Category Archives: Earth Matters

Earth Month 2021

Earth Month 2021 is the time to celebrate Earth and learn about how to protect our planet for the future.

Sustainable Rossmoor (SR) invites all Rossmoor residents to a series of Earth Month presentations.  The 40- to 50-minute Zoom programs will focus on “climate resiliency.”

Renewable Energy – Separating Fact from Fiction

Misconceptions about renewable energy abound.  Last February, the Governor of Texas attempted to blame his State’s power outage on wind and solar power.  Unfortunately, the truth was the State’s natural gas pipes froze.  Misinformation at the highest levels.

On Thursday, April 15, 3:00 p.m., Adrian Byram will moderate a discussion about Renewable Energy.  Byram chairs SR’s Solar Committee.  He will invite attendees to cite other examples of renewable energy misinformation and share psychologists’ suggestions for addressing them.  The program will conclude by reframing the value of renewable energy in more compelling ways for people unconvinced of the urgent need to move past fossil fuels.

The Importance of Trees

On Thursday, April 22 (actual Earth Day), 3:00 p.m. SR’s Tree Planting and Preservation Committee (TPPC) will present a forum on improving the health of our local and global environment by promoting the planting and preservation of trees. Each of our committee members will lead a discussion on the following topics: 

  • The importance of tree planting; including preserving mature trees for improving air quality, sequestering carbon dioxide, lowering air temperature and reducing heat intensity. It will also cover the criteria for selecting and preserving trees. Large, mature trees maximize carbon sequestration. Additionally, drought-tolerant trees require less water, thus promoting water conservation. 
  • The Tree Tour Program: TPPC is also developing self-guided tours in Rossmoor.  The project includes identifying trees, developing walking trail maps and creating ID plaques.  The Committee also plans to develop an online tree guide on the tree tour. 
  • The Arbor Day Initiative, to partner with the Arbor Day Foundation. TPPC is encouraging residents to support planting and purchasing trees to honor others or as gift trees, and to purchase memorial and gift cards. 
  • The Acorn Gathering and Planting Project. This year, more than 60 future oak trees were planted in Rossmoor. Volunteers gathered and stored acorns, then located and marked appropriate planting sites.  Additionally, they assembled protective wire enclosures, planted the acorns and continue watering them.
  • The Eden Reforestation Project – a fundraising effort to hire indigenous workers to plant seedlings in equatorial countries at less than 10 cents per seedling. Thus, a $100 donation will result in over 1,000 trees planted and 2,000 metric tons of carbon sequestered. 

Intergenerational Action

On Thursday, April 29, 1:00 PM Sustainable Rossmoor welcomes Andrew Kodama to co-host a dialogue about the intergenerational impacts of climate change. For example: What are your experiences talking about climate change with younger family members? Creating a sustainable planet is not only the work of our minds and hands, but also our hearts. Kodama has coordinated Climate Change/Climate Justice programs with high schools throughout the Diablo Valley.  He is looking forward to this conversation with our community.  Kodama is the director of the Mt. Diablo Peace and Justice Center.

Zoom Links

Please email Don MacGregor at to request the Zoom link to each and all of these Sustainable Rossmoor Earth Month 2021 programs.

Share this announcement with friends and neighbors or refer them to the Sustainable Rossmoor website Earth Month 2021 page.

Ours to Protect

By Paul Wright

Twenty years ago, I spent a rewarding few hours visiting Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum, in Boston.  It’s a place intriguingly described as a “museum of trees.”  Rambling around the grounds was a treat.  What made the visit especially memorable was the Arboretum’s collection of bonsai trees.

Spending some time alone with those magnificent specimens, I suddenly realized I owed that moment of wonder to generations of gardeners.  All those gardeners who had inherited their leafy charges from possibly unknown hands and, then, their task completed, transferred custody to the next generation. Altogether, they represented an unbroken chain of stewardship.

Ours to Protect: Save the Bay

This year, we celebrate another example of stewardship – the 60th anniversary of Save the Bay.  Save the Bay is dedicated to protecting and restoring San Francisco Bay.  In 1961, San Fransico Bay faced, incredible to say, rapid extinction as a result of relentless landfill schemes.

Ours to Protect
Save the Bay members have worked for 60 years to protect the San Francisco Bay

Three women, Kay Kerr, Sylvia McLaughlin and Esther Gulick, joined together to say “no.”  They understood the Bay represents a public inheritance no private interest may extinguish.  In simpler terms, they realized something essential about their relationship with the world around them, and stepped up to act in accordance with that perception.

By saying “no”  they succeeded in exercising their sense of stewardship. Thanks to their wise insight and caring, they persuaded others to do the same.  They inspired collective action 60 years ago through their own belief in the public good.  Thanks to their activism, the Bay still contributes to our shared ecosystem, and our lives, today.

Stewardship in Action

Stewardship, as both examples illustrate, is not just some latter-day hipster abstraction. With roots in human development, the word itself enshrines a fundamental concept: taking care of one’s house. Over time, that basic notion of caring has grown deeper. Just as stewards look after the affairs of an enterprise entrusted to their care, it would not be overstating the matter to suggest that, for the privilege of being alive, we are all stewards in a planetary enterprise.

Ours to Protect
The grandeur of the night sky is breathtaking, and humbling.

In fact, we always have been. We can, if we choose, try to delegate the role to someone else, smother it in deceptive political rhetoric or ignore it altogether – as we see every day. But we can’t avoid the consequences.

As I commented last year in this space, the world is a complex business.  Moreover, it contains a myriad interconnecting and interdependent life-support systems that enable us to go about our lives each day. While we humans may, understandably, perhaps, assume we’re the big kids on the playground of life, we’ve gradually slid into thinking that we’re all that counts on that playground.

In the Drama of Us, we’ve turned everything else into a bit player, available for our use and amusement. Now we’re in danger of becoming the kid who drilled holes in the bottom of his boat to see what was there.

Ours to Protect: Principles of Stewardship

Stewardship doesn’t require vast learning to understand.  It never has.  A few basic principles suffice for getting the hang of it.

First, the world, and its time scale, are a lot bigger than we are.  Walk outside on a clear night, or just gaze deeply at the view outside your window.  Whether you observe galactic structures or the miracle of the insect world, and you’ll see what I mean.

Ours to Protect
We may be the latest “dominant” species on earth, but we are only a part of the web of life.

Second, it’s a world we share; we’re just part of it, intricately knit into a web that enfolds us.

And third, we have a role to play in caring for this world.  Indeed, our role is commensurate with our power to change it.  Consider it as a way for us to pull our weight; while dialing back on our own self-importance.  We are the recipients of a trust that the future places on us.

Just inside the entrance to Rossmoor, there’s a sign attached to the chain-link fence over Tice Creek.  The sign identifies the Tice Creek watershed.  I’m heartened by its explicit reminder the watershed is “ours to protect.”   It’s a call to stewardship that extends to each of us throughout this valley.  Indeed, it extends beyond Rossmoor, to everywhere on the planet where we humans leave our imprint.

Our Earth is Ours to Protect

Taken to its logical conclusion, our addiction to the notion that Nature is something “out there,” ours to do with as we wish, leads where all addictions lead. Centuries ago, the Easter Islanders learned this lesson when total deforestation of their island led to the utter collapse of the ecosystem that supported them.

Perhaps this is what Wendell Berry had in mind when he observed that “in losing stewardship, we lose fellowship; we become outcasts in the great neighborhood of creation.”

Each morning, as I sit drinking my morning coffee, watching the light creep into the day as the world emerges into daylight, this true fact blazes out more and more clearly to me. In stewardship, we connect.  As a part of this world, it’s ours to protect.

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, January 20, 2021.  Email Paul Wright at

That Mayor of Paris

By Karen Perkins

Time Magazine, in its September 2020 issue, chose Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo to be among “The 100 Most Influential People of 2020.”

Al Gore wrote about how Hidalgo hosted the historic Paris Agreement five years ago, establishing a global map for reductions of greenhouse emissions. ”Mayor Hidalgo has turned Paris into a shining example of how cities can lead the transition to cleaner, healthier and more prosperous cities,” Gore wrote. “In our increasingly urban world, there is so much opportunity for cities – which are already responsible for 70% of global greenhouse-gas emissions – to lead the global fight. Mayor Hidalgo is a visionary leader – the kind of leader who demonstrates how local action can solve the climate crisis.”

Many cities worldwide have Climate Action Plans; however, some take the word “action” more seriously than others. Paris residents elected Hidalgo 2014.  She campaigned on plans to cut down on pollution and make Paris more livable. She vowed to decrease car traffic and increase bicycling, walking and electric public transit.

That Mayor of Paris…Decreasing Traffic Congestion

In order to decrease pollution and make the city greener, she has cut street parking in half, removing 70,000 parking spaces.  She then asked residents what they wanted to do with the spaces. Some plans for vacated spaces include more trees, children’s playgrounds and bike lock-up areas. Priority for the remaining spaces will be given to residents and businesses.  All disabled spaces remain.

That Mayor of Paris
Paris is eliminating 70,000 parking spaces and closing streets to create mini-parks and pedestrian malls.

She has closed a major road through Paris, and smaller roads that crisscross the city. She has also closed the roads along the Seine River. Where once there was auto traffic on both sides of the river, now there are walking paths for people to stroll, bike lanes, green parks and sand covered beaches, where people with umbrellas can picnic and enjoy the sun. In addition, every car entering Paris must have a sticker attached with its emissions. Under her plans, Paris will remove 72% of its on-street parking spaces.

Shutting down roads has not been without controversy. Taxi and Uber drivers, and those who drive into the city but don’t live there, have fumed about not being able to drive rapidly through Paris. They staged a protest blocking a four-lane road. However, Hidalgo was determined.  She continued her efforts to improve the quality of life of the city’s residents.  Her goal was to make Paris quieter, cleaner and less polluted. Under her guidance, the city council voted to ban diesel cars by 2024 and gas combustion cars by 2030.

That Mayor of Paris…Transforming Paris’s Infrastructure

Mayor Hidalgo has also spearheaded construction of environmentally friendly buildings. In fact, a groundbreaking eco-village, named “Clichy-Batignolles,” has been constructed.  These new buildings provide a glimpse of the low-carbon future envisioned in many climate plans. In addition, engineers have mapped all the city’s buildings according to their energy efficiency and have retrofitted over 50,000 for better insulation and ventilation. She also loosened rigid building codes so that residents could plant trees in their neighborhoods.

That Mayor of Paris
Rooftop gardens and thousands of street trees are being established to shade and cool the city

Paris has suffered from many heat waves in recent years. Rooftop gardens have been helping to lower temperatures, and turn Paris greener, create biodiversity and allow residents to grow organic food.  Additionally, pocket parks and trees have replaced cement to provide shade and help with cooling and sequestering carbon. Residents call these tree-shaded parks “isles of coolness.”

That Mayor of Paris…Planning for the Future

During the pandemic and lockdown, Hidalgo said, as horrible as it has been, for the first time, “We could hear birds” and “We could breathe.”  Although she has been faced with tragedies as mayor, including the Charlie Hebdo killings and the catastrophic fire at Notre Dame cathedral, there have also been victories.  Paris will host the Olympics in 2024.  Additionally, Mayor Hidalgo plans to build an energy efficient Olympic Village in one of the poorest areas of Paris.

Conde Nast Traveler magazine wrote, “Her governance revolves around social inclusion, innovation, sustainable development and environmental issues earning her a pioneering reputation among city leaders around the world for her steadfast commitment to climate action.”  The people of Paris agree.  First elected in 2014, she ran sucessfully for a second six-year term reelection in 2020.

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, January 6, 2021.  Email Karen Perkins at

When Our Earth Matters to Us

By Dale J. Harrington

What follows are some ways we can establish when our Earth matters to us:

Who we vote for:

Do we vote for candidates who demonstrate concern for the environment through their actions? Do they support conservation issues to reduce toxics that enter our air, water, land and bodies? The latter two toxin references include pesticides and some fertilizers that contaminate our food. Air and water pollutants include emissions from our transportation and various industries through smokestacks or runoff into streams and rivers.

How we properly dispose of products:
when our earth matters to us
Practice the Four R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Repent…because we’ve been awfully naughty

Do we consistently discard recyclable materials into recycling containers and compostable materials into our compost containers? Do we minimize the use of take-out containers, even though they are recyclable, by taking our own reusable containers to a restaurant for the leftover food we take home? Although a container from a restaurant may be recyclable, it usually ends up in the trash because we have too many of them. Why add these to the heaps of waste when we can wash our own reusable containers and use them another time?

When we attend an event where food is served, do we dispose of our items in the appropriate container(s)? Do we put ONLY recycling items in the recycling container and landfill items in the Landfill container? Or do we discard our garbage indiscriminately? Remember, landfill items put into a Recycling container contaminates the entire container. All the contents in the Recycle container have to go to landfill. When that happens in our enclosures in our Mutual, the Mutual is charged extra.

Reducing our wardrobes: 

When we have an item of clothing we no longer need or want, do we donate it to a used clothing shop or do we throw it into a landfill container? There are people who like to be thrifty and/or cannot afford to purchase new clothing.  Such people feel it a blessing to have good useable clothing items to wear.

When we no longer need/want an electrical appliance:
when the earth matters to us
We’ve practiced “out of sight, out of mind” for far too long, it’s time we showed our earth matters to us

If the item has an electrical cord, do we contact Rapid Recycle at 925-671-8008 and make an appointment to have the item picked up in front of our manor or do we throw it into a landfill container? Even though the item may no longer work, it probably contains useful parts.

When batteries no longer work:

Do we take batteries that no longer work up to MOD and put them into the used battery container there? According to information on the Internet, “When thrown in the household trash, batteries end up in landfills. As the battery casing corrodes, chemicals leach into the soil and make their way into our water supply. Eventually, they reach the ocean. … According to Battery University, lithium can cause landfill fires that can burn underground for years.

There’s nothing new about the importance, or the ease of, implementing these practices. They are easy to apply when we keep them in mind. They are urgently vital…when Our Earth Matters to Us!

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, Dec. 23, 2020.  Email Dale Harrington at

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

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

“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 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

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

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

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.


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