I stepped outside today in my bare feet onto a dry spot of ground. I stood next to the dog and cat who were sharing my little dirt patch and let the sun bathe me in Vitamin D. I took off my coat and was tempted to put on a t-shirt because I was getting so warm, after all it was a balmy 35 degrees. Sounds cold if you are reading this in Florida or Mexico, but for us here in Minnesota today is a 60 degree increase in temp from a week ago. It's almost a heat wave, this sounds especially strange considering that in Texas they are in a deep freeze. This isn't the first time the weather has felt a little funny, like things were backwards or upside down. And I know I'm not the only one to notice, all you have to do is turn on the news and you are inundated with phrases like "climate change", "Paris climate accords", "sustainable resources", and "green energy", amongst many more. It seems like we have been talking about environmental concerns for a while and suddenly we have jumped head first into action. The environmental crisis debates are increasingly more challenging to follow. Suddenly there is more depth to the conversation and answers are not as easy as originally thought.
When the idea of all electric cars was presented, at first glance it seemed amazing, no emissions! Yay! But what about the mining for the material to build the batteries for those cars? What about the plethora of cars that already run on gas? Do we just throw them away? Do we convert them? What will that cost be? Would it be a better idea to reduce drivers instead and have less cars on the road? Maybe reinvest in public transportation, encourage more incentive for companies to provide work from home opportunities? Create efficient cross country train travel? More commuter friendly neighborhoods? Could we advocate for busses for after school activities to reduce 55 suburbans parked by the curb after soccer practice? Maybe encouragement for households to have one car instead of five (like we have...)? So many questions and who has the answer? The left? Maybe. The right? Maybe. Most likely its someone in the middle.
What about the idea of wind and solar energy? Another fantastic dream at first glance, but look at what is happening in Texas right now. Or look at some challenges other countries utilizing wind power have faced. Sometimes there is no wind. What do you do then? Build bigger more efficient batteries to store power for those times? Great! More mining for batteries. Maybe create a hybrid blend of energy: wind/electricity/fossil fuels/solar? Another great idea but maybe a little overkill and what would it take to switch back and forth, how much manufacturing would have to go into create a system for that switch? Maybe not that practical of a solution and certainly not accessible for all nations. Maybe we could be a little less dependent on energy to being with? On a sunny day could we keep all the lights off? Could we build houses with windows that are strategically placed to allow sunlight to be the primary light source all day long? Could we tolerate a slightly lower temperature in our house during the winter and a slightly higher temp in summer? Could we go a whole day without using any electricity? Who has the answer to this challenge? The left? Maybe. The right? Maybe. Most likely its someone in the middle.
What about agriculture? How do we solve this problem? More genetically modified crops? Less genetically modified crops? Should we eat less meat? Should we garden more? Should we subsidize farmers? What about overfarming and stripping the land of its resources? Can we just put some resourced back in there? Or do we need to let the land rest? Could we continue to rotate crops or could we get creative and find a cycle of animals and crops? Could we let sheep graze in a crop field one season and then let chickens pick and poop their way through it the next? Could we create more urban green space? Could we teach individuals how to garden in their apartments? Would that require more energy? More resources? Is the payoff worth it? Maybe we could just eat less food? It probably wouldn't hurt.
So. Many. Questions.
And honestly there is probably not one right answer. The key to saving our planet is going to be multi-pronged and going to be a work in progress. The biggest question I have and the biggest question I don't think is addressed is: What can I do?? What can the individual consumer do?? How do we make a change that has impact and meaning? Maybe we can't afford to convert our house to solar energy and maybe we don't agree with the logic. We don't have to make or be part of big industrial change, perhaps we will be and perhaps we will all be forced at some point to do these things, but for now there are some very simple and easy things EVERYONE could do to make a difference.
Try a few or try all of these ideas. Figure out what works for you and just do it. Encourage your friends and family to do the same. Teach your kids to enjoy the natural light, teach them how to fix things so they have that skill, teach them efficiency. Share with friends and co-workers. Suggest a walk to the store to run errands with a coworker over lunch (if your location permits). Just do something. Too often we are plagued with the idea that our efforts don't matter. They do. Especially if we all do something. I think Im going to start with the lights out snuggle time :). I like the immediate benefits of that effort...
How about you? What will you change?
Share privately or in a comment if you want, I would love to hear from everyone.
What have we done?
What a crazy moment in time we are experiencing. In another post I wrote today, I took the time to encourage everyone to pause and reflect on this moment. And for me when I pause then I start to think. I think about a lot, in fact, I over analyze and get myself worked up with my over-thinking. Today is definitely one of those days, in fact we could say its one of those weeks even. On my mind today, amongst so many other things, is a reflection of how our efforts to keep safe during COVID could impact our planet in a negative way.
When COVID started (I just love this phrase and I probably use it more than I should..) I thought that this was a fantastic opportunity for the earth to take a moment to breath. I felt like we would finally be able to have the opportunity to reverse some of the damage we have so rapidly been inflicting. I struggled in other areas around COVID of course, but I often took comfort in the idea of the earth renewing itself. Then as we started to slowly awaken, re-open and move around again, I saw the reverse take place. Our collective fear of this virus pushed aside any thought towards sustainability or conservation. Everyone shifted into survival mode. The phrase we would often hear was "we just have to get through right now.." This meant that suddenly plastic, whom we all had started to recognize as not so good, was welcomed back. We started covering everything in it. The reusable bags at stores- no longer allowed, back to- "paper or plastic?". Regular plates and utensils at a restaurant were replaced with plastic and styrofoam. Anywhere you looked items were starting to be individually wrapped in plastic. It is an understatement to say that plastic definitely worked its way back into our lives. Don't even get me started on not being able to use reusable cups and mugs.....Reusable was the enemy and disposable became our friend.
Another change.. suddenly ride sharing isn't a good idea and public transportation is frowned upon. So instead of clearing the roadways we added more cars back on.
Then we see the ma and pa shops who had worked so hard to bring home cooked and hopefully healthy food can barely keep their doors open as cars line up outside of fast food establishments.
Remember when we got so excited that people were actually getting outside again? That they were enjoying the outdoors? Well this is still fantastic of course, but we need to take a look at how people are enjoying those outdoors. ATV sales are through the roof. What does this mean? More fossil fuel usage and more emissions. I am not demonizing the use of these vehicles because we too own an ATV (the same one for the past 16 years) and we use it to haul wood, to pull fallen logs, and sometimes for a ride. So no, I am not ripping on their use, I am merely pointing out our skewed idea of what it means to spend time outside. Some people are on the right track and recognize the opportunity to do more camping, hiking and biking. This has increased ten fold (not a true statistic- I made this data up- no need to fact check). Many of these individuals are new to outdoor recreation and don't have the understanding of sustainability while doing these activities. They have their brand new or rented camper of some sort with their propane grill set up, they spray their bug fogger everywhere, light their tiki torches and settle in for a night of outdoor living. No one is actually roughing it except those that have been camping well before COVID started. And so many of these outdoor enthusiasts bring their plastic wrapped granola bars or plastic water bottles and let's just hope everyone is taking the time to separate out their trash and at least recycle.
In addition to all this, we start using hand sanitizer like its our one saving grace. For years now I have been fighting the use of excess hand sanitizer with my clients, emphasizing the importance of "good bugs" and keeping their immune system strong by cultivating the bacteria in and on their body. Now people are so fearful that they have actually resorted to trying to DRINK hand sanitizer, there are warnings now "not to ingest this product". Do I have hand sanitizer at my establishment? Absolutely! Do I use it? Absolutely. Do I use it in place of washing my hands? No! Do I use it unnecessarily out of fear and just because it's there. No! Washing our hands still does the trick and should be our first choice. For me I use hand sanitizer if I am in a situation where I can not wash my hands and I will be touching, or have touched surfaces that others will potentially touch within a window of time.
Obviously I have gotten off on a bit of a tangent and I might say a hypocritical one as well as I am also guilty of slipping in my eco ways and I have bought a plastic water bottle or two, and I certainly visit the coffee shop more than my wallet should allow. I also threw away things that could have been repurposed or re-homed. And I definitely have succumbed to convenience more than I want to admit. I justified some of these things as ways to support the businesses struggling, but most I did because my desire for whatever I wanted at the time superseded my need to support the planet.
As cranky as this post sounds it is actually meant to be a reminder to us all that it is time to snap out of it. We need to get back to being sustainable and mindful. We need to care for our planet again. Let's encourage the science over the fear and get back to taking care of our planet because if we don't it won't be able to take care of us.
You can make a difference.
How many times do you stop to think about your own personal impact on the environment? Do you feel like what you do doesn't make a difference? We often think about how "we" as humans impact the planet, but its so often a collective thought like, "we" should drive less, "we" should get rid of all plastic straws, "we" should be using reusable containers, "we" should be using solar energy, "we" should be buying less clothes... there are a lot of things we think and tell ourselves that "we" should be doing. But how often do you shift that focus to "I". What would happen if you actually drove less? What does that even look like? Maybe its not as drastic as moving to a more bike friendly state, perhaps it is just that you don't drive on one of your days off. You stay home for the whole day, never leaving the house. Or how many times have you driven back into town because you forgot floss for the 500th time at the store? (this happens to me a lot...) Maybe don't drive back to town. Maybe twice a week eat in at your office instead of driving home for lunch, OR maybe you work close enough to walk somewhere for lunch. Simple ways to make a difference. What does it look like not to use plastic straws? Could you say no thank you at restaurants? Could you stop buying cute candy cane straws for your daughters birthday party? How about using reusable containers? You do not have to go spend money on these items. Simply wash and reuse jars and containers from other food items you have purchased. This not only saves money, but it also supports the environment in reducing waste. What about solar energy? This feels like a big expensive change. But have you actually looked into what this would cost? Some people find that in the end they save money because of energy credits you can earn from the electric company. Last on the short list above... buying less clothes. Simple! (Unless of course you have teenage girls, this is a hard sell for them...) Solution- buy second hand. When I was a kid second hand clothes were not very cool, today- super cool! In fact if you can't find what you want in your local thrift shops check out www.thredup.com. This site allows you to even return items! Some of these clothes are brand new with tags still attached.
So many ways that YOU can make a difference. You don't need to be part of a group effort. The burden doesn't lie on the masses. It only takes one stone to ripple the entire pond. Be that stone, start that motion. Get things moving. Make a change today.
Winter is coming- Are you ready?
Winter is coming.
One of the most iconic-epic lines to ever surface from a book or TV series. Even those who are unfamiliar with the popular Game of Thrones have most likely heard the phrase at some point. Plus- its not a complicated message. Winter is coming. Even the most removed person can understand its meaning. What I love about this line, aside from its ease off the tongue, is that it contains so much inuendo. At the surface it is a literal predication of a weather event, one that the entire book series seems to be preparing for. But underneath all that it indicates the coming of hardship and suffering, depravity and loss, things that define winter on a human level not just a natural level.
When I think of climate change and the direction the earth is moving this phrase often comes to mind. Winter is coming. On the surface there are the literal climactic changes, just like in the series, and we should take note, these events are changing the course of each of our lives as well as changing the landscape around us. But beneath all that there is an underlying current of the unknown. A fear of what this changing earth will look like in the not so distant future.
-Will our children look back with disgust and hate knowing we had the power to make changes before the point of no return?
-Will the earth even be able to sustain our children at some point?
-Will the end of the world as we know it be a slow decline with people gradually dying of hunger or will it come quickly with war and disease creating massive population die outs?
-Will nuclear fall-out eventually block out the sun or will a natural disaster leave the air oxygen-less and the earth uninhabitable?
OR maybe it will be a combination of all of the above, or something else entirely- something that Hollywood has yet to make into a blockbuster film.
This can be a bit overwhelming at times. In fact, it can be so overwhelming that we may try to hide from winter. Head to warmer pastures to avoid dealing with it, both literally and figuratively. One way that people run from climate change is to hide from it, or ignore it, I like to think of it as “ostrich syndrome” (not an official diagnosis rather one that I made up). If your head is in the sand, you can ignore everything around you. We don’t hide because we don’t care, we hide because we haven’t been educated enough to care. We also hide because sometimes we just don’t know what to do. We have no idea where to start.
When I was a kid and we celebrated earth day and learned how to keep our water clean, but it always felt like it was more in theory. We learned about oil spills and gained an understanding of the details of the earths eco-system. We were encouraged to recycle and to maintain the ozone, but no one talked about just how fragile that eco system was/is. I personally took this message to heart -despite the non-urgency and relaxedness of its delivery. I bought a book that talked about recycling and that went into more detail on how to clean the planet. I began to cut up the plastic pop can holders that you would see stuck on a bird’s neck. We started recycling cans at home, I remember a chore was to crush cans in the outside shed. In high school I decided to eat less meat. And when I was old enough to make my own money, I started to donate to Arbor day and then to other organizations that I felt were making a difference. I preached to my friends and family about recycling (recycling was something I felt I could do). I read about sustainability and as I approached my late 20’s and early 30’s I would listen to podcasts and shake my head at how little the world was doing to make a difference. All the while I felt a tickle of hypocrisy running down my spine. What was I actually doing to make a difference? It seemed what I was good at was talking a lot and using a reusable water bottle. This helped me sleep better at night, but left a nagging feeling that I was not really doing much at all to make an impactful change. Feelings of guilt and shame would wash over me at different times. Sometimes the guilt pushed me to make major changes, and other times it would make me feel shameful and phony. It was not until I did yoga teacher training and really began to understand the spiritual and energetic connection between our environment and us all and I started to see the absolute futility of guilt, that I began to understand that I did not need to be perfect to create change. Winter was coming regardless and it would serve no purpose to focus on what I was doing wrong.
Its important to point out that this post is just as much autobiographical as it is aspirational. I still do not make the most sustainable choices I can, and I still struggle with guilt, and I still preach more than I practice. But as that gap slowly gets smaller so too does the self deprecation of not meeting perfection. I have learned to give myself a little grace and to celebrate the wins rather than focus on the fault. I don’t have to be perfect to encourage others. We are all on this journey of life and death together and the one thing we all share is the need for this planet to survive. If my encouragement to others makes a change that impacts others, than I have done more than just concerning myself with how well I do.
Winter IS coming- The question isn’t who is more prepared, the question is are we as a world, as a community, as a species, prepared? Instead of looking at what you and others could do better, focus instead on what you are doing well. Share your knowledge with everyone you meet. Think about what you yourself are doing to make a change. Even if you don’t feel the motivation, means, or know how to do something -it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share that post about planting trees or that you shouldn’t buy the recyclable paper. In fact if you want to share some thoughts on this send me an email about your efforts and I would be happy to share them on the site to encourage others. Let’s face winter unified and prepared to not only survive but to thrive.