The grim news, dear friends, is that we have only about ten years to save the Earth’s atmosphere from becoming so damaged that there would be no possibility of its recovery.
That’s 2020 to 2029.
As I wrote in my last post, at the September 2019 Climate Strike demonstration in Albuquerque NM I woke up to understanding that urgency. I believe that information. I’m horrified. And the information is changing my life plans. It’s making me pivot away from what I thought I’d do.
Now I intend to spend my remaining years living much more deliberately. I feel I don’t have a choice. For the entire next decade, I want to be an active participant in the solutions, not in denial of the problems.
So since January 2020, I’m regarding myself as in training. I have much to learn, yet I have to start taking actions before I know it all. I hope to write about this here—as much to keep me on track as to communicate with you.
The Science, Simplified
Here’s the bottom line to the science I’ve learned recently: If we don’t reduce the amount of carbon, methane, and other gases in the atmosphere—that is, lower the particles per million to below 350 ppm—we’ll be unable to avoid catastrophic global warming. (See the 350.org website) Catastrophic.
Catastrophic means much more severe warming than the world already experiences as the Arctic ice is melting, the seas are rising, coastal cities are having to plan for major change, certain island countries are being wiped out, wild fires are sweeping across vast stretches of America and other continents, our water and air are being compromised, and our food production is being reduced.
And what causes the accumulation of carbon and gases in the atmosphere is the use of fossil fuels on which our global economies are so reliant.
It’s my car! It’s those flights I love to take to Europe now that I’m retired. It’s the way the food I love to buy and eat has been grown. It’s the way my morning coffee is transported on ships on the high seas. It’s the way the electricity I enjoy all day and night is produced.
I, too, am inadvertently culpable. My life of easy travel, of air conditioning and heat, of variety in shopping, entertainment—it’s all part of the problem. And I don’t want to give those things up. Waaaaa!
But there’s also good news. I don’t have to give up all those pleasures and services entirely to save the Earth for my great-grandchildren.
What I need to do is use the whole weight of my educated, middle-class, American citizenship toward vigorously supporting the development and use of alternate sources of energy while I take actions to help persuade our country, indeed the whole world, to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
What I need to do is quickly jump from climate-knowledge kindergarten to climate-solution graduate school. And I have to jump from happily retired private citizen to energetic, wise, climate activism.
I’ve got no other moral choice, really. I’ve got grandchildren; I’d best think ahead seven generations.
Here’s what I committed to do for the first six months of 2020:
I committed to doing ten new things each month—things that would educate me personally and demonstrate some level of involvement. This included activities like reading books, articles, watching videos, watching online programs, joining groups, making donations, lobbying politicians, writing letters, calling politicians. I’ve kept a running tally; I’ve met that goal so far, despite COVID-19.
I’m happy to say, now that it’s May and I’ve been doing this for five months, this self-guided climate-solutions education is far more interesting than I ever imagined. The books I’ve read are excellent. The organizations I joined have provide specific guidance about actions to take. The people I met face-to-face (before lockdown) were extraordinary—the bright, happy, diverse, warm, committed, welcoming kind. I may have found my tribe in this city.
So I intend to keep the Ten-Actions-a-Month going beyond June. I’ll try to you posted as I keep taking little steps. And if you’re interested, I’d to have your company on this journey.
** 350.org is a global activist organization that combats climate change. It was founded by Bill McKibben, a writer and thinker I respect (I recently read his 2019 book, Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?) So I was mightily distressed to watch “Planet of the Humans,” a 2019 documentary by Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs that viciously critiques McKibben and the climate solutions he and other organizations, like the Sierra Club, promote. My conclusion, after viewing the documentary, is that there’s incredible complexity in the scientific, technological, financial, political, cultural, and personal aspects of climate change—yet extreme urgency exists. We absolutely must do the best we can with what we know and have, and always look for even better options.