Preparing for today’s blog, I went deep in to our photo history and, Lord, we have some beautiful pictures of trees. Tom and I have never been shy about taking pictures when hiking and it was really great, actually pretty comforting, to look through them. I’ll scatter some throughout this post. Most were taken in the last six years, and all in California.
I’ve been struggling with how to write about the climate issue. I suppose most of you have read the recent paper, put out by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The headline in the Washington Post on October 7th spells it out in stark terms: “The World has just over a decade to get climate change under control, U.N. scientists say.”
I must say this headline, article, and the study it’s based on, has had me more than a little depressed of late. I don’t like to dwell on it, because thinking about what life might be like in ten years if we don’t make the necessary changes makes me feel quite hopeless.
But we must think about it, no matter how much we don’t want to. And I want to write about some things we can do - little things, to be sure - because taking action, no matter how small the action is, always makes me feel better no matter the situation, and maybe it does for you, too.
But on the other hand, I’m also very aware that some folks might feel defensive. I don’t want to shame anyone, ever. We all have our limitations. For some of us, they are economical. For others, it’s time. For still others, maybe there is a lack of urgency. But I don’t think we can afford, any longer, to remain apathetic about the issue.
I also don’t want to sound like I have all the answers, either, because I don’t. I’m paralyzed thinking about what my children’s lives will be like in ten years. I’ve been perseverating, really, about the problems; going over and over in my head about possible solutions, and what we can do to help the situation.
I feel our family already does pretty well with regards to conservation, but there are definitely things we can still work on. And I want to share our plan with you here, in the hopes that you are inspired to make your own plan, and maybe share it so we can learn from you, too.
The most important thing any of us can do is vote. Tom and I are looking for candidates and policies that continue to push environmental conservation forward, not backward. Adam, who isn’t even quite 17, has already pre-registered to vote when he turns 18. We discuss these issues during our family dinners and aren’t afraid to hash out differing opinions and wrestle with options. Our kids often have a perspective that we find valuable. I personally need to do better research about the issues on our local ballots. I’m good with national or state level issues, but not so ‘woke’ about the local stuff. This is my own personal goal for the next election. We wouldn’t dream of missing the opportunity to make our voices heard and voting is considered a mandatory event in our household. I hope it is in yours, too.
I believe we also need to take a hard look at ourselves and our lifestyle and figure out what we can do to make small changes. For instance, our family can eat less meat (conventional beef production is a major producer of greenhouse gases in the form of methane). What meat we do consume should come only from pastured animals (we’re pretty good at this already, but I’ve vowed to be even more of a stickler). Animals out on grass actually improve soil and do not contribute to global warming. It costs more, yes, and it’s not as readily available, both of which will help us to eat less of it.
Conventional dairy farms are also major contributors of greenhouse gases. We’ve made a pledge, in our family, to purchase milk, cream, and butter from Straus Family Creamery, a local company that is committed to reducing methane in the atmosphere. One way they do that is by reusing the methane as fuel for their delivery vehicles. All their milk and cream comes in reusable glass bottles (remember those?) and are returned to the store for a refund of $2. This makes their products more affordable. Also, all their dairy is organic. Their cows aren’t 100% grass-fed, but I do believe they are working towards that goal.
I really think it is worth considering big purchases too. One of our cars is electric, and I don’t think we will ever go back to owning a gas car in the future. Electric technology is imperfect to be sure, but California is making it easier and easier to own an electric car with charging stations everywhere, and even though they still use energy (some that comes from coal), there are zero emissions, so that helps in the long run.
Another thing we are planning to do this winter is put solar panels on our roof. We cannot afford to purchase them. But we can allow a company to put them on our roof, which feeds power into the grid, and we’ll get 30% off our bill. This is something I am researching now and will give you more details about it as I learn more.
Finally, we might all consider planting a tree or two. Trees are a major plus, sequestering quite a bit of carbon in their root systems and the soil around them. I once did a calculation to figure out the amount of carbon our Valley Oak (Quercus lobata) sequesters each year; 640 pounds. That’s incredible. There are a few guidelines however; not just any tree will do. You want to plant something native to your area, something slow-growing and long-lived. Check with your local extension office to determine which tree is best for your area (and if you live in CA, I can help you with that). A native tree will also benefit your local wildlife. Wildlife in general is going to have a hard time of it as our climate changes in the next few years.
If you can’t squeeze any more trees in the yard (Honestly, I am FULL UP), surely there is a local organization in your city that is planting trees in parks or open spaces. If not, there are organizations dedicated to restoring forests. Those organizations could probably use your donation to continue doing their good work.
I’m sure there are many more ideas that YOU have; please share them with us in the comments. Let’s learn together. Let’s have an open forum of ideas and suggestions. No shaming, just moving forward with solutions. Let’s take some action, together.