We are right in the middle of the season often associated with giving. It is a time to express gratitude and love for those we care about, adding meaning and depth to our lives. It is all too easy to become sidetracked however. What could be a beautiful opportunity for reflection and conscious interaction is now all too often simply a race to the mall to buy, buy, buy. What are we really buying into?
Green living can play an important role in making conscious decisions that serve our highest and best interests. Our collective purchasing decisions have a huge impact on the world. If a particular gift provides short-term happiness but comes with a long-term price (social inequity, toxins, embodied energy or carbon emissions for example), have we expressed our gratitude effectively? Many of the typical “goods” found in the average store are manufactured overseas and come with a high carbon footprint. The pollution they cause may be “over there” but still affects people in a negative way. We just don’t see it.
Now consider the recent events in Doha. Do you know what I am referring to? Doha is a city in Qatar, a country in the Persian Gulf that happens to have the highest CO2 emissions per capita in the world. The irony is that the city recently hosted the Doha Climate Change Conference where representatives from around the world gathered to once again fail to take significant action to avoid catastrophic changes to Earth’s climate. Why don’t the U.S. and other industrialized countries consider the Earth “too big to fail?”
Since our “leaders” cannot get the job done, that leaves us. Homeowners are especially well-positioned to make a difference. We know it’s possible and I’m telling you it can also be profitable. I cannot think of a better way to express your love this holiday season than to get serious about reducing your carbon footprint. Leave the cheap, meaningless stuff on the table and invest in a gift that comes with life-long dividends. Share your logic and reasoning with friends and family.
Why give a gift that will fade from memory in a few days, weeks or months when you can make a difference that will last forever?
Rate of Change
If you don’t study the issue you may not know how serious our situation is, but increasingly frequent extreme weather events are finally changing the minds of even the most die-hard climate change deniers.
The movie “Chasing Ice” is also having an impact on attitudes. Watch this heartfelt, tearful change of heart by a hard-core Fox News/Bill O’Reilly fan, and the following in-depth interview with the filmmakers:
Many have said that the planet has always fluctuated. Temperatures change, ice ages come and go, CO2 has been higher and lower in the geologic records. All of this is true. The greatest difference has to do with the rate of change.
Historically, it took 10,000 years for a 100 part per million change in CO2 concentrations. We make that happen in about 30 years, about 300 times faster. Try doing anything 300 times faster. You will hurt yourself.
We continue to release so much carbon into the atmosphere so quickly that an extreme energy imbalance now exists and is accelerating. NASA scientist Dr. James Hansen describes it as the energy equivalent of exploding 400,000 WWII-sized atomic bombs per day, 365 days per year. Imagine an explosion of that magnitude somewhere on the planet every four seconds – around the clock.
That is what we are doing to our atmosphere.
You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.
Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.
Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.
Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.
Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.”
- John O’Donohue
Time to Shift
We are desperately in need of a cultural shift toward meaningful action based on the realities of our world. I would have nothing but respect and admiration for anyone who cared enough about me to spend some quality time discussing these issues, explaining that their gift was intended to preserve our world and enhance my chances for a better life. Love is not the latest video game or remote-controlled toy heli-chopper. It is a world of stable climate, food security and abundant fresh water. It is a world of green living, rooted in the season of giving.
Gifting the Future is last year’s column with a similar theme.
Listen to Dr. James Hansen explain it in his own words in this excellent TED talk: