Simple Steps to Address Climate Change Now
Waking up to pictures of red skies is the latest troubling news during a week of California wildfires spreading across the west. It’s a time loop from the last four years in August- adding now a worsening Hurricane season, rapidly changing temperatures and political unrest, layered ontop a pandemic, and yes apparently there’s a Mars Retrograde in Aries. Is this the dystopia before the world as we know it ends? It doesn’t just feel like it, it looks like it.
Franklin D Roosevelt, a notable conservationist, stated in his inauguration speech during the Great Depression:
“Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advances.”
It’s reasonable to be fearful and anxious about a plethora of issues our world is facing, especially our environmental climate, however, unhealthy levels of fear lead to paralysis and the feeling ‘what could I even do now to make a difference?’ Instead, we need to use our fear proactively to motivate ourselves and the public.
Where do we start? First, let's vote in an administration that makes the environment a priority, and to do that effectively we need to be educating ourselves on current policies.
Recent Positive Steps: A few weeks ago Congress passed, with bipartisan support, the biggest land conservation legislation in over 50 years. Trump signed The Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), which will provide 9.5 billion in over five years to national parks. Even with visitation increasing steadily (327 million visits in 2019, 9 million more than 2018 which is the third-highest total since record-keeping in 1904) the funding for parks remained flat. This law looks to solve a 12 billion backlog of maintenance in fire safety, roads, trails, utilities, and visitor infrastructure. People are increasingly relying on our parks to stay healthy, sane, and draw a connection to our natural world- this is a start.
GAOA will also provide guaranteed funding to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) which funds federal land programs and provides grants to local/state governments to acquire land for conservation.
Things to consider: The Trump administration in its 3.5 years has made a concerted effort in dismantling environmental regulation that was set in place to reduce carbon emissions- including lowering standards on toxic air pollution, rolling back policies and restrictions on tailpipe emissions, toxic waste from coal plants, methane production, and undermining land protection, in some parks up to 85%. However, two adamant cheerleaders of GOAO — Republican Senators Cory Gardner of Colorado and Steve Daines of Montana — pushed the national park’s substantial contribution to the economy of the western states, and they both are fighting critical seats in the Senate for the Republicans to hold majority this fall- reasons which were said to influence Trump’s change of heart in funding the LWCF.
There is also concern with inequality in the recent administration's environmental moves to support the parks while still leaving predominantly poor and communities of color in polluted environments.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have put forth a fight individually for climate change. Biden pitching a 2 trillion dollar plan, and Harris advocating for bills that address environmental racism with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to hold certain environment-related injustices accountable.
Outside of educating ourselves on policies in place and voting- what are other simple actions we can take right now?
Reduce Waste/Limit Consumption: The most effective way to reduce waste is to not create it. Reducing & reusing-
- prevents pollution & saves energy by reducing the need to harvest new materials
- reduces greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) that contribute to climate change
- reduces waste in landfills & allows products to be used to their fullest extent
- saves money & the environment for future generations
We don’t need to become immediate vegans and minimalists, but starting small individually makes a massive difference collectively. Double-check Amazon orders (is everything necessary?) and buy from their frustration-free program, buy used, and have a meatless day once or twice a week. Recycling plastic is an expensive and laborious process- we all need to buy less of it. Check your state's recycling program to see what's accepted.
Get curious: The empathetic are curious. Curiosity builds understanding and awareness. The more we learn about the natural world the more wonder and awe it brings to us, and the more we care about our actions. When visiting a local park or hike, learn about the trees, plants, and animals that frequent it.
Try reading- The Hidden Life of Trees, Let My People Go Surfing, Walden, The Overstory. Although documentaries are eye-opening and important if you’re sick of the doom and gloom and want something more soothing watch this guy build stuff in the wild or watch Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, or Home on Apple Plus (episode 3- who knew bamboo was our saving grace!?).
Don’t leave a trail: If you’re fortunate enough to visit a national park be mindful of what you bring along so you can take it with you (this goes for your local beaches, parks, hikes). Pick up trash left by others if you see it.
Our collective mentality towards earth and funding its preservation needs to match what it provides to us. The natural world keeps us grounded, and spending time in its wonders should be a luxury that every person is entitled to. Daily small actions can keep us connected to a larger cause and to our own dedication in saving the planet.