“Somebody Should Do Something About It”

As greenhouse gasses decrease, earth’s health with increase

By Jim Ware

If you are at all concerned about climate change, you have, like me, frequently uttered the phrase, “Somebody should do something about it.” 

Several years ago, a good friend commented, “One day I woke up and realized, ‘I am someone.'” Then he added, “That’s when I became an activist.”

When we talk about global climate change it often feels daunting. The problem is so big and so complex. Impactful solutions appear limited to global corporations and national governments. The reality is our actions matter, on a daily basis.  Our actions either compound or reduce the challenge of climate change.

Yes, your individual actions may seem minuscule, but if a butterfly flapping its wings in Shanghai can contribute to a thunderstorm in New York City, our individual actions, in combination with those of millions of other like-minded individuals, will certainly make a difference.

Project Drawdown

Several years ago, Paul Hawken convened a brainstorming session.  Hawken is an environmentalist, thought leader and activist. He asked the assembled experts what actions individuals could take to avoid “our becoming Venus.”  The result became known as Project Drawdown.  Its mission is to drawdown the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted annually into the atmosphere.  Its goal is reach a year when greenhouse gas emissions would peak and gradually decline.

Some of the Drawdown initiatives are indeed of such a scale that only multinational corporations can achieve them. However, Hawken recently told New York Times columnist David Bornstein, “There’s a belief that there’re only a few things individuals can do beyond recycling, riding a bike and eating less meat. In fact, there’s an extraordinary diversity of solutions to global warming that are at hand, being implemented and scaling.”

Two of Project Drawdown’s top four solutions are things we as individuals can do, on our own, every day.

Project Drawdown – Solution 3

Solution number 3 is reducing food waste. In the United States alone we throw away over 133 billion pounds of food every year. This waste is close to one-third of all the food we produce. Such wasted food production consumes energy and produces greenhouse gasses. It takes energy to grow crops, feed animals, process both and transport food from the farm to our tables. We are wasting a full third of the energy we use to produce, transport and consume food. That wasted food accounts for approximately eight percent (8%) of global emissions!

Farmers Market – Local produce is fresher

One of the biggest reasons for such waste is much of the produce we buy is already several weeks old when it reaches store shelves. Food travels long distances to reach the urban markets where most people live. California lettuce is shipped to New York, Boston and Philadelphia.  Washington apples find their way to Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.  Georgia peaches travel west, California tomatoes travel east. You get the picture.

Farm to Table

“Farm to table” is a concept gaining popularity and growing in practice. It generally means buying and consuming local food crops. Crops that have traveled far shorter distances are much fresher when you purchase them. Rossmoor’s Farmers’ Market is a perfect example. The number of urban farms is also increasing. Such farms are typically located much closer to the vast majority of consumers, again reducing both the time and the cost of moving the produce from farm to table.

Even more intriguing, many of these urban farms are indoors. Nor are they traditional greenhouses. For example, a converted steel mill on the south side of Chicago is now an organic soap factory. The renovation included a 75,000 square-foot enclosed rooftop greenhouse.  The greenhouse produces over one million pounds of fresh, pesticide-free leafy green vegetables a year. The greenhouse is actually an automated slow-moving conveyor belt. It begins with freshly-planted seeds at one end of the building and delivers fully-grown lettuce or other veggies to the other end about 30 days later.

Two current Walnut Creek City Council members spoke at Rossmoor during Earth Awareness Week last April. They showed several photographs of a vertical conveyor belt about five stories high that produces hydroponically-grown lettuce and other greens. The most exciting aspect of these indoor “farms” is the food grown this way uses 95 percent less water than traditional “dirt” farms and requires no pesticides because the buildings are kept sterile.

Hydoponic Lettuce
Project Drawdown – Solution 4

Project Drawdown’s other top solution that we can individually implement is moving to a more plant-based diet. That may be a more challenging kind of behavioral change than buying locally-grown fruits and vegetables, but it can have an even bigger impact. A new analysis, published in Science last June, reported meat and dairy production provides just 18 percent of calories and 37 percent of the protein consumed worldwide, but requires  83 percent of farmland and produces 60 percent of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Reducing the amount of meat and dairy products in your diet does not mean you have to become a vegan or give up meat altogether. However, as Hawken observes, “Levels of protein that are healthier for you are healthier for the planet and atmosphere, too.”

Reversing global climate change will take far more than individual actions like the two I’ve described here. But every step we take in the right direction helps – especially if many of us take action. Remember, you are “someone;” you can do something about climate change right now.

For more information about Project Drawdown click here: https://www.drawdown.org

Courtesy of Rossmoor News, September 19, 2018.  Email Jim Ware at jim@jimware.com

One thought on ““Somebody Should Do Something About It””

  1. I’m glad to see mention on the SR website that moving to a plant-based diet is an important action to be taken to help curb climate change. At some Sustainable Rossmoor gatherings, vegetarians have been treated as an anomaly or an annoyance. At other environmental gatherings I attend, only vegetarian or vegan options are shared – they can be delicious and unaccompanied by any sense of deprivation.

    In California, we have such a wide choice of fresh fruits and vegetables. I encourage folks to try reducing (maybe little-by-little) not just meat, but all animal products. Consuming poultry and seafood also accelerates climate change, often almost as much as meat. Nuts, seeds, legumes, and beans are perfectly fine sources of protein. There are nut cheeses and milk. Adults require far less protein than most think. Bay Area restaurants are very flexible too, even the Creekside Grill. Try it. It can often improve your health as well.

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