Compassionate people have no shortage of outrage provoking events this week. I feel sorrow at Trump's decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement, even though I felt that, as with most climate agreements, it was too little, too late. Still, as my German friend points out, it was a treaty with 200 nations agreeing to specific actions, and that was no small thing.
So, for those of us feeling despair, let's remind ourselves of actions that we can take that will help the planet. We know what to do, right? Reduce, reuse, recycle. Here are some ways to do that:
--If we're feeling despair because we know the power of large groups, let's remember that an international treaty is not the only way to harness that power. We can join a local group that works on these issues. We can give money to groups that work to save the planet. The poet Matthea Harvey asked her ecologist sister for her recommendations for some of the most effective groups:
--Union for Concerned Scientists (which does a lot of policy work and tries to get the government to take scientific information on board)
--Environmental Defense Fund (which does a lot of climate change work)
--World Resources Institute (which does a lot of forest conservation and climate change work)
--Conservation International (where she works)
--It's amazing how many plastic bottles end up in the trash, and then in waterways and washing up on beaches. Buy a reusable bottle, and fill it with water from your tap. Most of us have perfectly acceptable tap water, and the water that comes in those small bottles is likely from a tap from a far away state. If you don't like the taste of the water that comes from your tap, let it sit in a pitcher overnight, or figure out a way to filter it, if necessary.
--Similarly, lots of plastic bags end up in the trash. You could bring your own bags to the grocery store. Even if you like those plastic bags, which I understand, you could bring those and get several shopping trips out of them.
--Buy items that come with less packaging if possible.
--Before you buy, ask yourself if you really need the item. I try to check out more books from the library, for example.
--Every item that goes into your trash can is likely going to sit in the earth for a long time. Most of us know that landfills don't let items decompose. Try to put less stuff in the trash can.
--My grandmother buried her food scraps, which led to the most rich soil I've ever seen. Even when she no longer needed it for the garden she could no longer create, she did that. We can compost in any number of ways. For example, I often put my cut flower arrangements out in the yard to finish decomposing--no digging necessary.
--If we don't want to get our hands in the dirt that way, we could plant. I find it very healing to plant things, especially if they're fairly independent plants who won't need me after the first few weeks.
--Think about the ways that we use electricity and water--can we use less? Let's start with basics: turn off the lights, turn off TVs that no one is watching, turn off computers when we're not using them. Don't let the water run when you brush your teeth. Take shorter showers. The hardcore among us already do this: no need to flush the toilet after every use (if it's yellow, let it mellow; if it's brown, flush it down). If no one's going to be home for hours, do you need to cool/heat the house as if people are there?
--If we own our houses, we could think of ways to make them more energy efficient. Now might be the time to invest in solar panels. We could install water saving shower heads and toilets. If we need to replace our water heaters or appliances, we can get the most energy efficient, instead of the cheapest, if we are blessed with enough money.
--In everything we do, we should be aware of our carbon footprint. Can we combine car trips? Most of us drive alone in cars that pollute, even if they're hybrid vehicles. Use them less. Can we eat less meat? Cattle production leads to more methane in the atmosphere, which contributes to global warming. The next time you're on a packed airplane, rejoice: your carbon footprint is lighter.
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