Originally posted on October 7, 2014
by Cherice Bock
Editor, Whole Terrain
In case you haven’t heard, the People’s Climate March in New York City on September 21, 2014 drew in about 400,000 people, making it the largest climate march in history. In addition, 2,646 other marches and events occurred around the globe in 162 countries over that same weekend. See their website for photos and other stats and links. The marches garnered a great deal of attention from the media. My favorite was the following clip from The Daily Show, “Burn Noticed.” Jon Stewart has a way of stating things that you just can’t misunderstand! On September 23, 2014, the United Nations Climate Summit discussed the urgent need to create global policies to combat climate change, including a powerful spoken-word poem by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, representative from the Marshall Islands, and a short film called “What’s Possible” and narrated by Morgan Freeman.
President Obama shared a moving speech, emphasizing that climate change is real, that the US is investing in clean(er) energy solutions, and that we will hold ourselves to promises made in the Montreal Protocol and other climate summits and targets. He states that this needs to start today, not next year or next decade, and that we all need to do this together.
This is all well and good, but how do we go about doing this? And since we all know that politicians like to say inspiring things in public but do differently when it comes down to enacting legislation, how do we hold them to their words?
What it comes down to is us, of course. Reducing greenhouse gases means we need to use less of them, not simply by moving them out of the United States and other wealthy nations into poorer nations, but by reducing their demand and use globally.
1. Divest. Since the People’s Climate March, companies, individuals, and organizations have been divesting from fossil fuels and the companies that bring them to us, and reinvesting in renewable energy and green technology. One of the bigger names here is the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, reported in the New York Times here. (Of course, the Daily Caller points to a Politico article behind a paywall, and lets us know the Rockefellers failed to mention this fossil fuel divestment does not include natural gas.) Many religious institutions are pledging divestment of their assets, including the World Council of Churches and the Church of Sweden, as reported on 350.org. Academic institutions are getting on the divestment bandwagon: Stanford chose to divest back in May, and other schools are working on divestment policies, including grassroots student movements at Harvard and Yale. Could your organization or investment portfolio be next?
2. Less meat. Did you know that 14-22% of the greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere are currently the result of meat production, according to estimates by the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO)? (The variability is due to whether one includes deforestation and other changes in land use, such as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs.) Part of the problem is that it requires more edible proteins to be used by the livestock than we receive upon eating said livestock (though the FAO states that the animal protein is marginally more useful to our bodies). That said, grains and vegetables don’t emit greenhouse gases, and it DOES require emission of greenhouse gases to transport grains to the livestock who eat them.
This summary of several years of the FAO’s findings states that “the consumption of 1 kg domestic beef in a household represents automobile use of a distance of ~160 km (99 miles)” (1 kg = 2.2 lbs). So, you could drive 99 miles, or you and your loved one could eat a steak dinner, and the greenhouse gas emissions would be the same. Or, you could drive fewer miles AND eat less meat, and save the planet more efficiently.
3. Legislate. Contact your senators and representatives at the local and national level and let them know climate change is an issue of major concern to you, and that you want to see legislative action toward mitigating its effects–and that this will affect your voting pattern.