3 Ways You Can Help Combat the Climate Crisis

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By Daphne Stanford

I don’t know if you noticed, but last year was the hottest year on record.  Yes, you read that right: the hottest year in recorded history!  In my opinion, that fact alone should be enough to indicate a climate crisis of epic proportions.  

Although the situation can sometimes feel daunting and beyond repair, there are a few simple, concrete actions we can take to minimize the impact we have, as business people as well as individuals, on the environment.  In the past, I’ve written about how businesses can tap into a few current trends in sustainability.  Now I’d like to address how we, as individuals, can support and effect change in our homes, as well as our communities.

1. Contact your representatives about smart grid implementation

One of the most frustrating aspects of green technology is the fact that there is plenty of technology out there, but corporate interests are working hard to make sure we don’t have easy access to said technology.  Why?  Because they stand to lose business.  Of course, they could stand to make a large potential profit if they shifted their energy toward supporting renewable technology like solar and geothermal power, but change can be slow-going when it comes to tradition.

That’s where consumers, homeowners and citizens come into play. We have the smart-grid technology and capability to implement smart-grid technology on a massive scale, but we also need the political will to push legislation along.  At the end of the day, power companies are out to make a profit, so consumer demand must be loud enough to justify the implementation of new technology in order to prevent loss of profits.  The current and future state of smart-grid technology is such that it is projected to cost significantly less money to power a house using solar and geothermal technology than it does to power the same house with coal or natural gas.

However, are you familiar with the saying, where there’s a will, there’s a way?  If so, you may realize that unless we have the political and societal will to change our current sources of power from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy, it’s going to happen later rather than sooner.  

Consider this a community call-to-action, then: Contact your legislators; call your neighbors; and reach out to friends and family.  Share the benefits of smart-grid technology with them in a way that’s easy to understand, such as via some of the facts and talking points in this Consumer Benefits Fact Sheet, published by the SmartGrid Consumer Collaborative.  

2. Retrofit your home

Although not all of us are home owners, even renters can find ways to help minimize their carbon footprints as much as possible.  If you do own your home, consider investing in solar panels, if at all possible.  Although the initial price of purchasing solar panels has not yet dropped down to budget-friendly levels, the solar tax rebate and reduction or elimination of monthly energy bills will eventually reimburse you three-fold.  

If the cost of investing in solar panels of your own is still too daunting, consider renting solar panels to keep your power bills down.  For example, one company based on the East Coast is making solar power available to low- and middle-income households via an affordable leasing model that requires no down payment.  In areas with extreme temperature highs and lows, this option could potentially save you a considerable amount on your monthly power bill.

3. Push for and utilize alternative forms of transportation

Advocating for change in our homes and communities is all well and good, but what about the carbon emissions from something we use every day: our cars?  What if we found ways to reduce our personal share of transportation-related carbon dioxide by riding our bikes, carpooling, or taking public transportation?   Of course, public transportation only becomes an effective way to combat excess car usage if it is widely utilized.  One way to get more people to take public transportation is by encouraging your friends and family to do so, just as you might encourage your network and community members to invest in renewable energy sources like solar energy.  

One way to help ensure the increased availability of public transportation is to ask for it: call or write your local and state legislators and say you want them to invest in more and better forms of public transportation.  In fact, in urban areas, transportation fumes are responsible for 25 to 70 percent of all air pollution. The more we can lobby for and support efforts to encourage the use of alternative transportation, other than the use of single-driver vehicles, the more progress we will potentially make toward reducing transportation-related carbon emissions, and the better our air quality will become.

Education is empowering, and it’s our responsibility to continue educating ourselves as citizens about green technology.  The future will be here before we realize it, and it’s up to us to create a future that is clean, sustainable, and safe for our children and our children’s children.

Image credit: Flickr/Conal Gallagher 

Daphne Stanford writes poetry & nonfiction, and she believes in the power of art, education, and community radio to change the world.  Since 2012, she’s been the host of “The Poetry Show!” Sundays at 5 p.m. on Radio Boise.  Follow her on Twitter @daphne_stanford.

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5 responses

  1. The most effective way to deal with the climate crisis is to deal first with the population crisis. It doesn’t matter how clean we get, things will never be sustainable with an ever increasing population. We will eventually suffocate in each other’s B.O.. Cutting emissions in half and doubling the population result in a zero net gain.

  2. Hi TGCrab,

    Thanks so much for reading my article!

    I understand your concern about overpopulation. However, clean energy can and does decrease carbon emissions. Human breath/exhalation isn’t the main source of excess carbon; rather, things like exhaust from cars, trucks, airplanes, and factories are the main source of carbon emissions. Furthermore, if we eat food grown & produced from local farms and/or our backyards, transportation emissions are also greatly reduced.

    Cheers,
    D. S.

  3. Certainly clean energy helps. But the reason for carbon emissions from things like automobiles and barbecue grills and camp fires and candles is that they are used by people. If we cut carbon emissions to zero, we would then just move on to the next crisis, which might be resource related; like water or food. No matter how productive our food production is, at some point, population will increase beyond its ability to regenerate. What kind of world would be more pleasant, a world where we are elbow to elbow with each other, fighting over property, land and resources; or a world of plenty where the size of the population does not place a burden on the earth?

  4. Again, point taken re: overpopulation. However, I’m not sure what your solution is. Genocide? Mass elimination of ‘excess populations’? All we can do is educate people about how to encourage a sustainable lifestyle–as well as about birth control. However, forcing people to limit their families to one child doesn’t seem realistic–unless we want to be more like old-school China.

    Your scenario merely sounds like a doomsday predicament. I’m not sure how to respond to it…

    Our planet may actually get to the point where we’re living in biodomes. Who knows? Have you looked into the Biodome II in Arizona? Perhaps space, too? I imagine the future will hold much more artificially-produced nutrients, along with technology that allows us to grow many plants indoors, via greenhouses, biodome-type structures, etc.

  5. I am grateful to you for taking the time to give me your thoughts. I look upon this dialogue as an opportunity to benefit from your perspective in order to inform my own.

    I have not proposed any solutions. But like any other issue of gravity, it is worth gaining understanding. It is just one of many issues that the world will have to face.

    There is no reason to think that the current geometric growth of population will stop unless some limitation of resources is reached. History is full of small scale events of this sort. I do not currently see how a crisis can be avoided. But that is just my impression. Perhaps you have insights that I need the benefit of. I appreciate your thoughts.

    Just as mankind’s impact on our environment has brought us to the point where we have had to, perhaps grudgingly, begin dialogue, I believe that, at some point, population will become an issue of similar urgency. Serious responses to the issue will not come from casual conversation. Gaining understanding of the dynamics and relevant factors of the issue must come first. And, perhaps, progress may be underway already.

    One of the factors I’ve read about is the ability to have a meaningful life. A prominent sociologist once told me that fertility rates drop drastically when people have at least a basic education and the ability to provide for themselves. Also, countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh have realized that there is a relationship between high fertility rates and national wealth. See following: http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2013/06/14/invest-in-fertility-decline-to-boost-development-in-pakistan

    Things needn’t be doom and gloom. It just needs to be addressed.

    Thanks for your thoughts. I hope for your well being.

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