In 1970, when the original Earth Day took place, Mrs. Vogel was my 2nd grade teacher. She said something to our class that day, as we sat cross-legged in the grass outside the classroom door, that forever shaped my sensibilities when in matters of planetary stewardship…
“You wouldn’t throw trash at your mother, so why would anyone throw trash at Mother Earth…?”
Perhaps it went over the heads of the other kids, but that sentence grasped me. Mrs. Vogel was one of the few teachers I still think about. She was a hippie, as much as she could be in that profession in 1970. She was also an artist, an activist, and I don’t think she cared too much for rules. She often conducted class barefoot. Fifty years later, as I walk around my studio each day without shoes, I can’t help but feel Mrs. Vogel’s influence. On Earth Day, I always think of her.
I saw a lot of nods to Earth Day on social media last week — many of the usual suggestions…
– Eat less meat
– Recycle more
– Use less water
– Conserve household energy
– Drive less, and do so in more efficient vehicles
– Travel less
– Use less paper
– Eliminate single-use plastics
– Vote for politicians who champion fighting the climate crisis
These are important ideas, and if we all practiced them, it might benefit our ecology over time. I have my own thoughts though, on some other ideas that might have a more immediate impact on climate change. The bad news is, aside from me not being an ecologist or climatologist, is that few people I speak with seem willing to entertain these.
No reasonable conversation about climate change should exclude the use of nuclear energy, if only as a 100-year (or so) bridge until the use of sustainable renewable energy is mastered and maximized.
Accept that we can live without most printed materials. This would include books, newspapers, work and legal documents, magazines, pamphlets, brochures, and correspondence, etc. Virtually everything printed today begins in digital format. Since the digital infrastructure is already in place to transmit any would-be printed material electronically, the printing of most materials, regardless of justification, isn’t necessary. Yes, even our precious books.
The amount of energy required to produce and transport our printed materials is greater than most people realize. It’s been suggested by some climate scientists that replacing all printed materials with digital copies could, by itself, create a measurable slowing of CO2 levels within a couple of decades.
Eat less. If we ate only the calories we need each day to break even with our energy expenditure, it might be the most significant personal adjustment we could make to offset climate change — even ahead of driving less, using less household energy, and recycling. Virtually every calorie we eat that we don’t require increases the strain on the global food system and subsequently the environment.
Eating only what we need, and not throwing away food unnecessarily, would bolster food supply, take stress off the transportation system, and ease the agricultural system. Notwithstanding that it might make us all healthier and function better as individuals, families, and societies.
I get it — it’s difficult to consider any of these, let alone put them into practice. Most everyone reading this believe that hardbound books and newspapers are staples of an informed and intelligent culture. And most believe that there’s nothing wrong with an extra helping of mashed potatoes with dinner or to snack as we see fit. Yet these ideas, put into play on the sooner side, might help thwart climate change as well as many of the measures that are so often talked about.
But none of this really matters. Because the most important thing we can do to combat climate change is something we are increasingly unwilling to do — to prioritize bridging the gaps between political and cultural divisions. No significant steps in addressing climate change can be initiated from a divided populous and the dysfunctional Congress elected by that populous. At the most basic level, we need to grow up, quit pointing fingers, and get to work.
I know it’s unlikely that more than a few hundred people will read this, and less likely that it will impact anyone who does. That said, I think these ideas are worth considering because they would have the most immediate and unprecedented impact on our changing ecology. Food for thought — so to say. And a nod to Mrs. Vogel.
This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb
This week by the numbers…
Bikes Ridden: 3
Mph Avg: 14.1
Seat Time: 12 hours 12 minutes
Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along this week. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like 👍🏻 and a share. Oh, and there’s this from Peter Rowan. Enjoy…