Years ago, when I first learned what we were up against with climate change . . . which was after the class I took in 2009 in college, Environmental Sociology, I would sob. I would visualize a huge train with corporations as the engineers screaming, “Unlimited growth and profits,” and we, the passengers, yelling in delight, “More products, yahoo”, and imagining there is no way to stop this train . . . I mean, NO WAY. I was sick.
I don’t sob much anymore. I just keep plugging along hoping I send something out that reaches someone. You know, the pebble in the lake. We don’t ever know the ramifications of our actions. We just hope something happens . . . and we keep going.
But recently, I did a little survey about living without a freezer and do you know why we need to get off the grocery store. Unless you take a class like Environmental Sociology, you can’t fully understand why getting off the grocery store and doing without a freezer is a good idea. Actually, that class didn’t have everything in it, like fracking and embodied energy and a lot of other important environmental stuff, but it was a start. I wasn’t hoping to get the answers I wanted . . . but, hey, let’s throw it out there and get people to think. Plant some seeds.
So, this is how it started. A couple showed me their refrigerator. Not big news. But, they had converted a chest freezer into a refrigerator. The reason they did this was to control the temperature and lower their energy needs. A refrigerator that has a freezer needs more energy, and what refrigerator doesn’t have a freezer? The friend installed some gadget that controls the temperature. Also, with the door on top, the cold air doesn’t rise. He said it takes about one solar panel to run.
Well, I thought this was better than sliced bread. I have been thinking about getting a refrigerator with some solar panels and getting off the cooler and ice system. When I heard it only took a 375 watt solar panel, I was sold.
Then I started sending out my freezer survey. I suspected that many people are not really pushing themselves to reduce their carbon. In our Elgin Green Groups 350 meetings, we were always comparing or raising the bar for each other in how we were changing our lifestyle and becoming “No Impact People.” It was like a game. Not so in other circles of friends. But, these friends are educated and know the climate crisis is real.
My first two survey responses came back. No way are they giving up their freezers. Perhaps I didn’t word it right. We are trying to save the planet . . . and, oh by the way . . . humanity. One of the responses was so dramatic, you would think a limb was being cut off. I haven’t done any numbers on how much carbon is actually being saved to take this convenience away. It is just the fact that this change was not even being considered, along with any other convenience people feel entitled to. Obviously reducing our military is the biggest elephant in the room. That is the US military. Changes like eliminating a freezer are changes that we the people can make. The military issue is a big fight. And, it looks like getting people to get rid of some things will be a big fight, too.
People have no idea what we really need to do to reduce the CO2 in order to address the climate crisis. We have to get rid of our convenience mentality. Everything we do is created so we are convenienced. Heaven forbid we actually go without one of them. Making these lifestyle changes is not painful. It is just another way of doing things or not doing things. We wear masks to protect ourselves and others. People have managed to do that.
If people that are educated and know that the climate crisis is real don’t want to make changes, what are we going to do to get the people that think the climate crisis is a hoax? It is maddening. People think we are going to slap some solar panels up and go on our merry way. It will take massive amounts of fossil fuels to put up that solar panel/wind turbine infrastructure. And, did I mention, this is a global initiative?
I had an additional question on the survey, and that was, “Do you know why we need to get off the grocery store?” No one knows. And, you really have to know about embodied energy to know that one so I was not surprised.
As a brief explanation of what embodied energy is, take any product in a grocery store . . . any of the thousands on the shelf. It can take a minimum of 8 to 9 manufacturing plants to process that product. Those plants need heat and electricity that take fossil fuels to run. Besides manufacturing plants, something like cereal has additional energy in growing the wheat or corn with a big diesel tractor. Everything has embodied energy, not just grocery stores.
Education is key. The rewiring of the American public has to be a “we” country and not a “me” country. There is our problem.
I did a little searching on the Internet and found this article that will give people some idea the carbon footprint of what we buy. It was on State of the Planet, Earth Institute, at Columbia University, written by Renee Cho on December 16, 2020. And, this is for the people in the US, as we do more buying than any other country on the planet. Please read it. The link is attached below.
I sent the survey to some environmental groups, and there were people in those groups that didn’t know anything about embodied energy either. They were more open to getting rid of their freezer if it actually helped significantly.
I read an article by Bill McKibben, “Our Best Chance to Slow Global Warming Comes in the Next Nine Years,” in the New Yorker, on January 7, 2021, where he states we will make the most changes in the next nine years, and they will be economic and energy changes. I have attached a link to that article below.
I have gone back to sobbing.