, ideally at least a month before you arrive at the polls on Election Day, before your state’s voter registration deadline has passed. Also send / post these links for your friends, and ask them to check and re-check their registration status before the election (especially if they didn’t vote in the last one). If you’ve moved since you last registered or you are not yet registered to vote, register or re-register right away, before your state’s deadline (only some states currently allow election-day registration or are instituting automatic voter registration).  You can pick up a voter registration form at a Post Office (or a library or other government building) located in your county; or go to RockTheVote.com or 866OurVote.org, or better yet, go directly to your county’s elections office to register in person.

The upcoming general election is on Tuesday, November 6 (2018).  If there’s any chance that you won’t be able to get to your polling place before it closes on election day, fill out the absentee/mail-in ballot request form to receive a mail-in ballot before the specified deadline. When you receive your ballot, be sure to follow the instructions and fill it out carefully; sign it where specified and drop it off at a designated location (best option) or mail it in plenty of time (ideally well before Election Day) and be sure to put enough postage on your mail-in ballot when you send it in; in some cases, more than one regular stamp is required.

2. Sign up to help with voter registration drives, if the voter registration deadline hasn’t already passed in your state (see the link above or look it up at your Secretary of State elections website), or help with a campaign’s Get Out the Vote efforts. You can help register voters or GOTV through your local Democratic Party office and local candidates’ offices, among other groups (see the links listing above). If you’re able to go to a “battleground” county or state near yours, that’s great. NextGen Rising has a great web tool that makes it easy to text progressive millennials. Also, encourage students and young voters that you know (who will be 18+ by election day) to register to vote and to show up to vote. (Assist them in filling out their registration form completely; send them links to voting/ballot information, and make sure they see the state and county voting guides that explain what’s on their ballot.)

You can also help people figure out how to get the ID that they (might) need in order to vote in your state (see item #9 below), or drive them to the DMV to apply for their ID. In addition, though it may be too late at this point (to qualify for this election), encourage and help anyone you know who has been wanting/trying to become a citizen to complete the naturalization process; you could even offer to help contribute to their steep citizenship exam fee.

3. Sign up to be a poll worker at a polling place, through your County’s elections office (find information at WorkElections.com), or volunteer as an election observer or poll watcher/monitor, through groups like Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, your local or state Democratic Party, or various civil rights groups. Here is a helpful summary of what you need to do to be a poll worker or a poll watcher in each state. Alternatively, you could volunteer to help staff the Election Protection hotline to answer voting-related questions and to record and respond to reports of voting problems. (Lawyers and law students are especially wanted, but anyone can help.)

4. Find out whether your state and county’s voting systems are reliable and publicly verifiable (i.e., have a paper trail that can be audited for accountability); most state and counties do use auditable systems with a paper trial, but some still don’t. For example, Georgia’s touchscreen voting systems do not currently employ best practices. Go to VerifiedVoting.org, which works for election integrity/preparedness, to learn more. While voter fraud (e.g., voter impersonation) is extremely rare and is not easy to get away with (so it not a cause for real concern), incidents of vote hacking (and voter registration hacking) could potentially occur in some states, counties, or precincts. See this detailed list of Tips to Protect Your Vote and Voter Registration from Glitches and Hacking. Also see the tips sheet at the bottom of this post for a partial list, which can be easily printed for or distributed to others.

Contact your Secretary of State’s office and your County’s elections office to request that they take all precautions to prevent ballot hacking and tampering, and to provide secure and verifiable voting systems with an auditable paper trail.  Specifically, if you are in one of the states or counties that uses electronic voting machines, ask if you can use a paper ballot instead. And every voter should make sure they get their ballot receipt after voting, and keep it until the election has been certified and they’ve verified their vote was counted.

5. Research all of the issues, propositions, and national, state, and local candidates that will be on your ballot, so that you are as informed as possible. Don’t base your decisions on campaigns’ (often deceptive) TV and radio ads or the (often special-interest-funded) propaganda flyers you receive in the mail. Read the information that’s provided in your state and county’s official voter guides (which you should receive in the mail), as well as newspaper editorials and articles written by trustworthy, non-dogmatic analysts or journalists, and information provided by trusted organizations such as your state’s League of Conservation Voters, League of Women Voters, etc. Given the prevalence of lying and mis-information (especially online and on social media), it’s important to check the veracity of any wild claims or personal attacks/smears: search the fact-checks on Politifact, FactCheck.org, and Snopes. To get additional information on what is on your ballot, and where candidates stand on specific issues, check out Vote411.org, as well as Vote.org, VoteSmart.org, and Ballotpedia.org. In California, Illinois, and New York, Voter’s Edge provides a helpful, non-partisan voting guide to help you make sense of what’s on your ballot.

Educate yourself as much as possible. But if you still do not really know about or understand what a particular ballot proposition is about when it comes time to vote, it’s best not to vote on that issue.

6. Donate to or volunteer for candidates and issue campaigns that you support, at local, state, and national levels, and/or to your local (county or state) Democratic Party, the DSCC, DCCC, DLCC, and Democratic Governors Association.  Also consider donating to or volunteering for an election integrity or voting-related group, such as Election Protection, ACLU, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, MoveOn, 350Action, or others (see the links in the first half of this post).

7. Make your voting preferences known to your friends and family, via conversations or posts on social media, without resorting to inflammatory insults (no one will listen to you if you’re suggesting that they’re an idiot or worse). You probably have more influence than you think, especially among your peers and others who respect you. I know it takes some courage; when you stick your neck out on political matters, a few people might want to chop it off and might lash out in a rude or offensive manner. But if you set a civil and positive tone (and only post truthful, substantiated information) and mostly focus on reaching out to people who you know personally, you’ll get fewer reactionary or vitriolic responses. Avoid telling people who they “must” or “have to” vote for (no one likes to be be told what to do). Simply state what you will do and why, and why you think it’s important. Post links to helpful and trustworthy election information, such as links for finding polling location, hours, etc. (e.g., 866OurVote.org, or your Secretary of State or County elections website).  Consider sharing this blog post (and our other election posts) with your friends. And on or before voting day, remind your friends to vote

8. Volunteer to drive people to the polls (including seniors, young people, and others who might n0t have cars), through direct offers or via your local Democratic Party, local campaign offices, or other groups.

9. Make sure you know what the current ID requirements are for voting in your state, and bring the necessary identification document(s) with you. Many states have instituted more restrictive (discriminatory) ID requirements since the last election or since 2010: including AK, AL, AZ, FL, IA, IL, IN, KS, MO, MS, NC, ND, NE, NH, OH, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, WI, and WV. Go to 866OurVote.org or VoteRiders.org, call 866-OUR-VOTE, or contact your State or County’s elections offices to find out about your state’s current voter ID requirements. SpreadTheVote.org can help people get the ID they need; let others know, if they might not have a current photo ID.

 

10. And of course, on Election Day (or ideally on an Early Voting day, if those are available where you are, or by mail-in ballot): PLEASE VOTE. Also remind your friends to vote, and bring at least one friend or family member with you.

electionprotectIf you experience or witness any voting problems or irregularities, report them to the Election Protection hotline (1-866-OUR-VOTE, or 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA) and to your County elections office and your Secretary of State; you could also report the problems to the DNC, your state’s party, campaign headquarters, and/or to local media.  If a poll worker tells you that your voter registration isn’t active or is incorrect in some way, please contact the 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) hotline before you give up and leave. Some states are wrongly purging some voters from the voter rolls, or your registration could have been hacked. (Notify Verified Voting if you have reason to believe your registration was hacked/altered.)

Also, make sure you get and keep your ballot receipt, and keep it for at least a couple weeks after the election, until the election is settled and certified. Once all ballots have been counted, you should be able to confirm that your ballot was counted, by calling your County elections office or, in some places, you can check this online.

Again, if you’ve opted to get a mail-in/absentee ballot, be sure to follow the instructions and fill it out very carefully; sign it where specified and drop it off at a designated location (best option) or mail it in plenty of time (ideally well before Election Day) and be sure to put enough postage on your mail-in ballot when you send it in; in some cases, more than one regular stamp is required. Keep your ballot receipt.

 

Vote not just for your own sake, but for the sake of your family, future generations, vulnerable populations, humanity, other species, and the environment, atmosphere, and climate that we all share and depend on for life. Vote as if everyone’s future depends on it; it does.

 

Related posts:

 

 

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June 29, 2018
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photo by Erica Gies

photo by Erica Gies

Trees are life enablers and life protectors. They are air cleaners and oxygen makers, making it possible for us to breathe (i.e., live). They mitigate climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide; one tree can sequester up to 50 pounds of CO2 per year, and an acre of forest can absorb twice the CO2 produced by the average car’s annual mileage. Trees also filter some pollutants out of the water and soil, and they can prevent soil erosion and control flooding by absorbing stormwater and buffering storm surges. They provide habitat to many species. They provide shade (natural cooling, which reduces energy use for AC cooling). Some trees provide food (fruit and nuts) for us to eat. Being near trees boosts our mental health and clarity. Their presence increases property values for homes and neighborhoods, and they contribute much-needed beauty to our world. So many benefits. Trees are life; trees enable life; trees save lives.

Despite all of the ways that trees contribute to (and are necessary for) our health and wellbeing, a recent study found that during the past 12,000 years of human civilization, humans have wiped out almost half of the trees on earth. Around 15 billion trees are cut down each year (to make wood products, pulp, and paper; to clear land for development, as well as cattle grazing, palm oil plantations, other agricultural uses; and to use as a heating fuel). (Click here for other Forest Facts.) We are destroying our own life support system. We are also losing millions of trees to drought and disease in some areas, and also to the growing number of severe storms (wind/ice) and wildfires, which are worsened by climate change and simultaneously contributing to climate change through additional carbon emissions, in a vicious cycle (AKA a feedback loop).23208221_10155936458843007_9218184974786625536_n

We need to prevent deforestation, and also to reforest and regreen our world. We can start with our own yards, gardens, fields, open spaces, or towns. Plant a tree, or two or three! Try to select trees that are native or climate-adapted to your region; fast-growing and fire-resistant trees are great, too (yes, there are trees that are less flammable and even fire-resistant, such as redwoods). You can also choose fruit or nut trees, flowering trees, and other trees that help feed pollinators.

You can also have a tree (or multiple trees in a forest) planted in someone’s name (e.g., “adopt” or “sponsor” a tree in their honor) as a gift for any occasion—through groups like One Tree Planted, The Nature Conservancy, 8 Billion Trees, Cool Earth, the Green Belt Movement, Arbor Day Foundation, Trees for a Change, etc.

[NOTE: If you celebrate Christmas and you traditionally mark the occasion with a cut-down (i.e., killed) xmas tree, how about starting a new tradition: you could buy or rent a living (potted and replantable) tree instead (do a web search for the words “living Christmas trees” or “live xmas trees” and your county name to see if there are places near you that offer these; or just go get a live, plantable tree from a nursery). Alternatively, you could put ornaments or lights on a tree that’s already growing in your yard. Or get creative and make (or buy) a wreath or a table/mantle garland decoration from evergreen trimmings, and forego having an xmas tree at all (gasp!). In a climate crisis (which is what we are in now), and with millions of trees being destroyed by massive wildfires, drought, deforestation/development, logging and clear-cutting, disease, and climate-driven pests every year, I think it’s entirely fair and appropriate to question and reconsider some traditions (such as our Great Annual Xmas Tree Massacre) and start up some new ones. Don’t you? Regardless of what you choose to do (or not do) for Christmas, you can always make a donation to a reforestation group or a local tree-planting group (or plant a tree or three in the spring or fall). You will find a partial list of tree-related organizations below.]

imagesfscOne good way to reduce extreme deforestation (the clear-cutting of forests) is to look for FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified wood and paper products (and/or 100% recycled paper products), as well as Rainforest Alliance-certified products (see logos to the right)—and of course reduce, reuse, and recycle all forest/paper products. Also avoid processed foods and other products that contain palm oil, whenever possible, as palm oil plantations are responsible for much of the deforestation in the world, particularly in Indonesia (where orangutans’ habitat is being decimated).

Earlier this year (2017), 1.5 million volunteers planted a record 66 million trees in 12 hours in the state of Madhya Pradesh in India. Reforestation “flash mobs” have been conducted in other areas, as well. Costa Rica has served as a model of strong reforestation efforts in recent years. In some parts of the world, groups are starting to use drones to plant seeds or saplings, to reforest areas much more quickly and efficiently than can be done by hand (there have been articles on this in Fast Company and Wired magazine, among other publications). Note: Climate- and site-appropriate (native or adapted) trees should be selected when planting trees, and multiple species should be planted for biodiversity, to recreate natural forests as much as we can (monoculture/monocrop tree plantations are not the answer). Also, forests should not be planted over native, wild grasslands, which also sequester carbon.

There are many anti-deforestation efforts as well as local tree-planting and global reforestation organizations around the world, including:

Also check out these online tools:

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December 6, 2017
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