If we learned anything about the pandemic, besides the seriousness of it, there was no toilet paper. Aisle after aisle, there were empty shelves in the grocery store. One day I stopped to buy potatoes, and there were none. Our supply chain here in the US, and most likely around the world, was compromised, especially during the first three months of the lockdown. Hopefully it was a wakeup call for people. Call it a dry run for what is coming down the pike.
Just because you don’t know how to grow potatoes or garlic doesn’t necessarily make you vulnerable . . . or does it? How does our convenient lifestyle make us vulnerable? Everything we count on for survival, consisting of our heat, water, electricity, and food, not to mention transportation, are provided by some other entity. We may not look at them as survival . . . just convenience. Utility companies in our cities provide heat, electricity, and water. Food comes from Big Box grocery stores. Without any of them, we are not going to survive very long. As we saw with the pandemic, things can go wrong.
Most of us don’t know much about growing food, let alone getting heat, water, and electricity when those supplies are gone. That is a vulnerable situation to be in if you ask me. Think you will just fire up the generator. Think again. And, when was the last time you discussed peak oil and resource depletion at the dinner table?
Peak oil is the half way point of oil reserves. The US reached peak oil in the 70s but about the late 90s early 2000s, hydraulic fracking was invented, which allowed oil that was unreachable before to be extracted. It made it possible to drill horizontally. Hence, the Bakken oil play in North Dakota became an oil rich area. It may still have oil to extract but it is important to remember that we can’t afford to burn whatever oil is left, too, and we have more people than at the start of oil so we will deplete it faster. Most of the oil extracted today is from deep wells or from tar sands oil in Alberta, Canada. It is costly to extract.
It would be crucial to have some plan in place.
Here are a few ideas that you may consider. Growing food would be a great place to start. Many cities and towns have garden plots to rent if you don’t have space where you live. This is the time to learn how to grow those potatoes and garlic, as well as how to can. Find out what crops are good to get you through the winter and preserve well.
Perhaps it is not easy to make a move where you have control over your heat and water but installing a mini split heater or a heat pump, as they are also called, and some solar panels would be a start to ensure there is heat in at least one main room in your house. A wood stove would be something to also consider.
The water issue may be a little more of a challenge. Knowing where rivers, streams, lakes, etc. are and how to purify the water is essential. Picking up a few gallons at the local grocery store may not be an option.
We haven’t hit the brick wall with resource depletion or the end of oil yet but things are starting to happen. For instance, by 2048, most ocean fish will be gone. It is good to be well informed.
Stop the madness before it even starts. First, I must admit that I don’t understand exactly how it works but there are many scientists that are very wary of this. From what I understand, aerosols are injected or sprayed into the clouds to somehow reflect the sun’s rays back so they don’t reach the earth. That will help cool our planet to thwart the climate crisis.
Heaven forbid that we actually do the obvious and stop using fossil fuels and massively reduce our consumption of soooo many goods that we don’t need. Yes, those goods are convenient. But, people can learn to live without them and adapt to a new lifestyle of counting their carbon footprint. Hasn’t technology gotten us into enough trouble already? And, I agree, there are technological advances that I use and don’t want to give up, that being our ability to communicate with everyone on the planet through the Internet and access to a seemingly infinite pool of knowledge. There are medical advances that need to be protected. But, everything else has to go. As Richard Smith talks about in his article in Truthout on November 12, 2014, “Climate Crisis, the Deindustrialization Imperative and the Jobs bs. Environment Dilemma,” we need to deice what we keep.
Let me stop that detour and get back to the original topic of geoengineering. What if they do employ this tactic and the sun never shines again. That is my biggest fear. Hmm, . . . we do need the sun for some things . . . LIKE TO GROW FOOD. Yes, solar panels are another thing . . . but we need food first. They, and who is the “they” we can only guess . . . some corporate interests in fossil fuels, I would imagine. They want to keep the economic machine going and reducing our consumption would only slow that down . . . or eliminate it so that we would have to create another system.
Bill McKibben recently wrote an article about this called, “Way Too Soon to Hack the Sky,” in the New Yorker on February 18, 2021. The article details a test that is planned in Sweden with some Harvard scientists to use some balloon to get aerosols of calcium carbonate and sulfates into the stratosphere. While this is just an initial test of planning how to get the aerosols up there, McKibben states we can only assume there will be more. He mentions that the new Biden administration is pushing a new climate agenda, and we should be focused on that and not aerosols. The next decade will demonstrate how serious we are tackling the climate crisis with reduced consumption and a new solar and wind energy infrastructure. And, that is all we have is about nine years to do something major to stop the climate crisis.
McKibben states how ironic it is that Sweden has been chosen, which is the home of Greta Thunberg, who is really responsible for calling all the leaders of the global community out at the climate meetings for doing nothing about the climate crisis. She also called the world’s attention to the climate crisis. Harvard is facilitating these tests and has refused to divest from fossil fuels. As McKibben states, “It’s an ominous moment in the planet’s history—and one we should back away from for now.” McKibben also brings up Elizabeth Kolbert’s new book, “Under a White Sky.” That title makes it sound like a blue sky is not going to return.
It is a question that is not burning in the average person’s mind. That’s for sure. But, we need to add it to the pile of things to address to stop the climate crisis. We may think of adding solar to our homes but that is for electricity. And people will think that’s the end of it. Problem solved. But, as I look at the whole situation, it all seems insurmountable.
And, this is not just heat for our homes . . . let’s not forget Big Box stores and manufacturing plants.
The pile of lifestyle and societal changes we need to make is huge. From the energy in our buildings, the way we grow food, transportation, the military issue, plastic in the ocean, the heating of the planet, all the consumer products we make and consume, to what we eat, our capitalist economy, soil depletion, water depletion . . . add how we heat our homes and buildings. I am sure I forgot something. Species that are going extinct. Oh, yes, and the bees. Resource depletion. We are running out of sand. And, fish.
But, yes, what are we going to replace natural gas heat with? In the US it accounts for about 50% with electricity at 34%, I believe. And, in that electricity, we are slowly eliminating the use of coal and replacing it with . . . natural gas.
So I did a little searching. The Guardian had a good article on this topic. The article, “Is hydrogen the solution to net-zero home heating?” by Stuart Clark on March 2020, is a great hashing out of some alternatives. According to Clark, the UK is working hard on a 2030 target date to get off natural gas. They are at 85% of their homes with natural gas.
Hydrogen seems to be high on the list. As I understand it though, hydrogen comes from methane, a fossil fuel . . . but it also comes from water. The gas company in the UK is all for hydrogen because they would use the same infrastructure, and it is in their best interest.
The article stated that not all of the experts on using hydrogen are convinced that it is the best solution. Hydrogen is one of three solutions. Heat pumps are an alternative because using electricity was the goal. Homes would have to be insulated more. Then there is district heating, which comes from using heat from manufacturing plants, etc. and heating water to distribute to homes. That’s how I understand it. So the article was a good starting point.
C2ES, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions did a brief on “Decarbonizing U.S. Buildings” July 2018 by Jessica Leung. Hands down, heat pumps were the solution after her research. Leung also stated people have little knowledge of their energy usage. Residential and commercial buildings were both discussed. Population was the biggest reason for increases. Retrofits, construction design, windows, changing people’s behavior were all part of the solution. All in all, a good read.
A more entertaining read, full of humor and good info, is an article from Vox “Most American homes are still heated with fossil fuels. It’s time to electrify,” by David Roberts on July 2, 2018. The short assessment is that replacing an existing gas furnace for a heat pump . . . there they are again . . . is very expensive but installing heat pumps in new construction beats gas furnaces in price. It is worth reading this one.
The list of articles on this subject goes on . . . but I ended my research there.
I am on a wood stove . . . and obviously, we can’t all do that. I have not done the carbon footprint on wood stoves. Someone has, I am sure. From what I have read, a passive design is the most efficient way to heat. It seems expensive but I have read that it can be competitive with new construction. But, what do you do with all the existing homes and buildings. Big energy retrofits are expensive.
In the old days, there was one room that was heated, which was where everyone was most of the time. Perhaps it was the kitchen. Some of that heat went into the living room. Bedrooms just had lots of blankets. It doesn’t seem like a bad idea . . . in order to conserve energy.
In my cabin, it may be 18 degrees outside and 68 inside when I go to bed . . . but when I get up . . . it is 48 degrees inside and may be 10 outside. Blankets work. There is no way I am adding wood when it is that warm inside . . . and add 10 degrees in my loft.
There are alternatives to natural gas. We need to get on this issue . . . and fast.
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.
Warning, this is a rant about nothing happening to address the climate crisis. Yes, we have COVID to deal with. But, after months of dealing with COVID and totally forgetting there is even a climate crisis happening, I am feeling compelled to get it out there where it should be . . . front and center.
People will say we can’t fix this ourselves . . . but are we just going to wait around while the US takes humanity off the cliff?
I am currently reading a book, “The Right to be Cold” by Sheila Watt-Cloutier. This is an Inuit woman who was born in the Arctic near Quebec. If anyone knows anything about the climate crisis, it is the Inuit people. There, they find firsthand the melting of the Arctic and disappearing food sources that they have hunted forever. I am highly recommending this book as your next read.
Everything I have been looking at lately is very depressing. And, don’t think Biden is going to do anything major where climate is concerned. While we are looking at any substantial progress, the global climate meetings that started in 1992 haven’t made any significant progress either. Perhaps that is because we are all tied to the same economic system . . . capitalism . . . and the 8-5 job. Endless growth. That’s what they want! And, a consumer economy. How do you change that?
And, for the record, the US consumes the most resources and pollutes the most per person in the world. People point to China. Yes, they have 1.4 billion people but they do not live like we do, and we get most of our products from China. The US only has something like 320 million people. The rest of the world is actually trying to do something about the climate crisis or consumes very little next to the US.
So, back to the original question . . . what are you doing about the climate crisis? I am hoping that the previous post on Rob Greenfield growing all his food for a year and foregoing the grocery store gave people some ideas . . . or raised the bar on what we can do individually . . . or just inspired people to do more.
While we are waiting for the US to implement any climate legislation that will actually do something, let’s look at what we can do. You may already do many things on this list but you may be inspired to add something to your current lifestyle of reducing your carbon footprint. Obviously, we need to reduce what we purchase. If we do that, then there is less demand for the products and less pollution to manufacture them.
Foo Foo Foam Soap – Let’s start there. I have been seeing a lot of it lately so it is on my brain. Yes, it smells delicious but let’s get rid of it. It is not essential. As far as all soap goes, I get dish soap, dilute it for dishes, and put it into old hand soap containers. Bar soap is also the way to go and making your own detergent.
Paper Towels – No need for them either. Use a cloth towel.
Bottled Water – For some reason, bottled water makes my blood boil. It is blatantly stealing water from other people and selling it for a profit . . . not to mention the amount of oil to make the container and the fact that very little of the bottles get recycled. If you need some inspiration, watch “Blue Gold” or “Flow.” Both are great documentaries on water. The only people that should be drinking bottled water are people in Flint, MI, or anyone else in a similar situation.
Composting – Food waste is what I am talking about. I composted food scraps in my small lot in Elgin, IL, for 19 years and was never inundated with critters. They are there anyway. Get over it or buy a composting bin. Food waste makes up a big portion of the waste that goes into a landfill. Are we just going to dig more holes for garbage?
Line Drying Clothes – I am not handwashing clothes . . . not yet anyway . . . but have been line drying for close to 10 years. It never occurred to me until a friend mentioned that she did it. Our Elgin Green Groups 350 meetings would start with sharing things we did to be energy efficient, etc. It was almost a game to see who could out do the other. That’s where the line drying idea started. It took almost 6 months before it actually took hold in my brain to do it. Sometimes we need a little time for the idea to grow.
Meat Mondays – Yes, it is really Meatless Mondays but let’s change it to Meat Mondays. Then people can still hang onto their meat and not think it is totally going away. I say meat is like a religion. People do not want to give up their meat. I had been a vegetarian for over ten years before I gave up dairy. It can be challenging to find other things to eat . . . but they are out there. Some of the best vegan ice cream options are at your store! Beans and rice are a great protein. If you need some recipes, I can help you out!
If you need some more help deciding about reducing your meat, here is a link from the Union of Concerned Scientists who will really explain it.
Processed Food – Yes, get rid of this, too. It will be better for your health to start with. Buy whole foods to eat. Just look at the embodied energy in all of those food products. A friend from Germany said that they don’t have the grocery stores that we have in the US. When I realized what embodied energy was, looking at the thousands of food products on the shelves made my head want to explode. Embodied energy is all the energy . . . namely in the amount of CO2 in each product . . . it took to produce. It doesn’t have to be food either. It could be anything. It can take 8-9 manufacturing plants or more to produce a product. Land has to be tilled, planted, harvested, and transported for any grain needed for a product. All of the manufacturing plants need heat, air conditioning, electricity to run, along with all the transportation from one facility to another, and all that comes from burning fossil fuels.
Turning Down the Heat – Wear more clothes and use more blankets. It works.
Air Conditioning – Plant a shade tree, pour cold water on yourself, and turn it down in most all stores and buildings. It is way too cold. We never had it growing up and survived. If people are in better health, they could deal with it. A friend said they know someone in Arizona with an adobe house, and they don’t have air conditioning. An exception here, apartments with only one window may need air conditioning.
Stuff – We buy way too much stuff. Get used things or get it fixed if is broken. Or just talk yourself out of buying it in the first place.
Clothes – How many do we really need? I read an article once on the water and chemicals needed to produce clothes. It’s insane. Not to mention all of the microfibers in our water now! Just think, if you live in a city with city water, you are probably drinking plastic. Hmm . . . that’s a lovely thought. This link below from the Conscious Challenge details all the water and chemicals used to make clothes.
Tiny Houses – We have been surrounded by Mac-Mansions in our suburban housing developments in the US . . . but no more . . . because the Tiny House movement is here. It has been here for a number of years, thankfully. We put on a Tiny House presentation at our library in Elgin, IL. We usually had a small group of 20 for our environmental lifestyle changes but not for the Tiny House presentation. There were 100 people there, and the builder of tiny houses who presented streamed it live, and there were 2,000 people who saw it. My cabin is considered a tiny house at 312 sq. ft. with a sleeping loft. It is not the typical 8’ wide by 20’+ long. It is roomy! This article by Property Management – Tiny House Statistics details how the tiny house industry is growing. It makes buying a home more affordable. One of the challenges is finding zoning that will accept them. Hopefully that will change in the future. Besides being affordable, it takes so much less energy to heat, etc.
Recycling – Most of us recycle. It is the feel good action for the planet. It is within our reach to do. It takes CO2 to make the product that we are recycling . . . and it takes CO2 to remake it, along with finding a company that will turn it back into what it was to begin with. That is not always possible or it can take more CO2 to process it again. As the article by Renee Cho, “Recycling in the U.S is Broken: How Do We Fix It?” states, the recycled item may be contaminated and then it just goes into a landfill or incinerator. Glass and metal can be recycled indefinitely but plastics can’t. Food waste, which is outside of recyclables makes up the bulk of waste. Cities on the west coast like LA and San Francisco are successful in keeping trash from going to the landfill at a minimum. The article has some states with solutions, like deposits on bottles and ban on plastic bags. An article worth reading.
“Recycling in the U. S. Is Broken: How Do We Fix It?” By Renee Cho,
March 13, 2020, Columbia University
Deep Energy Retrofits – Buildings contribute a lot of CO2 to the atmosphere, and our homes are in that group. According to the article by Nearby Engineers, the US Green Building Council states that buildings contribute 39% of the CO2. That is a lot. We have our homes but our lifestyles support the buildings where we work, shop, schools, museums, restaurants, hospitals, etc. When life was simpler, people lived in dwellings and that was about it. Deep energy retrofits are costly, too, especially on older homes. We need to do more than think that putting up some solar panels will fix the climate crisis. Getting off natural gas and propane for heating is a real challenge.
“How Buildings Produce Carbon Emissions … And How to Stop Them” by Chelsey Bipat on September 19, 2018
Okay, so I think I am the only one trying to get off the grocery store. Not true! As I was looking at YouTube videos in my feed, I came across another person trying to do the exact same thing . . . only he did it for a whole year . . . and his video is amazing and inspirational. His name is Rob Greenfield, and the link to his video is below. Please watch it because you are going to be amazed, too!
So, a little review here. Why would anyone want to get off the grocery store? Or think it is important . . . or even crucial to get off the grocery store? Because, as Rob also details, the grocery store is so convenient. Why get rid of it?
Our food system contributes a lot of CO2 to the climate crisis. Food travels sometimes thousands of miles to the grocery store. We can get almost any fruits and vegetables year-round here in the US. The tomato may be grown in Mexico and then travel to China to be made into tomato sauce before it gets to the shelf.
Processed foods use multiple manufacturing facilities to produce one product. It may take 8-9 facilities or more for one product. All of those buildings need heat, air conditioning, and electricity, which all come from burning fossil fuels.
Then there are the monoculture crops that are grown that are depleting the soil and adding more fossil fuels from the tractors and transportation needed to plant, harvest, and get it to where it will be processed.
Rob’s journey, as you will see, is incredible. He gets the whole community involved. And, as he explains, he is new to this whole growing thing.
I can relate in many ways because I am new to growing food, too. But, I am not setting a goal of a year to do it. I am on the slow road to getting off the grocery store.
I hope you will find Rob’s story inspiring enough to start planting all of your food, too! You may find yourself getting your whole community involved with you.
“I Grew and Foraged 100% of My Food for an Entire Year!” by Rob Greenfield
Since the pandemic hit in March, the climate crisis has seemed none existent. Does mainstream media even mention it? I don’t listen to the main news stations so I wouldn’t know. But, even the progressive programming I listen to rarely mentions anything but COVID.
Sure, the numbers in the US are escalating, as well as around the world, and people are dying . . . but the climate crisis will kill more people.
It is probably two years ago this November that the IPCC, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, report came out and said we had 12 years to do something about the climate crisis. News reports on Greta Thunberg came out at that same time, along with the Sunrise Movement and Extinction Rebellion. For a whole year, the climate crisis was front and center. Something that never happened before. Greta and all these groups were pressuring the US and top governments to do something about it. Cities and countries were finally calling it a “Climate Emergency” and detailing plans to address it. I had never felt such hope before.
Then, COVID came . . . and that hope for the climate disappeared.
But, recently, a few articles came my way. One was the methane in the Laptev Sea in Siberia, which I posted a few days ago.
Then, this interview with Peter Carter, from the IPCC, and Roger Hallam, one of the founders of Extinction Rebellion. It totally reminded me . . . and motivated me . . . to get back onto focusing on the climate crisis.
Peter details the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, the fires in the Amazon, the methane in the Arctic, and the fires in Siberia. It is easy to forget all these things are going on . . . when there is a pandemic going on . . . and the media is not reminding us of the dire condition the planet . . . and humanity are in.
He brings up the fact that our economy is the main thing destroying everything. Well, that is not an easy thing to tackle. But, look at how easy it was to shut everything down in March until May for COVID! We can do this.
He also brings up the fact that changing to a vegan diet is something we all can do. No one wants to hear that but humanity is at stake here. Even if we severely depleted our intake of meat and dairy would help. I have been a vegetarian for probably 20 years and got off dairy about 10 years ago. Getting off dairy came about because a friend in our environmental group challenged us and said if we call ourselves environmentalists, we should be vegan. I took the challenge and found something to inspire me and got off dairy. There are so many good things to eat without meat and dairy.
I have attached the link for that interview and feel it is definitely worth watching.
I think we all need to be reminded . . . and motivated to focus on the climate crisis . . . for everyone’s future.