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Last week we discussed some basic ideas of how to reduce your carbon emissions. To reach the goal of slowing down the heating of our atmosphere, we also need to take a look at how much carbon we generate and find even more ways to reduce it. Our carbon dioxide emissions per person are about 3 times the world average so we can be real leaders in becoming more efficient and far less damaging to the atmosphere.
I suggest you take the time and calculate your carbon footprint – it is an informative process that will take about 20 minutes and will tell you where to focus your efforts. You will probably find that your main uses are for transportation (fuel) and for heating and cooling your home (usually with natural gas, oil, coal, or electricity – generated from a range of fuels). Each of us has a big opportunity for reducing our carbon footprint by reducing our dependency on fossil fuels and moving toward solar and wind generated electricity.
There has been a big effort over the past decade to deregulate utilities to allow you more choice in what energy supplier you use. Many states have deregulated their energy suppliers. They include New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Illinois, Texas, Virginia, Rhode Island, D.C., and Ohio. https://www.saveonenergy.com/state-information/
After deregulation, we electricity consumers lucky enough to be in one of those states have been able to change suppliers. Our local utility still delivers electricity to our home but we stopped buying our energy from them since they largely generate energy from fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) and nuclear. We decided to switch to solar and wind suppliers. This took only a few minutes to do – all online. For the past 10 years we have used various vendors at a cost comparable to our local utility. If you are in one of these states you can probably do this too. Check out Inspire, Green Mountain Energy, Clean Choice, etc. There are dozens of firms who can supply you with clean and renewable energy. This is probably one of the easiest things you can do to lower your carbon emissions and help accelerate the movement toward renewables.
This past year another option has become available to us living in Maryland – you might want to check it out where you live. There are community solar firms who you can sign up with who build local solar arrays and sell you their electricity. The one we signed up with is Neighborhood Sun, but there are others – check them out.
Both options reduce the burning of fossil fuels and are very simple to sign up for. We also found out that it is easy to switch back to the utility if desired. We have never had a disruption in service and have dramatically lowered our carbon footprint.
I was “in” the fossil fuel industry for years, so I know a little bit about it. They have been very successful in meeting our energy needs – which is great. They have accomplished this because we helped them to meet our energy needs. The Federal government helped out the fossil fuel industry by incentivizing them to a great deal. That is how corporate socialism works. But let’s all acknowledge that we and the fossil fuel companies have been getting away with dumping their/our combustion waste products into the air for free for over 100 years. This may have been understandable and beneficial when there were far fewer people on the Earth. Today this practice has caught up with us and we are now severely damaging our health, our economy, and our future.
Fortunately, there are other economical and cleaner energy options available to us today. We can stop burning these valuable resources and either use them for other purposes or keep them in the ground as a strategic resource in case we need them in the future. Hopefully, by then we will have learned how to use them with less harmful effects to our health and our future.
One way to accomplish a transition from our current, near total dependence on fossil fuels to a much greater use of clean and renewable energy alternatives is to implement a national “carbon cap” or a “carbon fee” to pay for the real and hidden costs to society of using these dirty fuels. Applying true costs to fossil fuel usage will allow the market to implement a smooth transition to alternatives. Last year we saw the majority of economists across the political spectrum endorse this strategy. After many years of debate they have concluded that “a carbon tax offers the most cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed that is necessary”. They went on to say that “by correcting a well-known market failure, a carbon tax will send a powerful price signal that harnesses the invisible hand of the marketplace to steer economic actors towards a low-carbon future”.
What are we waiting for? We just need to do it. Even Exxon/Mobil has supported this approach – of course the devil is in the details… the speed that the fee is implemented will be hotly contested. But the first thing we need to do is to get all the voices at the table to encourage the passage of one of these macro-economic tools ASAP. To get involved you can join/support the Citizens Climate Lobby, Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy, or others and keep pushing your representatives to support the passage of one of these carbon emission solutions (bills). This needs to happen now and we need to hold our representatives in DC accountable. I hope that each of you will get even more active today and then vote with climate issues foremost in your mind.
Guest Post by Author Julie Dunlap
Growing up has always been tough. But the millennial generation, my young adult children’s cohort, faced especially daunting challenges. The 9/11 terror attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the BP oil spill, and SuperStorm Sandy, along with melting ice caps and bleaching coral reefs, have been formative events in their youths and childhoods, shaping their understanding of people and planet along with their maturing characters. As an environmentalist and a parent of four, I wondered and worried how early experiences of a shifting and troubled Earth may alter young adults’ attachments to place and the natural world.
To explore these questions, I joined with Anne Arundel Community College professor Susan A. Cohen (also a mom of two millennials) to collect essays by young writers grappling with growing up in an era replete with environmental and social crises. The result is a new anthology, published this month by Trinity University Press—Coming of Age at the End of Nature: A Generation Faces Living on a Changed Planet. The collection’s title alludes to Bill McKibben’s book, The End of Nature, published in 1989 before many of our contributors were born. In the 1990s, McKibben’s best-seller introduced me and millions of other then-young parents to the looming threats of climate change and humanity’s ubiquitous alterations of our basic natural systems.
Perhaps anger was the emotion I most expected at the project’s outset, and some Coming of Age contributors do rail against their earthly inheritance, against the losses imposed as forests shrink and oceans sully. Yet others question older generations’ ideas, rejecting the view that a tourist-thronged canyon is inherently compromised, and insisting that pristine wilderness need not be the ultimate definition of natural beauty. Many find ways to celebrate remaining pockets of tenacious nature, the return of raptors to urban parks, or the rejuvenation of community through sharing food foraged in the wild. And most heartening of all, woven through essay after essay, are feelings of love, of home, and of commitment to a thriving future. Far from the entitled laggards of media myth, these young people are seizing and creating opportunities to protest, study, plant, explore, build, teach, and of course write about the challenges they face and the solutions they foresee. McKibben, in his generous foreword to Coming of Age at the End of Nature, praises the essays as “mature, reflective, deep, and lovely,” but also and most of all “hopeful.”
Of course, I still wonder and worry about what lies ahead for my children and yours, as places and processes we knew to be timeless transform at an accelerating pace. But thanks to the youthful voices in this collection, I know the rising millennial generation has roots in their Earth, deep and wide, and the resilience to face whatever comes next.
Julie Dunlap is a writer, editor, and educator living in Columbia, Maryland. For more information about Coming of Age at the End of Nature: A Generation Faces Living on a Changed Planet, please visit: http://tupress.org/books/coming-of-age-at-the-end-of-nature .
So much of what we give and get are temporal items that have little, lasting meaning to the recipient. What if you could give something that would inspire someone and have a lasting impact on their lives? Inspiring a love of nature and learning to live in balance with nature are probably the greatest gifts you can give. Just think about how many of us find solace and inspiration by (more…)
I love walking through the woods, along streams, and around lakes because there is so much to see and discover. There are eagles, osprey, beaver, turtles, and a host of herons. There are old foundations, overgrown driveways, and ancient trees. I feel like an explorer finding new bits of (more…)
I have listed below my recommendations for summer reading. Several of these were instrumental to me in developing my perspectives on environmental issues. Others were helpful in my research for my books (see below). Yes, of course, I would like you to read and get inspired by my two books, but don’t stop there. These other ones are classics. (more…)
What if high schools and colleges helped students create a nature-rich future, helped them become outdoor entrepreneurs? By that, I don’t mean careers devoted only to energy efficiency. That’s important, but there’s a whole new category of green jobs coming and some of them are already here — nature-smart jobs.
These careers and avocations will help children and adults become happier, healthier and smarter, by truly greening where (more…)
I’m always interested in seeking new places to visit. For me, new surroundings stimulate new ideas to bring home. This year’s travels were no exception. Each contained a populated urban area with a distinctly different approach to connecting people with nature and that got me thinking…
My winter get-away led me to the southwestern region of the US where it’s a short drive to escape the populous Phoenix metro area and relax in the vast expanse of the Sonoran desert. Whether hiking or biking, one can still find solitude to quietly observe a large variety of flora and fauna in an undisturbed setting. A fantastic means to let nature stimulate a personal sense of well-being.
In spring, I ventured to Spain’s Andalusia region to breathe in the temperate Mediterranean climate. I immediately fell in love with the relaxing, social atmosphere created by neighborhood plazas where residents on foot gathered daily (and I mean, daily) to converse among immaculate gardens and fountains surrounded by trees. Cities like Seville have created a wonderful way to weave human-nature connectivity into an urban way of life. (more…)