The Conservative Case For Carbon Dividends

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Dividends, Baby!

I love cash, and I’ll bet I’m not the only one! A group of smart, conservative Washington DC dudes have proposed a plan to discourage carbon emissions and get families paid about $2,000 per year.

The Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends would tax companies that produce carbon emissions (which leads to climate change and pollution) where it enters the economy (at the mine, the well or when it’s imported or exported). The tax would start at $40 per ton of carbon and increase over time.

Americans would receive dividends (payments) from the revenue, so an American family of four would receive a $2,000 check each year. The dividend is intended to help families supplement their income as the economy adjusts to the higher price of fossil fuels since gas and oil companies will pass the higher prices onto consumers. Eventually, renewable energy would become the more cost efficient option.

“We the People deserve to be compensated when others impose climate risks and emit heat-trapping gases into our shared atmosphere. The new ground rules make intuitive sense: the more one pollutes, the more one pays; the less one pollutes, the more one comes out ahead. This, for once, would tip the economic scales towards the interests of the little guy,” states the paper.

The International Monetary Fund agrees that a carbon tax is the best way to get energy prices right. The Citizens Climate Lobby supports a similar plan. These plans actually offer real solutions to climate change.

The plan reduces the need for regulations which the oil and gas companies will love. It encourages renewable energy investment and innovation. It puts money into American families pockets.

We’re Already Paying For Pollution and Climate Change

American families are already paying for the waste created by the oil and gas companies.

Outdoor air pollution is a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths. Drilling, smog and pollution trigger asthma. We pay for the effects of climate change when major storms (exacerbated by climate change) like hurricane Sandy cause major damage to our communities. We are already paying for this with higher taxes, higher insurance costs and medical bills. It’s time the fossil fuel companies started paying us back.

“Externalities like pollution are one of the classic forms of market failure, and Econ 101 says that this failure should be remedied through pollution taxes or tradable emissions permits that get the price right,” says Paul Krugman in the New York Times.

Subsidizing Energy

The International Monetary Fund says when you calculate externalities into the subsidies that energy companies already get, fossil fuels start to look a whole lot more expensive. Renewables that already receive federal subsidies (such as roof top solar panels and wind energy) start to sound a lot cheaper.

The federal government subsidizes most energy companies through tax credits and cash given to companies and individuals. Energy companies have gotten subsidies since 1916 and I doubt that’s ending any time soon.

Subsidies aren’t necessarily bad. Farmers get to deduct the cost of the fuel they use to run equipment. Homeowners can get tax credits for installing roof solar panels. Low income families can buy energy at a reduced price. Oil and gas companies get to write off the cost of manufacturing and exploration. It’s just a bunch of tax code.

Externalities like air pollution and climate change on the other hand are not as cut and dry. They’re not written into the tax code. Families pay for them indirectly through higher taxes and insurance bills. Which is why it’s about time that families get paid back for unnecessary health risks and climate change. It’s time for oil and gas companies to motivate toward efficiencies and to innovate in a greener direction.

A Call To Action

If you agree that it’s time for a carbon dividend and tax, contact your Senator and Representatives and ask them to bring up the plan in Congress.

This sounds hilarious to me, but you can actually tweet Congress. The part of me that still feels like a 21 year old college student thinks this is awesome! The conservative mom part of me wants to ask what this world is coming to when politicians send and receive messages in 140 characters or less on something called Twitter?

If you’re too old to tweet, call or email your representative.  I did all of the above. It took about 10 minutes. I wrote one quick email and copied and pasted that for all of my representatives, which probably saved a minute or two.

If you’re not sure who your representative is you can find out here.

Go now, and tweet your Congress person. Tell them you want your carbon dividends, please. Ask them nicely!

Update: Yesterday (3/17/17) Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21), Congressman Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), and Congressman Ryan Costello (PA06) and 14 other House Republicans released the “Republican Climate Resolution” which outlines their commitment to protecting the environment and ending climate change. When you call, email or tweet Congress ask them to support the Republican Climate Resolution, too!

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Set Your Weapons Down

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Healing is Difficult

Sia has an album called “Healing is Difficult.” On the cover, those words are scratched into her face. When it comes to healing wounds and forgiving mistakes, I have to agree with her. It’s all difficult.

When I’ve done something wrong, I tend to be stubborn and defensive. I think that’s human nature. I don’t like to admit guilt, especially when my defense is that I was just doing the best I could. I really never meant any harm. I was mimicking what I’ve seen. Working on auto pilot.

I think a lot of people feel guilty and defensive about environmental issues like pollution, climate change and deforestation. It’s hard to look it right in the face, because we know we hold a part in it. We feel guilty, but it’s easier to get defensive than to listen and change. At least it is for me. Until a few years ago, I didn’t know what palm oil was and that it was in almost all processed food and that it’s leading to major deforestation and the near extinction of the orangutans that live in Indonesia and beyond.

Defensive Me

Hey! I didn’t know! It’s not my fault! I didn’t chop down those trees! I’m just doing my best here! Trying to raise my kids and be a good wife. I just want to be able to put on a bikini without bursting into tears. I don’t have time to fix the whole damn world, OK? I just want to get through the day without eating an entire chocolate cake. Is that too much to ask?!

That’s defensive me talking right there, I’ll call her Becki. Becki is pretty feisty, and she’s got her guard up. Becki’s always up for a fight. Unfortunately, she’s also not a great listener. She’s a little bitchy. She thrives in the dark, not in the light. (Becki, incidentally can be fun to hang out with in a bar… or not, depends on the night.)

The Light

Then there’s the part of me that is always reaching for the light. The part that’s a total sucker for my kids when they ask me to lay down next to them to snuggle before bed. OK, just for a minute! They won’t be little forever, and I’ll miss their warm little bodies snuggled up next to mine when they’re all grown up. The smell of their hair. I let God’s light in through them. My defenses come down. I say yes instead of no. I ask what can I do rather than what can I get.

Everyone’s Just Doing Their Best

I think we are all just doing the best with what we have now. I truly believe that. I don’t want my minivan to pollute the environment. I don’t want my burgers to contribute to climate change. I think when we hear these things we put on our metaphorical armor. We raise our weapons, ready to fight for our right to eat burgers and drive minivans! At least I do.

I think it’s time to put the armor down though. To admit guilt. To trust that we did the best we could. To forgive ourselves and each other for harm done. Maybe then we can heal some of the damage we’ve done and move forward in a new direction.

Forgiveness

I see a lot of hope in the environmental movement of today. The Montreal Protocol has been largely effective and the ozone layer is expected to heal over the next 50 years. Educating people on the health effects of smoking lowered the number of people who smoke cigarettes from 42% of adults in 1965 to 17% in 2014. So there’s hope that the same can be done for climate change.

Action is urgent. It requires us to be all in. I think that requires that we truly listen to each other. To scientists. To start real conversations with energy companies. To ask politicians to put their metaphorical weapons down. To forgive past mistakes. To decide to move forward together in a new direction.

“Forgiving is not forgetting; its actually remembering–remembering and not using your right to hit back. It’s a second chance for a new beginning. And the remembering part is particularly important. Especially if you don’t want to repeat what happened.”
― Archbishop Desmond Tutu

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The End of Magical Snow?

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There’s some kind of magic that happens when my kids are in the snow. They can spend hours building igloos and throwing themselves down sledding hills. They forget about the iPads and video games. They don’t even ask. They cry when I call them in well after it’s way too dark to be playing outside and their little cheeks and fingers are red and frozen. They somehow don’t even feel cold. They just feel like they’re immersed in magic.

I feel that magic when I finally get to the top of the ski resort, when I finally get to ski. I love the quiet. Views all around. No cell phone reception. All I want is to take it all in and make it last longer. To get to go down one more run marveling at my seven year old snow ploughing happily down the hill. He has no fear. Just fun.

Then, the thought creeps in. It happens every year now. I tell the thought to go away, but it nags me and stays with me. So I let it in. Just for a few minutes and then you have to go, I tell the thought.

The thought is this. I can’t loose snow! I want to ski with my grand kids. I want to watch them snowplough down the mountain. I want to build igloos with them. But I know, that might not be the case. The snow season is getting shorter each year. Snow accumulation is beginning later and it’s melting earlier. There simply might not be enough snow to keep the ski resorts open.

As I write I have to resist the urge to insert facts and figures about climate change. I like data, I like proof. I like quoting smart people who say smart things, but I think the thing that changes hearts and minds is a feeling of injustice. That’s how I feel about climate change. It just isn’t right that our children might not have snow.

There is an injustice being done to the next generation and the generations thereafter. Climate change is the most important issue of our time. Nothing compares, but it’s hard to put a feeling to something you can’t see. It’s easy to feel outraged at sexism, racism, poverty or war. It can be captured on film. You can see it.

It’s much harder to see climate change. There’s no face to it.

So I’m asking that you put a face to climate change. Make it your son or daughters face. Your niece or nephew. Your grand children. Picture them in magical snow. Rosy cheeked and smiling. Make that the face of climate change. Maybe if we have a face to go with the facts, then we can make progress.

I have no solutions today. Just thoughts of magical snow.

“It is often easier to become outraged by injustice half a world away than by oppression and discrimination half a block from home.”

– Carl T Rowan, American government official, journalist and author

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All Americans First

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The Power of Ideas

I became an American citizen in 2011 and it’s the only test I’ve ever enjoyed studying for. Maybe that’s why Trumps An America First Energy Plan is bugging me so much. It leaves a whole lot of Americans out. The America I know and love was built by millions of people who shared and developed different ideas and dreams about what America could look like. Any American energy plan that leaves out renewable energy misses out on what really makes America great, and that’s a diversity of ideas, jobs and people. We use enough energy to justify developing all ideas related to energy, energy efficiency and sustainability.

The plan is short on details, but it leans heavily toward the idea that increasing fossil fuel production will create greater prosperity for Americans and that protecting the environment is holding Americans and businesses back. It focuses on developing shale, oil and natural gas. It does not mention renewable energy at all.

It’s hard to argue against ideas, but I’ll try.

Job Killers

“A brighter future depends on energy policies that stimulate our economy, ensure our security, and protect our health.”

The idea here is that developing fossil fuel production will stimulate the economy but renewable energy will not. That’s not true.

“When renewables start to displace fossil fuels, the direct comparison suggests a net gain, which is confirmed by a look at the broader economy. Filling up a car’s gas tank and use of electricity in a fossil-fuel- or nuclear-based power grid do not generate many jobs, either in the energy sector or among its suppliers. These sectors generate far fewer jobs than average consumption spending does. By contrast, renewables and investment in energy efficiency generate more jobs than demand for other goods and services,” according to the International Monetary Fund.

Real Jobs

I can’t actually quote anything from the plan regarding renewable energy or energy efficiency jobs because they are not mentioned in the plan, but the silence speaks for itself.

Energy job numbers are a total snooze but stay awake and just scan em! The point I’m trying to make with these numbers is that renewable energy and energy efficiency is already a large chunk of the energy jobs in the United States. Any realistic plan needs to include these workers and the contributions they make to America’s energy mix.

  • Energy Efficiency – 2.2 million Americans are employed, in whole or in part, in
    the design, installation, and manufacture of energy efficiency products and services.
  • Oil and Petroleum – almost 516,000 workers nationwide
  • Solar Jobs – Just under 374,000 individuals work, in whole or in part, for solar firms.
  • Wind farms –  102,000 workers
  • Natural Gas – 88,242 workers
  • Coal electrics generation and coal fuels –  160,119 jobs
  • Hydroelectric generation –  65,554 workers
  • Nuclear generation technologies – 68,176 workers
  • Bioenergy electric generation and biofuel sub-technologies – 112,642 workers
  • Corn ethanol fuels – 28,613 jobs
  • Other Biofuels (algal biofuel, syngas, bioheat blends, landfill gas, and advanced biofuels) –  22,504 workers

We Have a Ton of Oil!

Sound energy policy begins with the recognition that we have vast untapped domestic energy reserves right here in America.

There’s the idea that we are not tapping into the energy resources we already have, but the United States is already the worlds biggest oil producer. The US surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia’s oil and natural gas production in 2014. The largest oil and natural gas deposit ever found in the United States was discovered in Texas in 2016. So yes, we already do have a ton of domestic energy right here in America. From oil, natural gas, solar and wind energy. So lets recognize that…since we are already doing it!

Shale Oil and Oil Shale

We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own.

The US does have a whole lot of “shale oil” (AKA tight oil), making America more oil rich than Saudi Arabia. Unfortunately, shale oil is extracted through fracking. Fracking works by shooting water and sand into rock formations. The environmental impact is water contamination and earthquakes, and of course climate change from carbon emissions. Water contamination and fracking made earthquakes are real environmental bummers.

So yes, we do have a lot of untapped “shale oil,” but that oil doesn’t come without major environmental consequences. Plus, Americans are indirectly subsidizing these oil companies when they pay out of pocket for damage done to their homes through fracking earthquakes as well as polluted well water.

Then there’s “oil shale.” Yes, it’s different from “shale oil.” No, the America First Energy Plan does not specify if it means “shale oil” or “oil shale” which makes it even more ambiguous and ripe for misinterpretations.

“Even a moderate estimate of 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil from oil shale in the Green River Formation is three times greater than the proven oil reserves of Saudi Arabia,” according to the Oil Shale and Tar Sands Programmatic EIS Information Center.

That’s a lot of oil… but it’s never really that simple is it?

“Estimates vary, but turning oil shale into gasoline or diesel may lead to three or more times as many heat-trapping gas emissions than conventional oil,” according to the UCSUSA.org. “At present, oil shale is not a commercially viable product in most of the world, as the same processes that make it dirty also make it expensive.”

So yes, we have a ton of oil shale and shale oil, but they shouldn’t be lumped together. Neither will lead to energy independence or a sustainable future for our children. Neither is the key to a sound American energy policy.

“Natural” Gas

The America First Plan doesn’t say this, but I do know that there’s the mistaken idea that natural gas is a better choice for the environment. Maybe because it has the word “natural” in it? Despite the name “natural gas” it’s not necessarily any more or less natural than coal or oil. And yes, we have a ton of it, or at least enough to last about 93 years. Natural gas is made up mostly of methane, and methane is a greenhouse gas way more potent than carbon dioxide. Methane leaks during the extraction process, leading to more greenhouse gas emission.

So although natural gas releases less carbon dioxide than coal power plants, it’s not a better solution for the environment. So just disregard the word “natural” when you think about “natural” gas. It’s about as natural as all the other fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are really just ancient plants and animals that turned into “fossil” fuels over millions of years. They’re not unnatural, but they’re also not the great for the environment.

American Energy For All Americans

I agree with the idea that we need to get our energy from right here in the United States. We should be tapping into our resources. I just think we need a long term, sustainable plan that recognizes that fossil fuels are a great source of wealth and prosperity for many Americans, but also that fossil fuels are frying our planet.

In many ways, America itself is just an idea. People all over the world dream of coming to America. There’s room for all American’s ideas and dreams. My big idea is that my kids will have kids one day and they’ll talk about how lucky they are that our generation ended climate change and created a whole lot of prosperity for all Americans. My idea is that we can work out an energy plan that works for everyone. More about that soon… so until then, go outside!

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Turning Towards The Sun

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“US homes contribute one fifth of climate-change-causing-carbon-emissions,” according to the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Real Change

If there was a master plan for slowing climate change, reducing pollution and giving our children a fighting chance at an inhabitable earth, would you get on board? I certainly am not the master of this master plan, but I’m hoping to show you how you can be a part of it. Using solar power, solar storage and electric cars I think we have potential to make real change right inside our own homes and families. I’ll do my best to break it down for you here.

Homeowners

If You Own Your Roof

If you own your roof and it’s suitable for supporting solar panels (it has enough sun exposure, the roof is strong and new enough and there are no HOA restrictions etc) then you’ve probably already started considering solar panels. If you haven’t committed yet, I’m guessing you’re still working out how you’re going to pay for it.

Now stop reading and put your home address into Google’s Project Sunroof search bar. It’ll show you how much money you will save over 20 years by converting to solar. Plus, they’ll connect you to a bunch of solar companies.

Neat, right? Now keep reading.

Buy it outright – You can buy solar panels with cash which usually saves you the most money in the long run, but it requires an up front investment.  Plus you may qualify for a 30% federal tax credit on what you spend through 2019. Some states also offer incentives. Tax codes are complicated! Make sure to talk to a professional tax advisor before you make any decisions based on tax credits!

Finance it – You can buy the solar panels but finance the purchase. Some people finance it using a home equity line of credit or a solar loan. You pay back the loans principle and interest over time. You may qualify for the 30% tax credit even when you finance it. Again, complicated tax codes! Talk to a professional tax advisor!

Lease it – With a solar lease, you lease the solar panel system the same way you would lease a car. You basically pay for the system over a set period of time and you can choose how much money to put down. With a lease you do not qualify for the federal tax credit. It’s a bummer. Talk to a professional tax advisor!

Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) – With a PPA the solar company puts the solar panels on your property at no up front cost to you, but they own the panels. You pay a fixed monthly cost to the solar company, usually less than the electricity bill would be for the same amount of energy. At the end of the contract you can buy the panels at a discount or extend the contract. Since you don’t own the system, no tax credits for you! You get the drill… Talk to a tax advisor!

Things You Should Know

During the day solar panels use the sun to generate power (stop rolling your eyes, I knew that you know that already!) But did you know that without power storage (I’ll get to that in a minute) the power your panels generates needs to be used right away or sent back to the power company?

Sending power back to the power company for a credit is called net metering. Net metering means you only get billed for the amount of energy you buy from the power company minus what you sent back to the utility for a credit. If you use less sun energy than you produce you get a credit for what you send the utility. Most states allow net metering, but not all.

Power Storage

With solar panels, after the sun goes down the power comes from the electric company. If you’re already running your home on solar panels and you want to take it to the level, this is where power storage comes in.

Tesla’s PowerWall, Sonnen-batterie and  Orison Intelligent Power Storage System (Orison is coming soon) let you store the power generated but not immediately used. Power storage keeps you running green at night.

Green Tech Media estimates that home power storage will grow significantly over the next five years. As power storage becomes more main stream it will hopefully get cheaper. As of today’s writing, the entry level PowerWall costs about $7,000 installed. Sonnen Batteries list price is $5,950.

Renters

If You Don’t Own Your Roof

About half of residents can’t set up traditional roof solar panels because they are renting or living in condos. If this is you, community solar can be an option. Whether or not this will work for you largely depends on if there’s already a community project operating in your area, if they are still taking new members, and if the pricing and operation will work for your particular situation. Community solar is a broad term that can mean lots of things, but here are the basics:

Community solar farm – The program is set up like a co-op. A business runs a solar farm and members pay to receive power directly from that business. With this model the business can grow as it gets more members and the solar farm adds more panels. This is truly a local business and can be set up in more ways than I can cover here.

Utility Sponsored Model: You continue to buy power from your utility company, but they charge a premium for you to buy “green” solar or wind generated power from them. That’s all fine and good if you don’t mind paying more for the exact same service, but there’s actually no way for the utility to send you just renewable power. Once power goes into the grid, you can’t separate the “green” from the “brown”. So, in this care, you’re basically paying more for exactly the same thing you were getting before. Hmmm, good to know.

Check out the US Department of Energy’s Guide to Community Shared Solar for more comprehensive information. It seems there are still kinks to work out when it comes to community solar, but hopefully it will get better and easier to access within a few years as the market develops.

Using Your Solar Generated Electricity To Power Your Electric Car

“Collectively, cars and trucks account for nearly one-fifth of all US emissions.”

– Union of Concerned Scientists

Next up is powering your electric car or plug in hybrid. This is where it all comes together.

  • First – We power our homes with solar panels powered by the sun.
  • Second – We store the power we don’t use.
  • Third – We use that power to charge our cars and light our homes at night.

This may sound like something from The Jetsons (remember that old cartoon? Yeah, I’m really old!) but it’s actually just part of Elon Musks master plan for Tesla. If this whole renewable energy thing goes mainstream, then we can make an actual dent in climate change, decrease pollution and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. I tend to be skeptical on anything that sounds too good to be true, but on this one I’m definitely drinking the cool aid.

Other Random Things To Know

Photovoltaic (PV) – Sometimes you’ll hear the term photovoltaic or PV. Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic (PV) cells. The photovoltaic cells convert sunlight into electricity.

UtilitiesIndustrial sized solar farms and wind farms are launching all over the United States. The cost of electricity from utility-scale solar farms has declined at a 20% compounded annual rate. This makes it a more attractive source of energy than coal in many countries according to the World Economic Forum’s report on Renewal Infrastructure. This means we should hopefully continue to see utilities increasing the power they get from green sources like wind and solar.

Public Companies – Google is powering the entire company with 100% renewable energy by buying power purchase agreements from renewable project developers around the world. Major companies like Amazon and even the US department of defense are getting their power from solar. These guys are on board with the master plan for sure!

A Brighter Future

So now you know the master plan. Don’t you feel like you’re in a spy movie? Anyways, this plan works for my family. We already have the solar panels and the electric car. Now we need the storage. To be honest, we’re kinda just waiting for the price on that one to come down. Maybe you’re in the same boat? Maybe you have a hybrid car already, or you’re thinking of getting solar panels. That’s awesome. Change takes time. The master plan doesn’t have to come together over night. It’s kind of like building a family. It takes time and there’s no rush. You do your best with what you have today, and hope it all comes together in the end.

Until next time…

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Climate Change & Starving Children

This article about children in Madagascar dying from starvation because of climate change is bothering the heck out of me. How can it be possible that children are starving in Madagascar from the effects of climate change when my children refuse to finish their dinners? The yummy Mac & Cheese that I lovingly prepared with sweet potato mush in order to add some actual veggies to their otherwise pasta-centered diets. These children in Madagascar are eating cactus. Cactus because there’s no actual food to grow because climate change has dried up their land.

“Climate change, disproportionately caused by carbon emissions from America, seems to be behind a severe drought that has led crops to wilt across seven countries in southern Africa. The result is acute malnutrition for 1.3 million children in the region, the United Nations says,” according to NYTimes.com.

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So who really gives a shit? Who gives an actual shit about those poor, starving children in Madagascar? All I really know about Madagascar is that it’s the name of a Disney movie. Disney, right?

Anyway, I don’t really even know where Madagascar is. But the thing is this… I’m a mom and moms stick together. There are moms eating rock soup because there’s no food and whatever food there is you know they are giving it to their children. Because they are moms, and that’s what moms do.

The other thing is this… I’m a mom who has a computer and our family has four iPads. That’s right. Four iPads. I actually don’t feel the least bit guilty for being rich enough to own four iPads, but I do feel incredibly guilty because creating those iPads and the computer that I’m writing on did contribute to climate change. And climate change is starving children in Madagascar. Call me a tree-hugger or do-gooder or niave or trite, but this shouldn’t be considered business as usual. Children should never starve, whether they live in the United States or Africa (according to Google-the-all-knowing, Madagascar is a large island nation off the southern coast of Africa). The way I live my life should not contribute to anyone’s starvation. But it does.

I don’t have any answers, but I hope it bothers someone other than just me. So what can I do for the children in Madagascar? I really don’t know. I can certainly send money to the organization that’s providing food and services to these families. I think I can turn off the LED lights in the rooms that I’m not in and kiss my kids and pray that we can change the course that we are on before climate change dries up the farms that grow all our children’s food.

I hope the Elon Musks and Bill Gates of the world create technology that ends our dependence on fossil fuels. I hope enough moms and dads vote for good leaders who understand that climate change ends at home and in our own communities. I hope my kids will eat their Mac & Cheese so it doesn’t have to turn into methane in some garbage dump.

I’ll continue to educate myself on climate change and try to the best of my ability to make better decisions so more children don’t have to starve in Madagascar because their land is so dry it will only grow cactus. I’ll keep trying, and I’ll keep praying that those beautiful kids on a large island nation in southern Africa called Madagascar will get to eat some real food today.

 

 

Baby Steps To Limiting Greenhouse Gases: Part 1

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I’m not a believer in the theory that every person needs to change the way they live in order to end climate change. I like the way I live and I don’t want to change that. I like driving my minivan and I get all kinds of stuff shipped in cardboard boxes (murdered trees) from Amazon. Despite all this non-green living, I strongly believe that there are things that every person CAN do to limit greenhouse gases and climate change.

(I put the word “limit” in bold because these changes won’t end climate change. Only a revolutionary change to the way we do business as usual will end climate change. This revolution is happening and I’ll write about it in the next article).

What You Can Do Starting Today

Talk about climate change – Ever hear of a cognitive misers? I hadn’t either, but I’m one and so are you. We are all cognitive misers. As humans we are inundated with lots of information. We have to make sense of it all somehow and we are all just a little lazy, so we tend to believe what people we like and respect say. So if you like and respect your brother and your father and your neighbor Bob and they all say that climate change is a hoax, then you are likely to believe that climate change is a hoax. On the other hand, if your sister and your girlfriend and your pastor tell you that climate change is real and it’s a problem for you and your children, then you are more likely to believe them and feel inspired to do something about it.

So where am I going with this? Talk to your friends and family about why you think it’s important to care about the environment and climate change. Keep it simple and respectful. Katharine Hayhoe, a Christian evangelical and climate scientist, wrote about this in the Huffington Post a few weeks ago as well as in an article in TruthOut.org.  Study up on what’s happening (I’ll keep trying my best to break it down here), and then say something (nicely, you catch more flies with honey…)

Drive Less or Drive Electric

You know that driving a gas guzzler is bad for the environment. But if driving less or finding trucks and minivans that are fuel efficient was easy and inexpensive we’d all be doing it. I mention driving less and electric cars only because a list of things you can do to limit greenhouse gases needs to say something about cars, otherwise the green police will get me. Personally I believe the auto industry needs to give us better, greener car choices. This is happening, but the topic is more than I have space for here.

Change What You Eat

Eat less meat (mostly red meat like beef and lamb). Sorry! I know, I love burgers too!! Really. In n’ Out burgers and fries were my dietary staple during both pregnancies. (First of all, I’m not proud of that, and second, my kids turned out just fine!)

Unfortunately…

“Animal-based foods in the American diet accounted for about 85 percent of food-related greenhouse gas emissions in 2009 and about 90 percent of all agricultural land use”, according to a study by Nature and article by Climate Central. “Reducing global beef consumption is critical to keeping global warming to within 2°C (3.6°F) as outlined in the Paris climate agreement.”

Eat more fruits, veggies and grains instead. May I suggest Michael Pollan’s Food Rules? Turns out it’s an earth friendly diet as well as a bikini friendly diet. I’m certainly no vegetarian, but I do try to embrace Pollans ideas on what I eat and feed my family. Basically, I TRY to eat and feed by family real food. Mostly plants, not too much.

The EWG has a great graphic that breaks down how your food choices affect the climate if you’re interested.

Composting (Stay With Me Here)

Ask your garbage collection company to provide curbside composting (and start doing it if your garbage company already provides the service). I’m not asking you to do back yard composting, but by all means do that if you feel the inclination. Personally, I know that I should do back yard composting because food waste that goes into landfills produce methane (a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide) , but it’s gross! It’s stinky and even my husband (who grew up on an actual farm!) refuses to open that nasty composter to put stuff into it.

Fortunately, there’s nothing gross about curbside composting. It’s one more bin to take out, and you need to separate your trash from the food scraps (soon to be compost) but it’s really no big deal when you get used to it. Therefore, you would have three or four bins instead of two or three. 1.) Actual garbage that goes to a landfill and can not be recycled 2.) Recycling 4.) Yard waste (if that goes into a bin) and 3.) Compost – Food scarps, coffee filters, greasy paper etc.

There are so many more things that we can all do to limit greenhouse gases. I’ll cover more in Part 2.