Global warming threatens what scientists are calling the sixth mass extinction. But we can just call it mass suicide. You can lend a hand to prevent the suicide of the human race. You can stop the murder of your children and grandchildren. There are steps we can take on our own, and steps we can take through the political system.
Collectively we can do a lot even on our own – not enough to finish the job but enough to get the ball rolling, not only by the direct effect of our actions but by changing the market so that products that cause our planet to warm are less profitable, products that are clean are more profitable, and companies discover they need to shift - quickly.
Web pages on how we can help stop global warming are on the websites of The Natural Resources Defense Council, now known by its acronym. NRDC,[i] The Union of Concerned Scientists,[ii]> and Middlebury College, [iii] among many others. The web addresses are included in the written copy that will be on the WAMC website.
The basic principle is to burn less carbon-based fuel.
Save on transportation by living in walking distance from jobs and stores; flying less, and choosing trains, hybrids and fully electric vehicles; keeping cars tuned, tires inflated, and air filters changed.
Save water to save the energy for pumping, heating, and treating the water. The WaterSense label is an EPA program for fixtures and appliances meeting EPA efficiency and performance standards. And of course, you can also turn off the tap and use less.
We can save electricity by choosing a utility that gets at least half its power from wind or solar – NRDC suggests using Green-e Energy for certification of power sources. We can also switch to LEDs for lighting if you haven’t already; and pull the plug on electric devices because many of them drain electricity even when not in use.
We can save energy by continuing to weatherize, insulate and seal homes and buildings to conserve heating and cooling; by claiming federal tax credits for many energy-efficient home improvements; and by using the energy star label to find efficient appliances.
Because it takes energy to produce the food we eat, waste less, and help push farming toward less energy-intensive methods and products by eating less meat (the most energy intensive food you can buy); and encourage farmers to use fewer fertilizers, more sustainable crop rotation and less tilling because it releases carbon.
To help reduce the damage, grow trees, don’t cut them – because they absorb and reduce the carbon in the atmosphere; favor companies that are allies in the fight against deforestation; and buy less of the major drivers of deforestation, beef, soy palm oil, and wood products.
As citizens we can voice our concerns and welcome government efforts to address global warming. Government has three major tools:
- Regulation can stop unscrupulous business from taking shortcuts that compromise our health and safety, and help stop those unscrupulous businesses from driving out responsible ones.
- Targeted taxes discourage bad behavior: just as we pay fines for bad driving, all companies should pay a premium for putting carbon into the atmosphere.
- Government investment can encourage good behavior, by researching effective solutions, kickstarting green-friendly businesses, and providing information to manage the environment properly.
We need them all. So a major step is to vote for people who won’t just talk about but actually help us deal with the problem.
We all have power to make a difference for the environment we need to sustain life –through the market, the politics, and the collective impact of our private behavior.
Steve Gottlieb’s latest book is Unfit for Democracy: The Roberts Court and The Breakdown of American Politics. He is the Jay and Ruth Caplan Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Albany Law School, served on the New York Civil Liberties Union board, on the New York Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and as a US Peace Corps Volunteer in Iran.
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