All posts by SustainableRossmoor

Mobilizing to Fight Climate Change

By Dave Casey

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, led to America’s entry into World War II.  President Franklin Roosevelt famously described Dec. 7, 1941 as “a date that will live in infamy.”  Roosevelt, our 32nd president, was elected to four terms in office from 1932 to 1945.  He led the nation out of the Depression of the 1930s.  Then he led a nationwide mobilization that helped win the war and changed our country forever.

National Mobilization – World War II

A visit to the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park on the waterfront in Richmond is an opportunity to learn how the federal government planned and implemented a national wartime mobilization effort. The mobilization touched everyone, everywhere.  For instance, it included thousands of children collecting metal and rubber, gas and food rationing.  People across the country planted “victory” gardens.  Moreover, American men and women leaving their homes and moving across the country to build airplanes, ships, tanks and jeeps to help the war effort. It was the largest migration in American history.

This successful mobilization did not just happen on its own, nor was it a grassroots effort. The United States Office of War Information (OWI) led the mobilization effort. Through radio broadcasts, newspapers, posters, photographs, films and other forms of media, the OWI was key to connecting the battlefront to the home front and to mobilizing the nation.

National and Global Mobilization – The Covid-19 Pandemic
Mobilizing to Fight Climate Change
The ineffectiveness of the decentralized, wishful thinking approach to fighting the coronavirus lies in stark contrast to how the nation responded to the mobilization during WWII.

Currently, the world is mobilizing to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Many countries are taking action and imposing national rules and guidelines to reduce the spread of the infection. The United States has mobilized at the state and county levels, but without national leadership.

The result is a disjointed and piecemeal approach. For example, each state is acting independently.  Then, each county interprets state guidance separately.  Moreover, school districts develop individual plans for returning to the classroom safely.

People and governments can mobilize when faced with a crisis, an enemy or a pandemic. The successful World War II mobilization was a national effort led by the federal Office of War Information. The current mobilization for the pandemic lacks leadership at the national level.  As a result, over a quarter of a million Americans have died.

Global and National Mobilizing to Fight Climate Change
Mobilizing to Fight Climate Change
The fate of humanity will be determined by its ability to mobilize itself to reverse the effects of climate change

So, how about mobilizing to fight climate change? Can Americans mobilize state by state to avoid extreme weather, wildfires, floods, droughts, sea-level rise and other challenges to our health, safety and well-being? Can we successfully act, county by county, to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases? Are cities able to take steps that effectively remove existing pollutants from the atmosphere? Or do we need strong leadership at the national level?

The Biden/Harris transition team has stated it plans to rejoin the Paris Accord.  Biden has also nominated John Kerry to a new Cabinet-level position focused on the climate crisis.  Additionally, this suggests the new administration plans a national approach to address global warming and climate change. Hopefully, Kerry and the incoming administration will follow the successful example of the Office of War Information and effectively mobilize Americans, businesses and industries nationwide to reduce global warming.

The challenge to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and to remove existing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere is a global challenge and requires national mobilization from all countries of the world, including ours.

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, Dec. 9, 2020. Email Dave Casey at davecasey@comcast.net

The Whales and Us

By Paul Wright

Whales have been on my mind a lot lately. Whales? Aside from being inherently remarkable creatures that share the world with us, they also reflect back to us humans something essential about ourselves. They remind us what we may be missing when we look out our window to see what’s there.

I still recall the wonder of watching two whales vigorously tumbling together just off the coast of South Africa, and noticing the uneasy, awestruck sense of connection I felt with them.

The Importance of Whales…Commercially

Anyone who has ever read “Moby Dick” will remember that, not so long ago, whales were much-coveted prizes. Fleets of ships roamed the oceans to hunt down. Once harpooned, a whale’s body was secured to the side of a ship and flensed. Stay with me here, please. The whaler’s crew systematically stripped off the whale’s blubber and then processed it into oil.

Whales, you see, were the beating heart of what preceded the petroleum industry. They were the prime source of the stuff that once lit homes, textile mills and street lamps. Whale oil was also a main ingredient in products as varied as soap, lipstick and pharmaceuticals. During World War I, the British government classified whale oil as a critical resource for fighting the war.

The Whales and Us
Whales are essential to a healthy ocean eco-system.

Aside from all of the other drama that has made this year so memorable, 2020 marks the 45th anniversary of the Save the Whales campaign. While the 19th and 20th centuries were the highwater mark for commercial whaling (with nearly three million killed in the last century alone), the full-bore slaughter of whales continued until someone noticed that the oceans contained a lot fewer of them and decided to do something about it. An international uproar led to a moratorium on killing whales – though one riddled with some large loopholes – that has brought the numbers back from the brink.

The Importance of Whales…and Us…Environmentally

There are many reasons whales deserve our attention. But one I recently discovered is their impact on the world’s climate. And climate change. Whales? Yes.

Let me share two examples. If you’ve ever seen a whale up close, you can imagine the turbulence its body mass produces from swimming around in the ocean, especially when it dives and ascends to the surface. This turbulence churns up large volumes of water, along with the nutrients in it. It also creates water columns that bring those nutrients to the surface. The turbulence contributes to the growth of plankton – a major food source for whales.  Plankton is also a major producer of oxygen in the atmosphere that also explains why oceans absorb so much carbon dioxide.

Fewer whales = fewer plankton = less oxygen = less carbon-absorbent capacity in the oceans. The mass harvesting of whales has also succeeded in deleting from the oceans an enormous amount of biomass that would once have represented a huge reservoir of carbon. Imagine planting a thousand trees or more – that, recent research reports, is the carbon equivalent of a single whale. (If you want to read up on whales, I’m happy to recommend “Fathoms: The World in the Whale” by Rebecca Giggs.) Our mini-science lesson is almost over. What remains to be said here is this: Because whales help modulate the climate, their absence damages an important climate mechanism on which humans depend, a reminder that none of us exists in a vacuum, although we may act that way.

The Whales…and Us…We’re Interconnected

The Whales and Us
Fewer whales = fewer plankton = less oxygen = less carbon-absorbent capacity in the oceans.

We may appreciate the notion of rugged individualism, but our species participates in Nature’s great ecosystem of ecosystems, quite as much as salmon, ants or honey bees, or, for that matter, the trees right outside our manors. And one cardinal rule of systems is that any systemic change triggers merciless feedback, whether we like it or not.

We are the reason whales are turning up dead with innards full of plastic and other junk. All the garbage we’ve dumped into the oceans. We’re the reason why their much-depleted numbers and noise pollution from our ocean-going vessels now make it harder for them to find one another through their “songs.” The whales…and us are connected. This something we overlooked when we pell-mell tried to pursue them to extinction. Along with the lesson that natural resources are neither unlimited, nor all about us.

This is why sustainability matters. Plant-based diets, recycling our trash, shifting to alternative energy sources – all of these are steps toward a sustainable future that recognizes our belonging to something called Nature. They’re a start. The good news is that we no longer look to whales as a vital source of energy. The bad news is that, when we shifted our sights to a petroleum-based economy, we still missed the Nature connection. The next time you look out your window or take a walk, let your curiosity guide you. Consider the whales…and us.

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, Nov. 25, 2020. Email Paul Wright at pwright001@aol.com

“Better” Electricity for Rossmoor

By Adrian Byram

Together, all of us at Rossmoor spend well over $10 million each year for the electricity powering our residences. For that amount of money, why can’t we get “better” electricity for Rossmoor – better reliability, better price and better sustainability?

PG&E has increased the price of electricity by 28.11% over the past five years. Meanwhile, PG&E’s reliability has decreased and Public Safety Power Shutoffs are going to be a fact of life for a decade or more. Both are major concerns for people like us – who live on fixed incomes and often depend on electrically powered medical devices. So, what can we do about it?

During the past few years, well over 100 individual Rossmoor residents have installed their own rooftop solar systems.  They have locked in lower electricity prices for themselves. Some have also tried to solve the reliability problem by installing batteries in addition to solar.  Battery installation can be very expensive ($25,000 and more).  Their installation usually requires considerable rewiring when done for one unit in a multi-unit building.

The trouble is we’ve been going about this the wrong way.  The problem is too big for individual efforts. Upgrading one home at a time requires far more effort, is more costly and is far less efficient than solving the problem as a community.

Introducing Microgrids

"better" electricity
Illustration displaying a microgrid layout

There is a better alternative – so-called “microgrids” – where all the residents in an entry, or a Mutual, band together to install enough solar and backup power to serve their entire entry or Mutual. Each microgrid’s solar and backup power connects to PG&E’s power, where it flows into your entry. Under normal conditions, your homes remain connected to PG&E: during the day, PG&E pays you and your neighbors for the excess solar power; at night, PG&E provides the power for your homes.

When a PG&E outage occurs, the microgrid’s batteries and standby generator automatically kick in to provide power to all your homes. (Go to www.sustainablerossmoor.org/microgrid for more technical details.) The beauty of a microgrid is you don’t have to rewire any of your homes. The solar and backup power flows in through the same wires PG&E uses right now. When a PG&E power outage occurs, the switchover is seamless, generally letting you continue to use all your appliances, heaters and A/C. So, a microgrid delivers “better” – more reliable – electricity.

The Promise of Microgrids

"better" electricity
Rossmoor’s First Microgrid – a view of solar panels above recreational vehicle parking adjacent to the MOD Operations Center (Rossmoor photos by Paul Moderacki)

A microgrid requires substantial upfront capital and ongoing professional management. Fortunately, there are well-established companies ready to finance, install and operate projects like this. (Rossmoor already used this financing approach when it built the solar array near MOD in 2018-19.) By partnering with one of these companies, the residents in an entry or Mutual can avoid any upfront capital outlays and lock in fixed prices for electricity for 15 to 25 years at rates often less than PG& E’s current rates. So, a microgrid can also deliver “better” electricity in a second way – less expensive as well as more reliable.

Finally, a microgrid produces all the power you and your neighbors use over the course of a year from solar energy alone. So, a microgrid delivers “better” electricity for Rossmoor in all three ways – fully sustainable as well as more reliable and less expensive.

Bringing Microgrids to Rossmoor

Over the past months, I have talked with a number of Mutual directors and residents. I’ve found a growing awareness that, not only is this a problem that has to be solved, but the solution has to be at the Mutual level. It also involves finding the right financial and operational partner, one who can work well with the variety of Rossmoor’s Mutuals. In other words, solving this problem will require a lengthy process of negotiation and consensus building.

Sustainable Rossmoor has started the process of finding potential financial partners; we now need residents who are keen on discovering whether microgrids are the right answers for their entries or Mutuals. If you want “better” electricity for Rossmoor, please contact me.  We can work together to build a solution for your entry or Mutual.

Compliments of the Rossmoor News, Nov. 11, 2020. Adrian Byram is chair of the Residential Solar Committee for Sustainable Rossmoor. Email Mr. Byram at adrian@byram.org

Cool Foods

By Laurel Standley

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the news of how climate change is worsening droughts, wildfires and destructive storms. It’s time to talk about solutions.

Project Drawdown provides guidance on 100 strategies to reduce climate-destabilizing emissions. Project Drawdown is a nonprofit dedicated to studying effective ways to tackle the climate crisis.  According to its research, plant-rich diets and reducing food waste are among the top three out of 100 solutions that will reduce greenhouse gases and address the climate crisis.

Meat and dairy production contribute much more to global warming emissions than plant-based foods.  For example, eating beef one to two times per week for a year is equivalent to driving about 1,500 miles in a gas-powered car.

Meat and dairy production contribute to climate-destabilizing emissions in two ways: directly from ruminants like cattle; and the much larger acreage of crops required to produce each pound of meat than needed for plant-based foods consumed directly by people. This results in the clearing of forests that otherwise would remove and sequester carbon emissions.

Cool Foods

The World Resources Institute calls plant-based foods “Cool Foods.”  If you substitute beans for the beef, you can drop those emissions to the equivalent of only 20 miles, an almost 99% reduction.

Cool Foods
A plant-based diet is more sustainable than a meat-based diet; plant-based agriculture requires less land and eliminates the climate-destablizing gases emitted by ruminants like cattle

Some solutions can seem overwhelming or out of our hands, requiring change at the governmental or industry level. But increasing plant-based foods in your diet and minimizing food waste are actually inexpensive and easy to do. Every bit helps, and there are many suggestions for changing the way you eat, from skipping meat one day a week, choosing to only eat plant-based foods before dinner (aka vegan before 6, VB6), or simply replacing some of the meat and dairy in your recipes with plant-based alternatives.

Plant-based foods include many types of beans, grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables, as well as herbs and spices. If you’re unfamiliar cooking plant-rich meals, there are ample resources at your disposal. For example, the nonprofit Meatless Monday, in cooperation with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, offers a collection of plant-based recipes on its website. There are also plant-based alternatives for meat that may help you ease the transition to healthier plant-based options.  Other recipes sites can be found here and here.

Cool Foods Have Many Benefits

The benefits of switching to a plant-rich diet go beyond helping to address the climate crisis.  It is also healthier, having been linked to lower cancer and heart disease rates. Another benefit is that it’s a lot less expensive than a meat-heavy diet.

Cool Foods
Transitioning to a plant-based diet lowers the risk of cancer and heart disease.

As we mentioned earlier, reducing food waste, from farm to store to home kitchen, is another big opportunity to address the climate crisis.  People currently waste about a third (33%) of food produced in our country. There are several things you can do to reduce that waste.  First, pay attention to what’s in your pantry and refrigerator.  Second, use it before it goes bad.  Third, buy the “ugly” produce likely end up in the landfill if no one selects it.  Fourth, throw food scraps in the compost bin instead of the trash.

These simple steps can reduce emissions of methane generated from rotting food in landfills. Each molecule of methane, also called natural gas when we use it for fuel, does 30 to 80 times more damage than carbon dioxide. Therefore, reducing food waste can have a large impact on our climate.

To help create a stable climate, we envision billions of people worldwide enjoying delicious plant-based meals at home, at work, in restaurants and schools with minimal food waste. Join us in addressing the climate crisis one bite at a time.

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, October 28, 2020.  Email Laurel Standley at ljstandleyauthor@gmail.com.

Sustainable Party Planning

By James Ware, PhD, for Earth Matters

Over the next two months there will be millions of holiday and New Year’s parties held all over the world. Sustainable party planning is smart and easy.

Most of those parties will include food and liquid refreshments, which obviously require plates, utensils and cups or glasses. Regrettably, many of those party supplies will be plastic and only a small percentage will be recyclable or compostable.

In short, the holiday season will be marked, as it is every year, by a significant uptick in garbage. Our throwaway society goes on a binge every year during the holidays. All that holiday trash is an unfortunate byproduct of our desire to celebrate another year completed and a new one being born.

Plastics of all kinds pollute our oceans and rivers at an alarming rate. Each year between four (4) million and 12 million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean. Sadly, that amount is expected to more than double in the next 10 years.

Most of us have heard of the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” It’s an “island” of debris floating out in the Pacific Ocean somewhere between California and Hawaii. A vortex of currents gathers much of the garbage flowing out of our rivers and sewer drains. Estimates are the Pacific Garbage Patch contains more than 1.8 trillion individual pieces of trash, weighing over 80,000 tons. Check out National Geographic’s article about the Great Pacific Garbage Patches here.

In short, we have a serious problem. It is so massive, and so much a part of our way of life, that it feels essentially impossible to deal with. And while it may seem overwhelming, what if each of us were to take a new approach to party planning over the holidays?

Seven ways to have fun while minimizing waste

First, begin your party planning with the sustainable mindset of “reduce, reuse, recycle” – and serve mostly plant-based food.

Second, send your party invitations on recycled paper, or use electronic means, like email.

Reusables and Compostables

Third, use reusable or recyclable party supplies. Cloth napkins and table covers use less energy and resources than paper ones. Borrow “real” glasses from a friend or rent them from a party store if you need more, rather than resorting to plastic. Encourage your guests to go beyond BYOB (bring your own booze) to BYOT (bring your own things) – a glass, plate, utensils – and take them home dirty. Washing reusable items does require some water and energy, but far less than what it takes to produce plastic cups and utensils in the first place.

sustainable party
Use real china, glasses and utensils in lieu of plastics

Most products sold in stores and online as “compostable” are not acceptable in our region and therefore not suitable for our green bins. Bamboo and wooden plates and utensils are compostable here, as are paper plates that are not shiny. Note that, despite popular practice, shiny plates (coated with plastic) are not even recyclable and must go in landfill.

Going the Extra Mile – with Gifts & Decorations

Fourth, if your party involves gifts or gift exchanges, use colorful bags, fabric or even the funny pages from the Sunday news as wrapping paper. Paper that is metallic or fuzzy or has other embellishments must go in landfill, as must rubber bands, tape and ribbons.

When you are thinking about gifts, be sure to include “green” products and consider purchasing your gifts from Goodwill and other sources of “slightly used” items. The most thoughtful and responsible gifts are donations to environmental causes and/or living things, like new tree seedlings or other plants that absorb carbon dioxide rather than produce it.

Fifth, when picking out decorations, replace balloons and glitter with flowers, hard candy, nuts, or seeds. Vegetables and fruit also make great table decor. Admire a friend’s centerpiece? Ask if you can reuse it – that’s blatant flattery.

Serving Suggestions

Sixth, think carefully about the food you serve. As noted above, plant-based foods are healthier and less damaging to the environment. Finger-food is also a good solution, since your guests won’t even need utensils (they will still need plates, of course).

There are tons of great plant-based recipes online and elsewhere. Most local stores increasingly sell ready-to-eat vegetarian and vegan choices and ingredients. Consider visiting a local farmers market for guaranteed fresh food. A party is a great opportunity to experiment.

And don’t forget to send your guests home with leftovers. Keep some empty compostable containers on hand to get that extra food on its way to becoming another meal.

Modeling Thoughtful Behavior

Finally, why not treat your party as a way to raise environmental awareness among your guests? Include a comment about “zero waste” in your invitation and encourage guests to bring or share their own good ideas for having a sustainably good time. Involve everyone in cleaning up and recycling/composting the party food and supplies. It’s a good way to teach them how to live sustainably.

When the party’s over you can take a deep breath, think about how much good you’ve done and feel terrific about how you’ve helped the planet get through one more holiday season in reasonably good shape.

(Special thanks to Rossmoor’s Trash Talk committee for stimulating my interest in this topic and for providing me with so many great suggestions.)

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, Nov. 27, 2019. Email James Ware, PhD, at jim@jimware.com

Some Say the World Will End in Fire

By Karen Perkins

It is impossible to ignore the historic, unprecedented wildfires, conflagrations now destroying the most beautiful places in our California environment. Nor can we ignore the physical effects we are being exposed to from their massive amounts of toxic smoke.

Even our governor is now angrily saying, “We are in a climate damn emergency.”  Our governor has green-lighted oil permits and fracking wells.  He has supported industrialized, fossil fuel-based agriculture.  This summer, our governor said, “I have no patience for climate deniers.”  Well, words are not actions, so we will see.

The Work Ahead

How fast will California transition to renewable energy, electric cars, and organic, non-industrialized, diversified agriculture? These are the main industries responsible for climate change. How fast will our politicians start to protect our forests from irresponsible logging?  When will they institute recycling on a massive statewide level?  When will they stop the proliferation of plastics in all their deadly forms?

How fast will they engage in restorative forestry to serve as carbon sinks, the proven method of reversing climate change. Will there be an end oil subsidies?  How quickly will we phase out the refineries?  Oil refineries release tons of greenhouse gases, poison our air and make us sick.  People living closest to oil refineries are particularly at risk.

Will the world end in fire
Data has shown higher cancer and asthma clusters around oil and gas refineries

Can we find the will to transition those workers to good-paying jobs in renewable energy and so many other jobs that will be needed? Will they give zero-rate loans and subsidies (as they now do for Big Oil and Big Agriculture) to farmers who want to transition to organic, non fossil fuel-based agriculture?  Will policy makers encourage new farmers to start these types of farms?

Why should we have two food systems when we need only one – a food system that is healthy for us and our environment and produces more nutrient-rich food without toxic chemicals and pesticides?

In other words, we need a world quite different, in a good way, from the one we have now. We need a world where the health of our planet, our beautiful state of California and our people, those of us who live here, can survive and thrive.

Self-destruction…or…Self-survival?

The title above comes from the first sentence of Robert Frost’s poem, “Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice.” In his poem, “Fire and Ice,” Frost ponders whether the world will end in fire or ice. He equates fire with desire and ice with hatred.

According to one source, it “highlights human beings’ talent for self-destruction.”  People have described the recent orange sky from wildfire smoke as “apocalyptic.”  The dictionary defines this word as referring to the complete and final destruction of the world.  Raging fires, floods and droughts certainly would precede the “complete and final destruction of the world.”

We humans have a strong instinct to survive. And, arguably, we are intelligent and capable of love, empathy and compassion. We know of the rapid mobilization leading up to our involvement in World War II, where airplanes, ships, ammunition etc. were rapidly mass produced by our nation, for our own national security.

Will the World End in Fire? …or Will We Work Together?

Working together as one unified people, we were successful in this war e ff ort. We even sacrificed for the good of the country by participating in a food-rationing system.

Will the world end in fire
People across the world will have to put away differences and work together to reverse the effects of climate change

Is not the climate crisis a national security emergency? Will we mobilize and work together to rapidly transition to clean energy and to sustainable agriculture and forests? Can we do this within the short window of time we have before climate change is irreversible?

Will we do this?  Or have we lost too much of our ability to see each other as fellow human beings?  Can we, with all our human frailties, admit we depend on one another and one fragile planet?

It will not be easy, but we can do this.  We will need less competition and more cooperation.  We’ll need less emphasis on “rugged” individualism and more focus on the common good.  All people need to recognize the reality that we are all connected to one another and need one another.

We can do this in the time necessary if we act like our lives, our children’s and grandchildren’s lives depend on it – because they do!

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, October 14, 2020.  Email Karen Perkins at kper@sbcglobal.net.

Systemic Racism and Climate Change

By Barbara Coenen

Protecting our environment has been my top priority since I attended my first Earth Day in Milwaukee in 1967. In 1967, it was all about using the most environmentally friendly dish soap and clothes detergent and learning about drinking water treatment processes.

In 2020, it’s about working as hard as we can to save the Earth for our children. That was my priority until May 25, when I watched the horrific murder of George Floyd.

Indeed, that was the day systemic racism in America became my main focus. It was the day I began to educate myself about the history and manifestation of systemic racism in America. Systemic racism manifests itself by the negative impacts of climate change on communities of color.

Racial Inequality and Climate Change

Penn State meteorologist Gregory Jenkins states, “racism is inexorably linked to climate change because it dictates who benefits from activities that produce planet-warming gases and who suffers most from the consequences.”

systemic racism and climate change
Many expressways pass through inner city neighborhoods filing the air with exhaust and other pollutants

Studies show residents in many brown and black neighborhoods in America live with far more air pollution than they produce from actions like driving and using electricity. By contrast, many white neighborhoods experience better air quality than the national average, even though their driving and electricity use contributes more pollutants.

Additionally, discriminatory housing policies, e.g. “redlining,” created distressed neighborhoods.  For example, these areas typically have vacant lots, more pavement, fewer trees and higher average temperatures.  In combination, these characteristics can lead to deadly heat illnesses.

Systemic racism and racial inequality also mean the people most at risk from climate change have the fewest resources to deal with the results of climate change.

Climate Change’s Impact on Neighborhoods of Color

Consider the following.  Over thirty percent (30%) of black New Orleans residents didn’t own cars when Hurricane Katrina hit.  Such conditions not only made them less mobile, it made it next to impossible for them to evacuate. The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies conducted the study following Katrina.  (Just think about what that must have felt like for those people trying to save themselves and their families.)

systemic racism and climate change
Unintended consequences of post WWII housing projects was a loss of neighborhood community on a human scale.

Neighborhoods in Pittsburgh offer additional examples of the negative impacts of climate change on neighborhoods of color. Heather McClain, an environmental justice organizer, states: “Black communities, which already face disinvestment of critical resources like public transportation and access to health care, are being over policed and underserved.”

In East Pittsburgh, an oil and gas company is attempting to join with U.S. Steel.  Together they want to build a fracking well pad in the community.  This is the same community that has experienced generations of air pollution from steel mills.

I believe Joylette Portlock, executive director of Sustainable Pittsburgh, sums it up best. She states, “Systemic racism is not limited to one system. Unequal treatment in our housing, education, health care and economic systems creates a lack of resources and options for where and how people live. There are many causal problems, none of which are easy to fix. …They require dedicated action to look for and remediate the unjust systems that support these inequities.”

Let’s get busy!

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, September 23, 2020.  Email Barbara Coenen at coenenbarbara@comcast.net

Educating Women and Girls – Reprised

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” – Native American proverb

By Joy Danzig

Earlier this month, the Earth Matters blog published my article, “Educating Women and Girls Amidst Climate Crisis.” It highlighted how educating girls and women could help in the fight against climate change.

The article was based on findings of the landmark book Drawdown, the Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.  Project Drawdown published the book in 2017.  Paul Hawken, a highly regarded environmentalist, edited the book.

Drawdown identified 80 solutions ranked in order of effectiveness. Each solution, when implemented, would lead to a “drawdown” of greenhouse gases. The objective is to reduce (drawdown) the rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and then reverse the trend.  There are eight categories, including one titled “Women and Girls.”

Each solution was researched in terms of reduction of CO2, in gigatons; net cost in dollars; and net savings in dollars. The total accounting included heat-trapping greenhouse gases, including methane, nitrous oxide, fluorinated gases and water vapor.

Two solutions, ranked No. 6 and 7, involved educating girls and family planning, respectively.

Educating Girls and Women

On May 18, Crystal Chissell revisited the subject in the article “The Astonishing Climate Effect of Empowering Girls and Women.”  Chissell is vice president of operations and engagement at Project Drawdown. The article streamed on the “We Don’t Have Time” app, found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. The article marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day (to see the article click here).

The opening statements of the article are striking: “Plant-based food, wind turbines and electric cars are often in focus during discussions on climate solutions. So maybe it’s time to highlight an even more important factor: health and education.”

Fighting the Climate Crisis Through Health and Education

Chissell contends we will not solve the climate crisis unless women and girls worldwide have equal rights and opportunities. This solution, which she now describes as “health and education,” is seen as the No. 2 most impactful one, just after No. 1, “Reducing Food Waste.”

Chissell describes the current solution as being more complex, in contrast to those that are focused and technological. This solution involves a sociological phenomenon. It encompasses quality of life, health of families and equality of opportunity for women.  Moreover, it includes equality in business and agricultural endeavors. Most critically, the relationship between their level of education and their engagement in family planning.

The rate of population growth drives the “demand for and consumption of food, transportation, electricity, building space and goods.” An article published May 26 by Resilience.org states: “Almost universally, research since the 1980s shows that women with higher levels of good, quality education marry later and have fewer and healthier children, live longer and enjoy greater economic prosperity. For example, in Mali, women with secondary education or higher have an average of three children, while those with no education have an average of seven children.”

Education Can Help Reduce Population Growth

Further, “The United Nations currently projects that the world’s population will grow from 7.3 billion today to 9.7 billion, with most of the growth being in developing countries. … But recent research shows that if girls’ education continues to expand, that number would total 2 billion fewer people by 2045” (see https://tinyurl.com/y56lrjs6).

Even the statistics regarding greenhouse gases are striking.  Chissell states, “In a scenario where there is investment in family planning and we limit population growth to the UN median population projection, our analyses shows we can avoid up to 85 gigatons of greenhouse gases between now and 2050.”

Educating Women and Girls
Enhancing health and wellbeing is key to overcoming our climate crisis. Education is the essential ingredient.

Chissell believes “solving problems concerning human health and wellbeing is the key to getting more people involved in climate action.”  She adds, on a practical level, “those problems are far more visible than what’s going on up in the sky.”

As we mark the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment giving women in our country the right to vote, it seems fitting that this, a potential solution to “drawdown,” receives renewed attention.

In addition to addressing the subject of women and girls, it is important to understand the very nature of Project Drawdown, which seeks to build on and enhance the findings leading to the 2017 book.

Change is occurring rapidly, as is the search for climate solutions. Visit the website https://www.drawdown.org/. The Drawdown Review, the first major update to research and analysis of climate solutions, is available there.

Support Organizations Educating Women and Girls

To find answers to Chissell’s question “What can we do to enhance global achievement of solutions to our climate crisis?” we can look to organizations supporting girls’ education and health.

Planned Parenthood, for example, reaches across the world. It partners with more than 120 organizations in Africa and Latin America.

The International Alliance of Women, a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Geneva, is also notable. Its roots go back to International Women’s Suffrage Alliance.  It represents 50 human rights organizations with several hundred thousand members around the globe. For more, see https://womenalliance.org/.

Not only girls and women, everyone will benefit in the not-so-distant future as we approach the achievement of “drawdown.”

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, September 2, 2020.  Email Joy Danzig at joyfuld@gmail.com

Educating Girls and Women Amidst Climate Crisis

By Joy Danzig

The New York Times ran an editorial with the surprising title, “This Has Been the Best Year Ever,” on Dec. 28, 2019. The editorial’s author, Nicholas Kristof, wrote “few forces change the world so much as education and the empowerment of women.” 

Kristof said he drew his conclusion from a vantage point of “the long arc of human history.”

To illustrate, he pointed to the dramatic decline of illiteracy, poverty and diseases typically prevalent in developing nations. Diseases such as “polio, leprosy, river blindness, elephantiasis and AIDS” have been on the decline over the last 35 to 40 years. At the same time, there is evidence “when parents are confident their children will survive and have access to birth control, they have fewer children.” Such evidence runs contrary to those who argue, ”if we save children’s lives, the result will be a population crisis that will cause new famines.” See Kristoff’s article.

Project Drawdown

Project Drawdown provides further evidence of the potential of educating and empowering women. The Project is a climate change mitigation project founded by environmentalist Paul Hawken and climate activist Amanda Joy Ravenhill.

Project Drawdown developed a list of the “100 most substantive solutions to global warming.” A team of more than 200 scholars, scientists, policymakers, business leaders and activists developed and compiled the list. They measured and modeled each solution’s carbon impact through the year 2050, including the total and net cost to society and lifetime savings of each.

Educating Girls and Women
Educating girls and women are an investment in the world’s future.

They published their findings in Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever to Reverse Global Warming, in 2017. The book presents 80 solutions ranked by their projected effectiveness to reduce total atmospheric carbon dioxide. It quantifies each solution in gigatons.  A gigaton is “a unit of explosive force equal to one billion tons of TNT.”

The project has eight sectors, each containing several subtopics.  The sectors are buildings and cities, energy, food, land use, materials, transport, women and girls and “coming attractions.”  Out of the 80, educating girls and family planning rank 6 and 7 in importance, respectively.

Solutions prior to those two are No. 1 refrigeration (materials), No. 2 onshore wind turbines (energy), No. 3 reduced food waste (food), No. 4 plant-rich diet (food) and No. 5 tropical forests (land use). Family planning and educating girls each show a reduction of 59.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In addition, a third subsection, women smallholders (No. 62), referring to the ability of women to own land and manage farms with resources equal to those typically given to men, shows a reduction of 2.06 gigatons. Total: 121.26 gigatons.

Importance of Educating Girls and Women

While the statistics in the book are intrinsic to understanding the most effective solutions to reverse global warming, in many instances, these solutions offer a vital impact on the quality of life – most intrinsic to the section on women and girls. With education and resources for family planning, a young woman no longer has to bear unwanted children that may preclude her ability to pursue work to enhance her family’s standard of living. She may, therefore, live a healthier, more satisfying life. She may not be subject to domination by the men in her family and community. Her opportunity to attend school may not be precluded by family resources going to her brothers for their education. She may be able to manage her small farm, rather than work as an underling in a male farmer’s plot.

Educating Girls and Women
Education has helped lift the poor in developing countries out of extreme poverty.

The women smallholders subsection states “countries that have higher levels of gender equality have higher average cereal yields; high levels of inequality correlate with the opposite outcome.” Also, “when women earn more, they reinvest 90 percent of the money they make into education, health and nutrition for their families and communities, compared to 30-40 percent for men. With this solution, human well-being and climate are tightly linked, and what is good for equity is good for the livelihoods of all genders.” Although the reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere plays a key role in the solutions portrayed in “Drawdown,” the value of human well-being cannot be minimized.

Agencies Out Front Educating Girls and Women

What agencies come to mind that play a key role in supporting these solutions involving women and girls? One is Planned Parenthood, which provides care with regard to the right to abortion and sex education of the young. It also reaches across Africa and Latin America in partnership with more than 120 organizations in those countries.

Further investigation reveals more resources. UNGEI (U.N. Girls Education Initiative), with a global advisory committee, has more than 30 partners. Of those, Action Aid (actionaid.org) deals with girls’ rights to education in many countries. Another, The Brookings Institution (brookings.edu/topic/ education/), features an extensive article on its website: “Girls’ Education in Climate Strategies” (Dec. 10, 2019). Find comprehensive and global strategies online at https://www.brookings.edu/research/girls-education-in-climate-strategies/. It is worth the time to read and learn about this important subject.

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, February 5, 2020. Email Joy Danzig at joyfuld@gmail.com.

What Are Our Earth’s Rights?

“Sooner or later, we will have to recognize that the Earth has rights, too, to live without pollution. What mankind must know is that human beings cannot live without Mother Earth, but the planet can live without humans.” – Evo Morales

By Dale Harrington

The above quote inspired me to think about my next article for the Earth Matters column in the Rossmoor News. I strive to write articles that are meaningful and useful to others. I wondered how a conversation would go with the Earth if I asked it what it thought its rights are.

Earth's Rights
Does our forest use protect wildlife habitat?

Magically, the Earth’s response came to me! Here’s what it said: “First, I want clean air and clean water. Next, I want to maintain the natural beauty that I have brought. Then, I want to have my inhabitants enjoy what I offer – shade, fruit and nuts from the trees I grow. Of course, I am even happy when they find uses for my trees to build shelters, tools and fires to stay warm. I am pleased they enjoy and appreciate wood I provide as well as the fruits and nuts that grow from trees’ limbs. Same goes for what they find inside me – minerals, metals, oil, even clean water. BUT some of my inhabitants know no limits! I am the only Earth we are aware of!

How much is enough?

“My oceans are polluted with waste that is harming ocean inhabitants. As is true for all my inhabitants, my bounties are not limitless. The recent COVID-19 virus has emphasized an example of cause and effect on my environment. My inhabitants walked more and drove less, thus my air was cleaner, stores were closed, so there was less impulsive buying, and humans began finding ways to conserve my natural resources. Am I asking for too much?”

Here are some other examples of the impact humans have on the environment.

Depletion of minerals

According to a new study of the U.S. manufacturing sector (Sci. Adv. 2020, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv. aay8647), almost two dozen minerals required for new and emerging technologies are at risk of supply shortages. We use these minerals to produce alloys, batteries, catalysts, ceramics and for other applications.

Air pollution
Earth's Rights
Our rivers, lakes and oceans seem so vast, yet our profligate carelessness has polluted them all.

Because the average driver logs 13,476 miles each year, that means that in total, Americans drive more than 2.5 trillion miles annually.https://tinyurl.com/yxuvj5fc In 2017, the United States consumed a total of 7.28 billion barrels of petroleum products, an average of about 19.96 million barrels per day. https://tinyurl.com/y3apr4aq In a previous article I wrote for the Earth Matters column, I included the following: We have an addiction to throwaway plastic! Ask yourself, am I an addict? Well, you would probably say NO because we normally think of addiction only in terms of drugs or alcohol. The definition of addiction: “the fact or condition of being enslaved to a particular substance, thing or activity.” (Emphasis is mine.) We are behaviorally addicted to the activity of purchasing plastic things!

“Most Intelligent”…”Highest Evolved”…Really?

It is puzzling we humans consider ourselves the most intelligent of living species on the Earth, yet look at the destruction we cause. We kill each other in wars; destroy forests and eliminate the habitats of the creatures living there; pollute the very air we breathe; litter the oceans and waterways with millions of tons of plastic and other waste, which wildlife ingest to their detriment and ours; pollute the very water we drink; abuse animals; and insist on buying and throwing away millions of items that have only a one-time use. Let us think more about what we are doing to our Earth, to future generations and to ourselves!

Earth's Rights
Millions of acres of western forests are devastated by fires every year. The smoke from the fires affects millions and contributes to climate change.

The words in the quotation at the top of the column – “What mankind must know is that human beings cannot live without Mother Earth, but the planet can live without humans” – should cause us to reflect on our behavior. Do we care? It can be easy to come up with a quick answer and say “YES” because all of us want to care about our Earth (our home), and we believe we truly do care.

Pause and Reflect

However, if we pause and reflect upon our behavior, we might recognize that sometimes our behavior is disrespectful to the Earth. If we recognize that, then we not only can improve our behavior, but we MUST do so. It is time we MUST demonstrate we care and are entitled to live here.

Living on Earth is not a right, it is a privilege. All creatures have a right to live here. We have a window of time to take a step back and give our Earth an opportunity to meet us half way. Earth is telling us, “You are my guests, take care of me, don’t abuse me.” It’s time we recognized Earth’s Rights too.

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, August 19, 2020.  Patty Harrington assisted with this column. Email Dale Harrington at dalejharrington@gmail.com