As pretty much everyone who isn’t utterly deluded about Daughter-Wife’s purported “goodness” and “influence” foresaw, and after trying to gin up fake suspense (will he ever realize that this is NOT A FUCKING TRASH TV REALITY SHOW?), so-called President Trump withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord yesterday.
So what do we do now?
Step 1: States (and counties and cities) Leading the Way
What seemed like mere moments after Trump’s announcement, the governors of New York, Washington state, and California had an announcement of their own: the formation of the US Climate Alliance (which already has its own Wikipedia page!). Member states pledge to uphold the Paris Accord targets the US set for itself (another one of Trump’s lies), regardless of what the federal government does.
“What will that accomplish?” you might ask,
Well, the three founding states comprise 20% of the US economy, so probably quite a bit, particularly considering that when it comes to things like fuel economy standards, California holds quite a bit of leverage, seeing as it’s also the most populous state.
By yesterday evening, seven more states pledged their support as well, and at least one more is on deck.
Meanwhile, the mayors of 105 cities (and counting) have also pledged to uphold Paris Accord standards. State pre-emption could become an issue for some of them, which is why the Campaign to Defend Local Solutions that I wrote about earlier this year also remains an important project.
But if the feds refuse to lead, states and cities will step into the breach.
Step 2: Take Direct Action
IMPORTANT CAVEAT: INDIVIDUAL ACTION ALONE CANNOT STOP CLIMATE CHANGE.
This is a major global problem, and no matter how much you recycle or walk instead of driving, you can’t fix it on your own. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
Start by checking the lists. Is your state part of the Alliance? Yes? Send your governor a nice note – or make a call – to thank him or her. No? Start lobbying your state legislators. Is your city part of the mayors’ group? Yes? Thank your mayor and city council. No? Start lobbying.
Then start assessing changes you can make in your own life.
Does your state, county, or city offer financial support (rebates, tax incentives) for greening your residence (rain barrels, solar installations, tree planting, rain gardens, green roofs, energy audits, insulating your house, upgrading your storm windows, air sealing)? Is there a local solar co-op you can join that will allow you to rent your solar installation rather than having to buy?
“But I rent!”
So do your research to find out what’s available locally, talk with the other tenants in your building, and put in a formal request to your landlord.
And do what we all did in the 1970s – lower your thermostat a few degrees in the winter and put on a sweater and warm socks, open your windows on nice days rather than always being climate-controlled, and raise your thermostat a few degrees in the summer and install and use some ceiling fans.
See if wind or solar offsets are available from your local electrical utility, and if they are, sign up for them.
The next time you’re looking for a place to live, think about things like proximity to your work, proximity to public transportation, and the neighborhood’s Walkability Score. Be willing to sacrifice a little living space – or a little yard – in order to reduce your commute or increase the percentage of your daily errands you can accomplish on foot, bus, subway, or bicycle.
Also think about how much space you really need and don’t overbuy/over-rent. And consider existing construction rather than new construction. Often, you’ll get a better-made house, condo, or apartment, where the infrastucture (roads, sewers, other tax-funded services) already exists.
The next time you buy or lease a car, get a hybrid. For your second car, get an electric vehicle. And think carefully about whether you REALLY need that second vehicle.
The next time you’re changing jobs, consider the commute in your decision-making process. Ask about telecommuting – hell, ask your CURRENT job about telecommuting. All the cool companies are doing it.
Join a CSA or visit the weekly farmers’ market.When you’re at the grocery store, look at where the produce came from and think about what’s actually in season, and buy accordingly.
Dig up a small patch of your lawn and plant a few herbs and a tomato plant or two. Or get really ambitious and get rid of the lawn all together (Sarah Stein’s book Noah’s Garden provides excellent inspiration about how to do this).
“But I rent!”
So ask your landlord if it’s OK to plant a little garden. Or see if there’s a community garden nearby where you can get a small plot. Or plant a determinate tomato plant in a large pot on your balcony or porch.
Start composting your vegetable food scraps and yard waste. You *can* do this safely in a city that has a rat problem. I know this for a fact, because I have been for almost ten years. You can’t just have an open pile – you’ll need something like this – but you can totally do it. Seems like too much hassle? Many cities are now doing municipal composting – sometimes it’s just yard waste, but some collect food waste as well, or there are services like this one in many places, where they’ll even come pick up your scraps.
Get serious about recycling. First, double check your municipal standards. Many locations are accepting far more items for recycling than they might have a few years ago. Make the effort to take the soda can or the scrap paper or the cardboard TP roll to your bin rather than lazily dumping it in the trashcan. Bin’s too far away? Get a few more and put them around your house or office.
When you don’t want or need something anymore, whether it’s a shirt or a pot or a table or a smartphone, if it’s still usable, find a way to donate it or give it away. Don’t just toss it out. Hold a yard sale. Freecycle items through your neighborhood listserv or online community, or by putting them out on the curb (if that’s a thing in your neighborhood). Give the household goods to your niece who is just graduating from college and setting up her first apartment (we still have the coffee table we acquired that way about 25 years ago). Take the shirt to the local Dress For Success drop point. Take the pot to the local Goodwill. Take the table to the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. There are MULTITUDES of charities that will take used smartphones to give to soldiers or domestic violence victims or homeless people or sick kids or kids in developing countries or the elderly….you can actually choose your favorite/preferred group to help.
Likewise, before you buy a new shirt or a pot or a table or a smartphone, think carefully about whether you really need it. YOU DO NOT NEED THE LATEST IPHONE THE MINUTE IT COMES OUT. I know it FEELS like you do, but you don’t.
Stop drinking bottled water. Buy a Britta pitcher or a PUR faucet filter and a reusable bottle to carry with you.
Stock up in advance on LED bulbs for your lighting fixtures so the next time you need to replace a bulb, you have the correct ones you need on hand (because the exact right ones can sometimes be hard to find at the local Home Depot when the bulb has just burned out).
Pick one thing. Look for something in the list above – or the myriad lists online – that you’re not already doing, and commit to doing it.
“I’m going to talk to my HR department about the possibility of creating a telecommuting policy.”
“I’m going to walk into the next room – at home and at the office – to put my recycling in the bin rather than the trash.”
“I’m going to make a list of all the different types of lightbulbs all my fixtures use and stock up on LEDs.”
“I’m going to buy a cute reusable water bottle and start carrying it.”
Turning off the AC and opening the windows on a nice day won’t stop climate change, at least not all by itself. But since we can’t depend on our so-called national leaders to do the right thing, we’re going to need to rely on each other.
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