Whenever there’s a natural disaster, many people start to discuss Climate Change, or Anthropogenic Global Warming.
It’s time for a head-fake. You’re not having a debate with a single person with an open mind and years of data to review together. It’s disparate, busy people, who can think up an explanation for anything you offer as a one-off, and to them you sound like you’re putting politics before people. It sounds desperate. Even worse, you’re in an information bubble, and you’re preaching to the choir. The problem is that you’re not giving people real things they can change, you’re just telling them that they’re wrong. People are prone to dismiss all this and call it “moralizing”, and I bet you can think of times when the shoe has been on the other foot.
In the short term this is a losing debate; you’ll rip your hair out next winter when someone is smug about the fact that it’s snowing. Importantly: the guy in the white house does not agree with you.
Regardless of belief: what can you do that is also beneficial to you? You know, capitalism? I am here to tell you 5 ways that you can improve your life, and ignoring them means you’re missing out on the benefits regardless of what you believe.
Whichever side of that debate you’re on, the question is the same. This is why I say to stop talking about it in terms of convincing your fellow citizens, but instead to ask
How much are you doing to make your life better that might also have a positive impact on the environment as a side benefit?
There are 5 real things that individuals can be a part of that would be a drastic improvement in your life, regardless of what you think about carbon and protecting the environment. The trick is that on a large scale they represent a measurable and significant improvement for 1st world carbon production too, we just don’t have to argue about that, or even agree on it.
1. Replace your 5 most used bulbs with LED bulbs.
They are cost effective now. They are scarcely as bad as CFL’s were for mercury exposure. They last far longer, which mean fewer trips to the store. You will notice it in your electric bill.
That’s all great, but who cares? The best thing they do is they are cool, not like rock and roll, like thermally. It’s too early to show up in the data, but I can guarantee LED’s will significantly reduce the number of structure fires.
Lighting equipment is responsible for 16% of civilian deaths due to fire. U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 358,300 home structure fires per year during 2010-2014, which represents three-quarters of all structure fires.
2. Set the HVAC with at least a 5 degree gap.
That’s not that much, but not enough people do this. This is pure cost analysis. If you need a smaller gap you should see a doctor. There are lots of metabolic issues with proven treatments.
You’re also wearing these systems out faster by using them more, and if you haven’t had the joy of dropping 8 grand on a system yet, I’m betting you won’t like it when it eventually happens. This cost is passed on to renters too… you know, capitalism.
3. Eat meat 5 times a week.
This is how it used to be. Meat is expensive, but we live in a golden society now. Many people are eating meat at every meal, 21 out of 21 times a week. I know this because they look at me in confusion when I order things without meat. Too many vegetarians and vegans have missed the point – larger society will continue to eat meat, but I believe people can be convinced to be more reasonable. This habit can be overcome, since people used to behave like this. Often when I see this point it only talks about how bad cows are in the equation for climate change, or how inhumane production is – and this is true, but it’s frankly absurd how much meat people have become used to eating, and there is huge space to cover in the middle of two extremes.
There are some big benefits to be had here on a personal level. Meat is a clear signal in health data for being carcinogenic. I’ve documented savings of thousands of dollars over the past 4 years. It’s one of those things you know is a healthful thing, but many make dismissive jokes about it, sort of like how people joke about alcohol.
Heart attacks are still far and away the biggest killer in the 1st world. Eating a diet rich in meats only increases that toll. Eating fewer meat meals per week is the most powerful thing you can do outside of smoking cessation to improve your health. You’ll notice I don’t say you have to be a vegan.
The big idea here is that you can find “eatcheapandhealthy” recipes on the internet, and see world-class chefs prepare food on youtube. Seek out vegetarian meals to cook and you’ll be surprised to discover that you don’t need meat on the plate at every meal.
4. Victory Gardens
I think it should be a constitutional right, ratified by amendment that anyone lawfully occupying a residence with the space for it is allowed a minimum of a 4×8 foot kitchen garden anywhere there is bare earth. You buy three 8 foot boards, cut one in half, screw them together, dig up the grass inside… you even can avoid buying dirt if you fill it with leaves for the winter, compost will naturally build up.
Our kitchen garden was so nice this year. Walking out and getting herbs fresher than any from any store, carrots right out of the ground, greens picked and eaten within minutes. Varieties you won’t find in stores because they aren’t cost effective commodities.
The benefits are almost too numerous to count. It’s our birthright as humans to cultivate plants. Get involved in your HOA and remove stupid restrictions whenever possible. Check out the book “Farm City” by Novella Carpenter.
5. Ride a bike on trips shorter than 5 miles
I just got back from church. My church is 5 miles of road in the most picturesque area of America. There aren’t enough quakers in my area to make a meeting, so I do my own private un-programmed meeting on my bicycle. Save money on the gym membership, buy your first bicycle for between 200-800 dollars. Save money on the therapist, save money on the doctor and nursing homes later on, and even better, your car will need less maintenance. The amount I’ve saved on gas, insurance, maintenance, gyms and even less-frequent car purchases is many times the money spent on bikes, you won’t find many deals this good in your life.
I won’t talk about how many problems people have that are partially or wholly solved by bicycling, but instead take a moment to address “whataboutism”, because I know you’re out there, reading this right now. This is a new sort of “ism”, and every red-blooded american has a bit of Ferris Bueller in them that rejects “ism”s of any kind. In bicycling, the biggest thing in the way of advocacy is: “I see many cyclists who are scofflaws and I don’t like that.” This argument pops up time and again to shut down discussions.
Bike advocates need to turn this around. What better way to make sure people know the rules than to require new drivers to complete the examination on a bicycle before qualifying to get behind the wheel?
If you’re a bike advocate, I’d ask you to think deeply about this possibility. If teenagers must complete the exam on a bike first, they’ll feel more confident. They’ll notice problems with road infrastructure as part of this. Check a box to indicate you’re unable to participate – I bet you’ll find almost all teenagers do it anyway, because they want to prove themselves. I’ve met too many adults missing the valuable skill of riding a bicycle for transportation, which is surprisingly different than what you remember as a kid.
As far as we’re all concerned, for now, climate change is a hoax, but we can do things that are constructive in the meantime – reasonable things whether you “believe” one thing or another. Just forget about belief for a moment- and follow a bit of logic with me. Even if you believe it’s all a big put-on to sell Gore’s movies, you have to concede that your own arguments about scientific uncertainty point right back at your own doubt, creating a dangerous risk that should be addressed. Either way, these 5 things are measurable improvements in your life and wallet, and it doesn’t matter what you think about the planet.