Now that the weather is in the triple digits, there is no better time to talk about global rising temperatures and it’s devastating, present and future impacts. Yippee! Especially, how it affects our lives in Southern Nevada. Yes, yes, I’m aware it is like religion and politics at a family gathering; no one wants to talk about it.
Why is that?
Is it because it can be complicated to understand? Maybe.
Is it because we think it is someone else’s fault or problem? Perhaps.
Or is it because we think it is too big for one person to make a difference? Possibly, but let’s do the math.
Understanding the Big Picture
I have re-read my recent Green living articles and although we covered major big picture issues like reducing consumerism, energy conservation, water shortages and recycling, I was left with the feeling that I am not representing the magnitude of the problem and the real reason why we even have a ‘green’ living column.
Let’s simplify the problem.
One of the most common misconceptions about climate change is the difference between weather and climate. Weather is the condition in one place at one time, such as the day in February when Senator Inhofe mockingly brought a snowball to congress to show and tell how cold it was. Climate, on the other hand, refers to long term trends.
The change we are experiencing in climate is related to the unprecedented increase of greenhouse gases. This increase has lead to alarming changes in average global temperatures and climate trends. It is clear that the increase of greenhouse gas accumulation in the atmosphere comes from the increase of people on this planet and our varied energy intensive activities.
How important is food, water, asthma-free air and safety really?
The impacts we are already experiencing from this rise in greenhouse emissions are an increases in weather extremes, longer and more damaging forest fires, longer and stronger storms, more severe droughts, and more frequent and intense heat waves, just to name a few. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, without immediate action to reduce our emissions we will certainly run the risk of energy and water supply shortages, eventual food shortages, costly and growing health impacts such as longer more intense allergy seasons, increases in asthma cases and insect born diseases.
My husband and I moved back to Japan shortly after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. That summer the government shut down all the nuclear reactors, which forced us to make conservation changes along with the rest of the population. We adjusted our thermostats during the summer to between 79-82 degrees, used more stairs than escalators, and were extra conscious of our energy use.
Other changes we’ve made living in Japan include walking or biking to work, eating plenty of locally grown vegetables, solar drying our clothes (clothesline), letting our dishes drip-dry and as mentioned in the previous article, recycling, which is almost an art form in Japan. Despite the many small changes we have made, I often wonder if our actions are enough?
The Blame Game
The blame game is easy. Can’t we blame the city planners from decades past for creating Southern Nevada as a suburban sprawl instead of a convenient walking city with efficient mass transit? Yes, but the citizens of other cities, like Portland and Denver have demanded changes and now enjoy efficient bus lines as well as free light rail. In addition to demanding necessary mass transit from our leaders, how about carpooling, walking or riding bikes to some of our events or errands. This can also help shed some pounds instead of driving a mile to the gym.
Can’t we also blame the big corporate power industries? Even if we save energy, what stops the energy companies from continuing to use carbon producing fossil fuels? Well, people do. Many organizations have banned together to help retire hundreds of coal plants in the last decade alone. Also, residential solar installations in the US have grown rapidly in the region. Many are taking the power choice in their own hands.
And what about consumerism? Can we remain ignorant to corporations planned obsolescence, whereby making us want a new model even while the old model is still good. Isn’t it really their fault? Well, that may be pushing the blame a bit too far.
While governments, businesses and and all organizations certainly carry heavy responsibilities, WE are the ones who buy, eat, move, use and consume in an abundant manner as if our resources are unlimited.
Is enough really enough?
So what do we need to change? Certainly switching to plant-based diets, traveling less and learning to be happy with what we have are all good starts. But is it enough?
This month NASA released detailed climate projections showing how all areas will need to adapt to climate change. The projections claim that the Southwest region of the United States will see an increase in heat, drought, wildfires, and insect breakouts as well as declining water supplies and agricultural yields. The predictions that only a decade ago we thought might occur for our children or grand children are actually occurring now. Even Pope Francis, this month has called for lifestyle changes and reduction in energy consumption or else there will be “grave consequences for all of us”.
Any Good news?
I like to consider myself more of a Pollyanna then a Debbie-Downer but on this issue I’ve got my work cut out for me. Giving up or putting our heads in the sand is always an option. I feel like that every time I write an article or prepare to give a presentation on climate change. At those times I look to inspiring people and communities who are continuing to change everything and there are many in Southern Nevada. Individual changes multiplied by 7 billion people can lead to positive, promising outcomes.
I will highlight many of these encouraging stories in upcoming articles along with continued new ways of living a greener, healthier more connected life.However, we all need to get on board and fast.
Our Marching orders
Our mission, should we choice to accept:
- Change everything.
- Demand changes on the systems we have come to rely on that do not serve us anymore.
The Heat is On – It’s No Joke Senator
Senator Inhofe, who is unfortunately the chairman of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee may think climate change is a laughing matter, but to the rest of us, it is no joke. The heat is on- but let’s keep implementing cool solutions.
Summer Energy tips:
- Adjust your thermostats when leaving your house(son’t worry, your petseta will survive at 79-82).
- Wear summer clothes indoors. If you need to wear a sweater indoors then your AC is too strong.
- Close the vents in rooms you are not using.
- Replace a cooked meal with a big fresh salad to keep kitchen temperatures down.
- A wet towel around your neck will keep your body temperature down while gardening.
This column can be found in the Las Vegas Review Journal.