How is the Planet Doing?
Recently, I started reading “This Changes Everything” by Naomi Klein. Her book is an analysis of the status of climate change and its potential correlations with de-regulated capitalism and globalization. Klein discusses how we are in a climate crisis, citing how none of the reduced emissions targets adopted at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have been met. Not only are we falling short of targets, we continue to increase emissions globally. (Annual greenhouse gas emissions grew, on average, 2.2% per year between 2000 and 2010, compared to an average of 1.3% per year between 1970 and 2000. Source: IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report.) Unfortunately, we are now seeing the effects of this failure to meet emissions targets: weather patterns trend toward extremes, massive amounts of net ice melt in Greenland (Vice: Greenland is Melting) and Antarctica threaten to engulf low-lying cities with sea-level rise, and people all over the world are suffering from more extreme natural disasters. The recent heat wave in India saw temperatures hover at 10 degrees Fahrenheit above average for two weeks.The book has been sobering and eye opening, even for someone in the green industry. Because there are so many options in energy-efficient products like appliances and cars, I assumed that we were doing okay in avoiding detrimental effects due to climate change. However, the book opened my eyes to the fact that we are, collectively, falling short in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. Naomi Klein illustrates what this could mean for the planet and how people live: “We know that if we continue on our current path of allowing emission to rise year after year, climate change will change everything about our world. Major cities will likely drown, ancient cultures will be swallowed by the seas, and there is a very high chance that our children will spend a great deal of their lives fleeing and recovering from vicious storms and extreme droughts. And we don’t have to do anything to bring about this future. All we have to do is nothing. Just continue to do what we are doing now, whether it’s counting on a techno-fix or tending our gardens or telling ourselves we’re unfortunately too busy to deal with it.” – Excerpt from “This Changes Everything” While I am only partway through the book, it is clear to me that there are actions we can take to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
What can we do to help the planet?
We each have a role we can play – we each can make a difference. Caring for the planet takes a little work on our part. We have to do research into the products we use and how we use them. Take time to assess your role on our planet. Are your actions helping or hurting the planet? Are there ways you can do more? Even small changes can help. Small Ways to Help the Planet (small things add up):
- Become more educated on the climate (I highly recommend reading “This Changes Everything.” Literati is a fantastic local bookstore with great, knowledgeable staff – and the best coffee in town is upstairs.)
- Recycle – we are fortunate to live in an area that has loads of options for recycling. (Check out recycleannarbor.org).
- Drive more fuel-efficient cars, or better yet, bike!
- Look into how the products you buy are manufactured. Are they made locally from sustainable sources of raw material, or are they manufactured abroad and shipped long distances? How are they packaged?
- Buy local.
- Plant trees (we often cut down trees for development – trees are one of the few things that can reduce atmospheric CO2.)
- Consume less: when we consume less, we pollute less.
Other Ways to Help the Planet:
- Look into the ways we build our homes, schools, towns, and cities. Building inefficient homes wastes energy, and sprawling towns increase the need to drive.
- Lobby for energy reform. Check out the Michigan League of Conservation Voters’ Website.
- Get in contact with local jurisdictions and ask them what is being done locally to help the planet. Two good places to start in Ann Arbor are the Clean Energy Coalition and The Ecology Center.
- Join organizations like 350.org or the Sierra Club.
Ways Related to Building:
- Build to last.
- Take advantage of sustainable products that require less, if not zero, energy from the grid.
- Build to high standards like LEED or the Living Building Challenge.
- LEED emphasizes buying local materials (less distance for goods to travel).
- The Living Building Challenge takes a holistic approach to how we build.
If you are interested in building a home that meets the standards of LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) or Living Building Challenge, please consider contacting Meadowlark. We have experience building LEED platinum homes, are excited by what the Living Building Challenge represents, and strive to build resource-efficient homes. Saving the planet feels like a daunting task, but it is worth doing – and not only for future scenic bike rides.