Praying About Climate Change

“Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?” sang Janis Joplin. And if not a Mercedes Benz, perhaps an end to climate change? Better yet, how about restoration of Earth’s air, water, and land to a time prior to the Industrial Revolution? “Dear God, now that we know that dilution is not the solution to pollution, please give us a second chance to make amends. We’ll do better. Promise.”
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We all pray for things, or at least 83% of us pray according to a recent survey. The statistics on prayer are interesting, and in some cases, amusing. The interesting: 31% of Americans pray multiple times a day, and the vast majority of people who pray believe some of their prayers get answered. The amusing: only 12% pray for politicians and 5% pray for things God would not approve of. I believe in prayer. It is good for the soul, soothes the worried mind, quiets the noise and helps us focus attention on life’s priorities.

There’s so much to pray for. We need to pray for our politicians, particularly the climate deniers who fail to “see the light”, as they negotiate climate change policies in the coming year.  We need to pray for the island dwelling peoples who are the first to experience the wrath of climate change as rising sea level washes away their homelands. We need to pray for farmers, particularly those in drought stricken areas around the world, as their crops and livestock struggle with hotter temperatures and less moisture. And we need to pray for humanity, that we figure out how to work together as one global nation to mitigate and adapt to climate change.  Amen.

5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Say a prayer. Then go out and speak about climate change.  Check out this resource on communicating about climate change from Columbia University’s The Earth Institute. And if you want to know what you’re praying to avoid, check out GlobalWeirding.

Climate Change IS Paradise Lost

“Welcome to paradise” chimed the friendly Sanibel Island Floridian dressed in Santa Claus shirt and khaki shorts as I remarked about having just arrived hours earlier from Upstate New York. It sure did feel like paradise after having braved freezing rain and plane deicing earlier in the day at Albany Airport. I looked around at the tanned people in Christmas-themed shorts and sandals moving about at the Captiva Island Luminary Festival and confirmed to myself that this moment in time was indeed paradise-like.IMG_4733

Paradise is temporary, fleeting, and always a state of mind. What makes for beautiful sub-tropical island conditions on a warm December evening are long gone in the hazy, hot, humid days of summer. Conversely, the bitter cold winters of Northern New York are a distant memory during the lovely summer days of recreating in the Adirondacks. Paradise is also a product of awareness. I was certainly aware that walking in sandals, shorts, and a short-sleeve shirt in 75 degree weather was much more pleasant than plodding through ice and snow with five layers on.

I came down to this sub-tropical paradise to present a session on teaching climate change through children’s literature.  The American Reading Forum, the organizer for this conference, holds their annual conference in Sanibel for educators interested in promoting literacy. Of course, there is some interest in just escaping the early winter doldrums for a short brief stretch of white sands, seafood,……but the main focus is to help people help others to read better. After all, learning to read is the key to reading to learn.

My visit to Paradise ended on Friday with the conclusion of my presentation. My wife and I packed our bags and with a little tinge of sadness, headed to the airport for the flight back to New York. We arrived at our home a long ten hours later to 15 degrees Fahrenheit and 18 inches of snow and ice.  Tired and sore from sitting, we widened a snow path to our back door and lugged our possessions into the house.  The next morning I headed at sunrise to SUNY Plattsburgh for fall graduation (Talk about being busy). Along the drive I rediscovered paradise in the winter wonderland landscape I drove through.

IMG_4837I was reminded during the drive north to Plattsburgh that paradise is being present in the Earth’s beauty. Whether one lives in Sanibel, Florida, Warrensburg, New York, or Akron, Ohio, paradise is there if you look for it. At least it is for the time being. Scientists have warned us that climate change threatens our entire biosphere, and with it, our sense of paradise.  We can not afford to lose paradise, which means we’ll need a well-educated populace to make good decisions regarding climate change. Decisions on who to vote for in elections, what types of food to eat, how to reduce energy use, etc.  We can save paradise. We must save paradise.


5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Margaret Mead reminded us to “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” If you want to change the world by making a difference in the climate change battle, check out The Climate Mobilization and consider taking the pledge.

Fighting Climate Change Is A Moral Imperative

Scenario One: The sketchy rental down the street is a crack house. You’ve seen the steady stream of users enter and leave the house at all hours of the night, and a close friend told you he knows an addict who gets drugs from the house. What do you do in this situation? Call the police or hope things get better? Scenario Two: You see your colleague at work drinking on the job. After denying she did anything wrong, she breaks down in tears and confides in you that her marriage is crumbling and her “morning pick-me-up” helps get her through the day. What do you do? Let Human Resources know what’s happening, or ignore things and hope your colleague gets better?
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Doing what’s right, the moral imperative, is not always simple or pleasant. In the two scenarios above, the best thing to do is promptly inform those in power so that they can do something about the problem. The crack house infects communities and ravages lives, and an alcoholic hurts themselves and those around them. There is no waiting or hoping for things to improve—a closed crack house and a colleague getting necessary support and services require immediate action. But what about problems that are much broader, impactful, and long-range? Problems that literally threaten life on this planet?

Scenario Three: Scientists and politicians worldwide convene on December 10, 2014 at the World Climate Summit in Lima, Peru, to lay the foundation for a sweeping climate change agreement set to be developed in Paris next year–an agreement that demands action beginning in 2020. However, you know from scientists’ reports that waiting till 2020 to begin targeting reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will lead to an average 3.6-degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature within 30 years. What are you going to do with that knowledge?  Worse yet, you know that if we fail to reach agreement in Paris, we could be looking at a ten degrees Fahrenheit hotter world by 2100. Scientists know this. We all know this. And this is not a scenario but reality.

We can’t “hope” things will improve. Nor can we wait and see what happens. We have a moral imperative to act on behalf of the Earth’s climate. On behalf of our children’s children. On behalf of the multitudes of flora and fauna at risk in a hothouse planet. So, what will you do knowing that a 2020 target date for implementing a climate plan leads to a 3.6-degree Fahrenheit increase within 30 years and that having no agreement at all results in a 7-10 degree increase by the end of the century? This is the harsh, unforgiving reality of our changing climate. A reality that gets starker by the day. Fighting climate change is THE moral imperative of our time. So what are you willing to do, and do you feel a moral imperative to act?  If not, why not?


5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Willing to do more but need to better understand the science behind climate change?  Read this  free e-textbook from Stanford University.

Do Individual Actions Matter When Fighting Global Warming?

Below is a guest post from Quentin Prideaux, Climate Reality Leader and Partner at Alder Associates.

Assuming for the moment that you are not the President, CEO of ExxonMobil, the Editor of the New York Times, or even an influential Sustainability professional, can your actions on global warming have any real effect?

There are two ways you can affect global warming – via your personal carbon footprint and through the influence you have on others.

Let’s consider your personal carbon footprint by turning it on its head. Imagine for a moment that you’d never been born (I was a ‘surprise’ baby so that’s easy for me). Once you are over the existential angst notice that your carbon footprint just dropped to zero. Is the planet saved now? No. Oh dear.Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 6.53.23 PM

If changing your own emissions doesn’t do it, maybe you can influence enough other people to make a difference? You are one of 7 billion people on earth, and maybe one of the 315 million Americans. Can you personally reach enough of them to turn round global warming? No. Oh double-dear.

Does this mean that personal action is pointless? Absolutely not. Every single thing that mankind has ever done, is doing, and will ever do is done by individuals. There are no aliens running the planet (really). There is no “them”. It’s us.

The link between a seemingly ineffectual individual and all of humanity is that all the individual actions *do* add up. From action chaotic ripples of outcomes are created. This is the ‘butterfly effect’ of personal change – unknown and unforeseen consequences occur far from the small initiating action. Your use of LEDs not only reduces your use of dirty coal, your lights are seen by others who may try them out. And because you purchased LED bulbs more are manufactured, reducing their price, increasing sales. Tipping points are passed. Influence spreads.

These butterfly effects won’t have a clear link to your desired result, but every single desired result does come from individual action.

And overtly influencing others works too. A climate presenter I know gave a presentation in a small town in Australia, and someone came up to her afterwards to discuss the issue at length. That person was an MP. Who later voted for carbon legislation. That passed by one vote.

This September 400,000 individuals went for a walk in New York holding banners. Just so others could see how many cared so much about global warming. It was a very visible crowd with a very visible effect. Made up of individuals who acted.

Personal action does matter. It is the only thing that can matter. Through the butterfly effect, through direct impact, through politics, commerce, social networks, houses of worship, institutions, schools, colleges and more. Gradually the impossible becomes the inevitable. Just like it did for female suffrage, civil rights, ending the cold war, legislating acid rain, banning DDT, The Montreal Protocol, and more.

It starts and ends with personal action. With us. With you.

Own Fossil Fuels, Own Global Warming

“If fiduciaries own fossil fuels, they own global warming…” writes Green Alpha Advisors’ Garvin Jabusch in “The Economic Case for Divesting From Fossil Fuels.”  Think about that for a second. Fiduciaries hold assets to benefit others, but if those monies are invested in fossil fuel companies, they are directly contributing to global warming. Of course the same applies to you and me.  If we hold assets in gas, oil, or coal companies, we too have invested in global warming. Which is why divestment from fossil fuel corporations matters so much to battling climate change.Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 2.32.50 PM

Jabusch highlights ten reasons for divestment from fossil fuels.

  1. Fossil fuels have the capacity to threaten basic systems.
  2. Fossil fuel assets present asset abandonment risk.
  3. Renewables are becoming too competitive for fossil fuels.
  4. Fossil fuel firms are beginning to have to pay for their externalities.
  5. Fossil fuels are likely to face carbon taxes.
  6. Fossil fuels will soon face diminishing governmental subsidies and benefits.
  7. There is growing global institutional belief that transition to renewables solves climate AND economy.
  8. Fossil fuels are the ultimate non-circular: they’re completely consumed upon first use, so more primary source extraction is required.
  9. Distributed renewable energy grid is more secure than traditional hub and spoke systems, even those powered by domestic fossil fuels.
  10. Renewables will counter fossil fuels’ endless ‘boom and bust’ economic cycles.

Just imagine if every individual and organization pulled their investments from fossil fuel companies. What would happen to those corporations if they lacked the resources to buy policies and misinform the public? And how would the renewable energy sector benefit by the influx of new monies to fund their ever-growing industry, creating more and more jobs in the process? Would the small yet vocal group of climate denying state and national leaders take notice and reframe their message to acknowledge and tackle climate change?  I think so. It all starts with you and me. We can do this!


5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Pull out those retirement and equity account statements and determine if any holdings are in fossil fuel equities. If you’re in an energy ETF, odds are you’re in the big oil, gas, and coal companies. Move your monies out of the fossil fuel companies and into socially responsible investments. Speak about divestment from fossil fuels with your local non-profit agencies, higher education institutions, and government agencies. Learn more about divestment at Fossil Free.


I’m Not A Scientist

“I’m not a scientist” is the flip response you’ll get from some of our most politically powerful state governors and D.C. politicians these days when you ask them what they think about climate change.  Some will even entertain you with the notion that remote island volcanoes are the source of all those nasty greenhouse gases (I’m not kidding). It’s hysterically funny until you realize these folks are minding the store like ten-year olds in charge of the candy section at Wal-Mart. One politician is likely to be our next chairman of the Senate’s Environmental and Public Works Committee. The other is tagged to head the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.  Holy smokes!  You can’t make this stuff up. This is something you’d expect to see on Netflix, not in real life! You can only laugh and hope sanity eventually prevails.Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 12.59.19 PM

Meanwhile, I’m thinking that with a few modifications, the “I’m not a scientist” line has lots of potential. At the very least it would allow me to shirk my responsibilities or hide my ignorance. The possibilities are endless. For example, if my doctor asks why my cholesterol is so high, and am I following a heart-healthy diet, with indignation I’ll respond, “How am I supposed to know? I’m not a nutritionist.” Or if my brother asks if I emailed that important fantasy football file, I could respond, “How the hell do I know?  I’m not a computer!” Yup, from now on I will use some derivative of “I’m not a scientist” in response to questions I either 1) don’t have the answer to, or 2) don’t want to admit I know the answer to.

In all seriousness, I’ve come to the conclusion we will see little to no movement on climate issues for the next two years at the national government level. President Obama will use executive privilege to do what he can to battle climate change, but he’ll be fighting an entrenched House and Senate unwilling to move from a fossil fuel-supported base. Climate victories will be ones driven by grass-roots efforts, local communities, and some forward-thinking state governments. Things will change at the national level only when enough people demand action. And with voter turnouts at midterms hovering around 36%, we’ve got work to do.


5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Margaret Mead reminded us to “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” If you want to change the world by making a difference in the climate change battle, check out The Climate Mobilization and consider taking the pledge.

Don’t Worry About Climate Change

Worrying only makes the problem worse, and in too many cases, leads to a sense of hopelessness and inaction. Psychologists have learned humans do less when the magnitude of a problem seems too great to solve. Whether one considers contributing money to fight starvation or having difficult climate change conversations with others, we’re more apt to make the effort if we filter out the magnitude of the problem. Having a “What can little ol’ me do to make a difference in this HUGE problem” leads to inaction. And inaction is something the climate can not afford right now.Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 8.11.40 AM

I’ve often wondered why we aren’t doing more to fight climate change. Why our leaders fail to agree on measures recommended by the IPCC to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and why we forget to do the small things in our daily lives to reduce our carbon footprints. I guess we should blame our brains for part of the problem. More specifically, our sense of efficacy, or lack thereof, to battle big issues such as climate change. Our emotions to do good are overridden by the magnitude of the seemingly insurmountable problem.

NPR Morning Edition’s Shankar Vedantam covered the fascinating work of psychologist Paul Slovic illustrating what I’ll term the hopeless factor. He looked at how people’s willingness to donate resources to help a starving young girl were cut in half after they became aware of the millions of others suffering starvation. In other words, they were much less willing to solve the starving young girl problem when they understood the scope of the global starvation problem.

Climate change is a really, really big problem. No question. But we must step out of this “woe is me” mindset if we hope to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Sitting on our hands and ignoring climate change as sea level rises, oceans acidify, ice caps and glaciers melt, droughts and severe storms increase in intensity, and all other climate change nasties is not good for our planet’s future. So instead of worrying, do something for the climate and be happy about it. Play Bobby McFerrin’s song, Don’t Worry be Happy to get the proper mindset. And if McFerrin can’t buoy your spirits and climate change efforts, try Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds song–“Don’t worry about a thing cause every little thing gonna be all right.”

Whatever your song choice, believe in your ability to make a difference–regardless how big or small the act. Consider the adaptation of Loren Eisely’s The Star Thrower:   A little girl was picking up starfish stranded on the sand and throwing them back in the water at low tide when a man walked over and commented she was wasting her time. He waved his hand towards the beach and said, “Look at all these thousands of starfish. There are just too many to throw back in the water and save.” The little girl picked up a starfish, threw it in the water, and said to the man, “I made a difference for that one.”  We can do this.


5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Check out The Climate Mobilization and consider joining. Significant efforts in this flattened world are more likely to happen through grass roots campaigns than through politics.  Join a movement and get happy about your involvement.







Where’s the Justice with Climate Change?

Ain’t no use as I can see

In sittin’ underneath a tree

An’ growlin’ that your luck is bad,

An’ that your life is extry sad;

Your life ain’t sadder than your neighbor’s

Nor any harder are your labors;

It rains on him the same as you,

An’ he has work he hates to do;

An’ he gits tired an’ he gits cross,

An’ he has trouble with the boss;

You take his whole life, through an’ through,

Why, he’s no better off than you. 

So reads part of a 1917 poem, Hard Luck, by syndicated columnist Edgar Albert Guest who reminded early 20th Century Americans they were more similar than different in life’s travails and struggles, and that attitudes could cloud judgments of one’s lot in life. i.e. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Sadly, the game has changed and last century’s rules no longer apply in the flattened, unjust world of 21st Century Hothouse Earth. The grass is now indeed greener on some sides of the fence.Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 2.31.34 PM

Climate injustice is real and terribly unfair for vulnerable indigenous people threatened by rising sea levels, chaotic and unpredictable rainy seasons, desertification, loss of habitat, and so on. We know what’s happening in the “threatened small island states” of the Maldives, Tonga, and Micronesia–ocean waters lap at low-lying shores imperiling homelands and rich cultural histories. Many will become climate change refugees seeking shelter in years to come. The same holds for inland sustenance farmers who can no longer rely on predictable rainy and dry seasons, but instead, hope and pray for relief from declining crop yields.

How do we restore climate justice? How do we help those who contributed so little to the climate change problem but who stand to lose so much in a warming earth? Can we even restore justice? And if not, who is writing the agreements that will protect the millions of climate change injustice victims?  We need a plan now while there’s still time. Climate change won’t wait for us to act.

Edgar A. Guest, Just Folks (Chicago: Reilly & Lee, 1917), p. 26-27. PS 3513 U45J77 1917 c. 1 ROBA


5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Go to Carl’s Green Ideas for great strategies on reducing your carbon footprint and other environmentally conscious actions.

Eight Climate Leadership Steps To Fight Climate Change

Can the climate change fight be won? And if so, what climate leadership steps must we take to grow an army of supporters willing to take action? To access necessary resources and create a strategic plan that offers hope and solutions to a complex problem? To change things for the better? It is not easy, but there are proven models for change. My favorite is Dr. John Kotter’s Eight Steps of Change. I’ve successfully used Kotter’s model in implementing educational change, and it certainly can work for fighting climate change.

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Step 1: Increase Urgency. People have to feel the urgency, and, in the case of climate change, dread the outcomes if things stay status quo. Are people worried about climate change and willing to take action, or are they too complacent or frightened to act? How do we increase urgency without overwhelming people?

Step 2: Build the Guiding Team. Change requires teamwork. Do you have a team to work with? Sierra Club? Climate Reality Project? A local support network? The notion of Spiderman or Superwoman saving the world is a fairy tale. Fighting climate change and the fossil fuel industry requires teamwork, sweat, grit and hard work.

Step 3: Get the Vision Right. Sustained efforts require a destination. A benchmark, capstone, endpoint, something understood by all. What is the vision for fighting climate change? A 2-degree Celsius warmer world? 1.5-degree Celsius? We need to know where we want to be so we know when we’ve gotten there. Stephen Covey captures this concept beautifully in Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind.

Step 4: Communicate for Buy-In. Clear, concise, heart-felt communications are essential. Confusion is the enemy. The fossil fuel industry and climate deniers know this all too well–which is why they sow seeds of doubt in various media. We must be impeccable and impassioned with our words if we hope to have others join us to fight climate change.

Step 5: Empower Action. Obstacles interrupt change through distraction, disorientation, and frustration. Leadership requires being aware of potential barriers and planning accordingly. We cannot afford to lose team members or momentum due to poor logistical planning.

Step 6: Create Short-Term Wins. There’s nothing like success to motivate and uplift. Climate change leaders look for the “low-hanging fruit” and celebrate all successes in the march towards climate restoration. Celebration is essential to sustaining the change effort.

Step 7: Don’t Let Up. Fatigue, frustration, fear, or losing the sense of urgency are hazards in any major change effort. Great leaders know this and fight doubly hard when things get difficult. I used to tell my cross-country ski team that races are won on the uphills and in the last kilometer. The same rule applies for major change efforts.

Step 8: Make Change Stick. When we inevitably win this climate change battle (and we will win), we need to be certain our efforts “stick.” Policies, protocols, culture, habits . . . all need to be put in place that ensure we never, ever place Earth in a tenuous position again.

Fighting climate change will require a global commitment led by millions of leaders at the international, national, state, regional, and local levels. Climate leaders who understand and use effective change models can ease the struggle.


5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Winter is approaching and with the falling leaves come falling temperatures. This year, reduce your fuel consumption and carbon footprint by lowering your nighttime temperature to 58 degrees Fahrenheit and daytime temps to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. 58 degrees Fahrenheit sounds chilly, but trust me, a few extra blankets makes all the difference. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, turning your thermostat down 10 degrees Fahrenheit for eight hours will save 10-15% on your heating bills.

Carbon Footprints and Random Climate Change Musings

There is no climate change theme this morning, just random thoughts from another week of life on this precious planet. If you are a friend or family member, you know climate change is always on my mind. I don’t perseverate or wring my hands on the issue, but I do try to figure out ways to help solve the problem. One strategy is getting the message out to others. Sometimes I unintentionally offend people when I fold in the politics of climate change, but I learned long ago that it’s best to tell people what they need to know rather than what they’d like to hear. At all times I focus on information, hope, and action. Without hope, there is no action.Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 7.38.52 AM

39.9 tons of carbon. That’s how much carbon I release each year according to a carbon footprint calculator I found on the Internet. My “contributions” to atmospheric carbon levels equates to 80,000 pounds of carbon. I’m not pleased with the number, even though the site says I’m 30.4% better than the average person in Warrensburg, NY. Hmmm. There are things my wife and I can work on, but overall, we do live simply. We keep our heat low in the winter and do not use air conditioning in the summer. We rarely, rarely eat beef, and try to buy local produce whenever possible. I know my car is too big. I have a mid-sized sedan that gets only 27 miles per gallon. That’s a problem. I also commute 28 miles a day and take at least one roundtrip flight each year. Our house could be smaller, also. I can and will do better.

Earlier this week one of my climate reality leader friends posted a wonderful animated poem with lovely background music. I shared it on my Facebook page and sent it to friends and family. They “liked” it. My daughter asked if I would put it in my blog, and so here it is: Shoulders by Shane Koyczan. It is truly beautiful. Caution–there is an “F” bombed dropped in for good measure. Think of the title, “Shoulders”, and you’ll figure out the poet’s message.

I’m still getting zucchini from the garden. Seriously. It’s mid-October and we have not had a hard freeze yet. I live in the Adirondacks, and normally by this time the garden would be bare of any vegetation. Not this year. I’ve noticed over the past 25 years that the gardening  season starts earlier and ends later. I’ll call it climate change. It’s nice to get veggies out of your zone 4 garden in mid-October, but with that also come the mosquitos, ticks, and no-see-ums which enjoy the relatively balmy weather of a warmer climate. I’m not even going to get into the rising sea levels, ocean acidification…. that also come with a warmer climate. I yearn for the hard freezes of late September.

And so it goes. Till next week.

5-Minute Climate Change Mitigation Action Item for the Week:

Use this carbon footprint calculator to learn how many tons of carbon you and your family members release into the atmosphere each year. Then discover and act on ways to reduce that imprint.