Earth 101: What’s the Big Deal About a Few Degrees?

18 10 2018

sr15_cover_placeholderRecently,  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a new report, which outlines the impacts and costs of 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) of global warming. The panel studied over 6,000 scientific reports, and concluded that… it’s getting far worse than we thought.

 

“But seriously,” you might be thinking, “how can just a few degrees make such a difference? I mean, we experience diurnal temperature swings far greater than that every single day, right? What’s so wrong with a few extra days of summer anyway?”

 

A few degrees might seem inconsequential, but I’m here to explain how this affects us. Not hypothetically, but historically. 

 

What do we already have records of? We know that the entire planet is already 1.8 degrees F (1 degree C) hotter than it was prior to the 1900s. So what have we witnessed thus far?
When the air and water temperatures increase, there are some predictable trickle down effects. It’s very basic science. Remember those principles your science teacher taught you back in 6th grade? Hotter atmosphere holds more moisture.
According to the recent BBC article:

For every extra degree Celsius in warming, the atmosphere can hold 7% more water. This tends to make rainfall events even more extreme when they occur.

“The waters of the Gulf of Mexico are about 1.5 degrees warmer above what they were from 1980-2010,” Sir Brian Hoskins from the Grantham Institute for Climate Change told BBC Radio.

2018GlobalTempReview_Anomalies_en_title_lg

What does this mean?

Weather events occur because of differences in temperature. Hot air rises, and colder air rushes in to fill its place, until it heats up and moves up as well. This is why we have wind, and is the foundation for all weather patterns. When we have warmer air, it tends to be more unstable, and more likely to erupt into storms, just like what you’ve seen on a hot, muggy summer afternoon. With warmer air, comes more storms, more high winds, more damaging hail, more downpours, and more devastating floods.

(Learn more about other effects from a warmer climate in future posts from this Earth 101 series)

ocean temp2

Image: Ocean temperature variation from average

When it comes to storms over water, we get a double whammy. As ocean temperatures rise, they feed the unpredictability and intensity of tropical depressions and can turn a Category 2 hurricane into a Cat. 4 in a matter of hours. Just ask the Mexico Beach, Florida.

hurricane michael

 

As the Union of Concerned Scientists reiterates, the facts about the earth’s previous temperature rise are indisputable:

“Over the past 130 years, the global average temperature has increased 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit, with more than half of that increase occurring over only the past 35 years. The pattern is unmistakable: Every one of the past 40 years has been warmer than the 20th century average. 2016 was the hottest year on record. The 12 warmest years on record have all occurred since 1998.”

 

So, the temperature rise is happening, but why is it really making a noticeable difference?

According to data provided by the U.S.’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), we now have 400% more extreme weather events causing at least $1 billion in economic losses, compared to the 1980s. Some of that increase is due to greater density of buildings along coastlines, but most is due to increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. In 2017, the United States experienced the most rainfall EVER received from a single tropical storm, leaving Houston drowning.

billions-map-620

When you look at all natural disasters in the U.S. between 1980-2016, tropical cyclones and flooding represent single biggest financial losses, totaling $580.7 billion, CPI-adjusted. They are are responsible for the highest number of deaths (3,210), followed by drought/heatwave events (2,993) and severe storms (1,578).

 

It’s bigger than it looks.

Extreme weather events may be isolated geographically, but in today’s global economy the impacts send ripples worldwide. When just  one hurricane hits, it not only devastates families who lost their homes, it also means businesses are shut down, jobs are lost, people with jobs have nowhere to live or no way to get to work. When those jobs are in manufacturing, this means that a critical supplier in Georgia may cause months of delay to a manufacturer in Detroit. So, emergency measures are taken, it costs significantly more money to source alternate suppliers and expedite shipping. All the sudden, that hurricane 300 miles away from you means that your next purchase may actually cost you more out of your wallet. 

bigextremes-2017-bams

Beyond the human impacts, there are so many more effects from global warming. 

For all the beautiful and mysterious life brimming beneath the ocean’s surface, life is literally dying because of a few degrees. We’ve lost more coral reefs than you can imagine, with even the Great Barrier Reef being declared ‘dead.’ This is due to warming ocean temps, and more CO2 absorbed by the ocean, making it more acidic. Despite a history spanning over 6,000 years old, the delicate ecosystem cannot evolve fast enough to keep up with our current pace of change. We’ve already witnessed this permanent destruction:

  • Coral reefs bleached
  • Infectious diseases spread
  • Acidity weakens the coral’s structure
  • Fish are suffocating from algae blooms caused by floodwater
  • Plants are dying from sunlight being blocked out by sediment from heavy rains

great barrier reef

By the way, all of the damage to coral reefs has already come back to bite humans. We rely on healthy oceans for tourism, fishing, and seafood industries, which have all suffered losses due to the ocean’s decline over the past 40 years.

Here’s the deal. We need to quit squabbling over the cause of climate change, and start adapting to our new reality.

We are beyond the point of preventing climate change. We are already in the middle of something massive, and we’ve already made history. But, we do have the power to prevent more extreme devastation. We can slow down global warming by cutting our emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. We can plan for more extreme weather events. We can build safer, super-insulated buildings that can withstand hurricanes and epic temperature extremes. We can prepare our cities for 100 year floods. We can manage forests and limit development where wildfire risks are highest. We can continue to develop new, zero-emission technologies. We can invest in more carbon sinks, and preserve the ones Mother Nature provided us.

 

You can make choices every day to lower your carbon footprint. We all can do more. However, in order to reverse course, we must have leadership that recognizes the incredible health and safety risk that we are currently facing. Even if you don’t believe the scientists who spend their entire careers studying climate, you cannot deny the unusual increase in extreme weather events that we are now seeing year after year. 

 

The facts are clear, despite the uneducated, unscientific opinions you may hear. ‘The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”  tweeted by Donald Trump on November 6, 2012.

wall_map_illustrating_the_possible_effects_of_climate_change

Advertisements




Earth 101: Why Should I care?

17 10 2018

Our beloved host planet is changing, slowly but surely. In fact, it’s always changing. While change is fairly constant, it’s the quickening rate of change and the direction that is causing the uproar. Right now, despite being historically overdue for a cool-down in the Earth’s climate (more on this later in this series), we are starting to see the effects of a slow but increasing rise in the earth’s surface temperature, in ways both big and small.

climatechange

Our global community is made up of millions of unique, diverse individuals, with different backgrounds, different values, and different beliefs. Yet, we share a common goal. We all enjoy a pleasant life on this planet, with relatively low, well-known risks. How can we maintain a hospitable environment, and prevent a degradation that risks our way of life?

What motivates us to do anything will naturally vary, but everyone can find common ground with so many drivers behind environmental adaptation. Before we can dive into the “how,” we must first understand the “why.”

Why should you care about the impacts of our changing planet?

 

Q1: Do You Thrive on Constant Change? Most people naturally prefer the comfort and familiarity of things staying pretty much the same. We don’t like being forced to learn an entirely new software, or being detoured due to construction, or the discomfort and inconvenience of an unexpected relocation, either at work or at home. Yet, we are already seeing measurable impacts that are forcing us to adapt our lifestyles to the new reality of a changing climate, and the change will just keep forcing us to adjust more and more frequently if we stay the course.

 

Hops_IPA_Pour-BA-1200Q2: Do You Enjoy Eating and Drinking? Or Fun Excursions?  Hundreds of industries are already being impacted by unpredictable seasonal temperature swings, uncontrollable wildfires, massive snow melts, extreme rain events that cause flooding, and deadly droughts. Whether it’s a frostbitten crop of cherry blossoms, or a rural snowmobiling community that languishes, or charred vineyards, or empty maple syrup barrels, or green ski resorts, or thirsty hops for brewing beer, there are countless commodities and tourist destinations that are suffering from wild swings in weather, resulting from a destabilized climate.

 

 

TOPSHOT-US-DAM-WEATHER

Q3: Do You Love the Beach? Or Camping? Or Hunting? Or Hiking? Beaches won’t be quite as fun without the sandy part where you picnic and play. Sea level is expected to rise five inches during the next 40 years. This might not sound like much, but that is enough to cause flooding in hundreds of coastal cities such as New York, Washington, Miami, Houston and others worldwide. About 40% of Americans live at or near the coast. The cost of protecting coastal cities from the rising seas will be extraordinary, and this is in addition to damage from increasingly frequent and unusually strong hurricanes.

Western-WildfiresInland natural areas aren’t much safer, though the reasons are more varied. Regardless of how you like to enjoy the great outdoors, the rapid changes are happening too fast for most plants and animals to evolve, which means that we are seeing more invasive species taking over with shifting growing zones, animal migration patterns disrupted, delicate ecosystems thrown out of balance, and noticeable shifts in the serene surroundings we love to escape to.

 

billion dollar disastersQ4: Do You Want to See a Stable Economy? The evidence is already clear. Climate Change is costing our economy billions of dollars every year. The World Economic Forum just issued their latest report, assessment by 1,000 experts, of the greatest risks to business.

“September 2017 was the most intense month on record for extreme weather events, as well as the most expensive U.S. hurricane season since 2005 with economic losses in excess of $300 billion,” Group Chief Risk Officer Alison Martin said.

The historical trend shows that year after year, environmental risks due to climate change are becoming increasingly bigger risks, relative to other critical threats like a slowing Chinese economy, Middle East unrest, and unemployment. Sharply rising insurance costs already reflect the reality that the insurance industry has been tracking closely for decades: climate change is already costing the U.S. billions more annually. Just as we expect our government to step in to manage other aspects of our economy, this key risk to our economy cannot continue to be ignored.

2018-10-17_15-36-47

 

Q5: Are You a Humanitarian? Do you care about feeding the hungry, and preventing children from starving? Do you want to stop the spread of infectious diseases and end the suffering of victims of terrible illnesses? Countless studies, including the USDA, now show an annual decline of 2-4% in crop productivity per average acre in the United States at a result of changes in climate; but the forecast of devastation is far worse in other parts of the world. You can also expect a greater occurrence of dengue, Zika, and other mosquito-borne diseases, and even more occurrences of tick-borne diseases, like Lyme disease.

 

 

c_scale,fl_progressive,q_80,w_800Q6: Do you believe in a Higher Power? Most religions have sacred texts that tell us exactly how we are supposed to treat the earth. It is our duty to protect the land, the air, the water, and all the creatures created to coexist on this planet alongside human beings.

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you.

Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”- Job 12:7-10

The Bible even seems to allude to our exact crisis of extreme weather and higher temperatures.

“The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers, the exalted of the earth languish. The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left.” – Isaiah 24:4-6

In Islam, the sacred text references in numerous places the inherent role of humans to be stewards of the land. There are more than 750 verses in the Qur’an that are related to nature.

“And there is no creature on [or within] the earth or bird that flies with its wings except [that they are] communities like you. We have not neglected in the Register a thing. Then unto their Lord they will be gathered.” – Qur’an, 6:38

 

Q7: Are You a Republican, a Democrat, or Neither? The reality is, this is not a partisan issue. In recent history, the U.S. has tackled numerous environmental threats under both democratic and republican presidencies. You might be fooled into thinking that protecting the environment that we live in is not in the hearts of republicans, but that simply isn’t true. President George H.W. Bush, who ran for office as the “environmental president,” signed into law a novel, market-based approach- a cap-and-trade system limiting pollution that helped stop the acid-rain crisis.

Before that, Reagan’s leadership addressed the stratospheric ozone hole by creating new regulations on chlorofluorocarbon emissions. Back in the 80s, our GOP Leadership saw this as a crisis that required immediate, international collaboration to resolve. Parties worked together for the health and safety of Americans… AND IT WORKED. Despite the sharp reversal of the current administration, both republicans and democrats care about the large-scale implications of major environmental crises, and it’s time for the U.S. to return to the global stage as a leader in this.

GAO-Climate-Change-Graphicpng-580x407





How to Kill the Planet in 8 Easy Steps!(Reader Feedback Edition!)

8 10 2018

I asked, you shared. Here’s a new draft of additions to our Workplace chapter of the upcoming book, How to kill the Planet in 8 Easy Steps! (Pssst… the 8 steps are each chapters focusing on specific areas of our lives, so within each ‘step’ are additional sub-steps. See how much less overwhelming it is when the title says it’s simple??)

 

Not only can you follow your passion and seek creative ways to get employed by evil corporations, but you can also impact the planet in little ways with daily tasks at work.

 

  1. Never choose a job that is close to where you live. Besides the obvious reasons, like the risk of running into a coworker while getting groceries, this is a key component of promoting climate change. This goes hand in hand with the previous chapter about choosing to live near absolutely nothing walking distance. Failed to buy a house in the boonies? Don’t worry, you can still work on your job location. If you accidentally managed to take a job that is close enough to bike or bus to work, consider asking for a transfer to another location. Or work your way up to a position where it requires more travel. Maybe even quarterly flights overseas! If you work hard enough, you can find a way to make this a reality. It’s the only patriotic thing you can do.
  2. Avoid hiring or working with young people. If you’ve been so unlucky to work with Millenials or GenZers, you’ll surely have discovered that their values just aren’t where they should be. These young folks these days actually understand the basic science behind climate change, and actually want to REVERSE the extreme path we are on. They seem cute and harmless now, but just you wait. Pretty soon, they’ll be filling the HR lady’s ears with ideas about “Sustainability Committees” and “Earth Day” activities for the company. They’ll make suggestions about how to “save energy, save the planet,” and other ridiculous proposals. Eventually, there will be so many of them, the company will be forced to give in, and will start allowing some young go-getter to try out some of these ideas. Once they can prove how much money their environmentally-friendly projects are saving the company, it’s all downhill from there. Before you know it, these whippersnappers are getting promoted, stealing YOUR job, and making the decisions. We are all doomed once this happens. By the time the Millenials are in charge, it’ll be all ping-pong tournaments, organic, stevia-sweetened sodas in the lunch room, waterless urinals, and company compost piles out behind the loading dock. So, just don’t work with them. Hold out for as long as you can, so that we can continue to screw over civilization through climate change.

 

Use your power to influence others. As long as you still have control, there are lots of great policies you can implement to ensure continued destruction of the planet.

 

  1. Need to share a report with your team? Don’t just email a PDF, make sure to print it out for every individual that may or may not attend the meeting, plus a few extras, just in case. Don’t skimp out, either! That puppy ought to be single sided, full color, and with any references or appendices also printed out. If you’re really an overachiever, you can print out a copy of your slideshow too, with one slide per page so they can take copious notes about your sheer brilliance as you dazzle them with your wastefulness. Pro Tip: When printing, be sure to avoid using ‘Print Preview’ because you could accidentally catch a mistake before you hit print, and save paper. Also, when you do print, make sure to print all copies at once. If you just print a test copy, you may also catch mistakes before printing the full amount, which could minimize the number of misprinted pages that you can trash.
  2. While you’re at it, even something as innocuous as paychecks can be tree killers. While most companies have gone the way of electronic check deposits for paychecks, you can STILL insist on printing paper paystubs to hand out to employees every payday. This way, they know that you really care, and your company stands behind its pledge to live in the stone ages.
  3. Abolish recycling. It used to be so easy to say, “We don’t recycle here.” Nowadays it’s far too easy to recycle, and even rural businesses now have options to do so. The heat is on, and suddenly even our kids are coming home from school brainwashed and asking about recycling. Resist!! Even if it’s too late to get rid of recycling at work, there are still some things you can do to make it far less successful. NEVER place a recycling bin next to every single trash can. This makes the choice too obvious, and people are likely to choose to recycle when it’s that easy. You can also make sure that the recycling containers are much, much smaller, and emptied far less frequently than the trash. That way, they fill up, and once they start overflowing, people will be forced to toss perfectly good, recyclable materials into the landfill-bound bin instead! Lastly, information is power. If some GenZer decides to label your recycling bins with pictures of what is and is not recyclable, you should come in an extra hour earlier and rip off all the labels. We don’t want people making better choices that eliminate contaminated recycling bins. After all, when we contaminate the recycling with actual trash, it makes it harder to process, and therefore more expensive. If you do a really good job of contaminating it, the recycling center will even be forced to landfill the whole lot!!!

PRO TIP: Really fuck with those tree huggers by allowing recycling, but hiring only trash companies, and be sure to have them go around emptying the recycling and trash bins into the same vessel right in front of employees, so that they become heart-broken and despondent, and give up the fight. Bonus points if they pull and discard completely empty trash liners, to help really drive the point home.

  1. Give ‘em something to talk about. Break areas are cesspools for company culture, and this is where you can really plant the seeds to breed passionate conversation. What’s the best way to do this? Ban all reusable drink containers, of course! Make up some fake news study about germs, so that you can convince everyone that your unwavering demand for flimsy plastic water cooler cups and planet-killing styrofoam coffee cups is really an altruistic effort to curb the plague.
  2. Public Health BS. Building on the ‘concern for health,’ install disposable toilet seat covers, ideally ones that are automatically dispensed. They use energy to rotate the old and new covers with every person, whether they care or not, and create an entirely new waste stream of plastic film that never existed before! Couch it as “management respects the concerns of women” to provide clean toilet seats, because a layer of TP just isn’t enough to prevent the transfer of 0.09% of toilet-borne illnesses.
  3. Imperfect technology can really be a double-agent. Let’s say that you are struggling to fight the good fight, but upper management or HR are insistent that you need to make some green concessions to stop the bleeding. That’s when you call in the sneak attack!! Acquiesce by agreeing to install something with a known weakness, like auto-flushing toilets, faucets, or occupancy sensors. Properly spec’d, installed, and calibrated, these technologies can work for the opposition and actually help reduce climate change, but with some valuable knowledge, you can buck the system! Bribe your maintenance person to adjust the sensors, so that they flush toilets when a fly lands, refuse to turn faucets on until somebody screams, and lights go out every 2 minutes, causing occupants to look like they are practicing Chinese calisthenics. Before you know it, your ‘good deed’ will help indoctrinate wavering parties, and they will convert to the dark side!!!
  4. Communication is key. Every successful business person knows this is true. But in the era of erasable whiteboards, and emails, how can we manage to create waste??? Never fear, sticky notes are here to stay!! What could be left as an email, will be so much more effective if you use a tiny square of paper to annoyingly put it in someone’s face. This way, that cannot pretend they aren’t ignoring you! Better yet, be redundant and add a 6 inch wad of scotch tape to the back of that sticky note, just to be sure it doesn’t fall off before they get a chance to realize what a jackass you are.
  5. Refuse to change. It’s inevitable that someone will try to “improve” on the way you’ve always done things. Like, insisting on having ‘real plates’ in the break room, so they can be washed and reused a million times, instead of filling the trash with smelly, unrecyclable, styrofoam plates. You didn’t come to work just to do dishes, did you?!? No, you didn’t. And unless they are providing a work wife to take care of your dirty lunch dishes, you should refuse to give up your single use disposables. Styrofoam plates are one of the most evil genius inventions to help kill the planet, after all! They’re simply perfect! Styrofoam is manufactured using nasty chemicals, which can’t be healthy to breathe in; shipped in even more plastic bags, which we already know nobody recycles; they’re far too fragile to even think about rinsing and reusing, especially once your fork stabs through the foam into your thigh; and even in the rare location where a recycling center has invested in equipment to recycle it, it’s still so lightweight that it will never make sense to pay freight charges to haul it very far, so, off to the landfill it goes! Since we all know that plastic (which styrofoam is a type of) never ever disappears, you can rest easy knowing that the 20 minutes you spent eating off that plate will mean an eternal life for that plate in the landfill. Or, if you’re really lucky, it’ll get blown off that truck and make its way to a stream, where it will flow down to the ocean and get eaten by fish. It all comes full circle once you take a bite of that styrofoam filled salmon, off your next styrofoam plate at the company picnic!




How to Kill the Planet in 8 Easy Steps! (Part 5: The Workplace)

5 10 2018

(Note: This is satire. This is a partial selection from my upcoming book, How to Kill the Planet in 8 Easy Steps! A snarky guide to living the most unsustainable lifestyle possible. You can read other excerpts from the book here.)

 

What you do to make a living is important. After all, it’s how you will spend at least 50 hours a week every week for most of your adult life, so it’s important to make that time count!

snow-white-and-the-seven-dwarfs-di-18

For those of us who were unfortunate enough to be born into this world without a trust fund and an inheritance, we’ve got plenty of reason to want payback on this planet. After all, it’s harder than ever before to make a living and earn enough money to have a decent life for your family. In an era when women no longer go to college just to earn their MRS degree, there’s even more competition for jobs, which makes it even harder for men to make enough dough to keep the lil misses at home baking pies. Plus, the #metoo movement has made it damn near impossible to get away with anything at work, which takes all the fun out of having mixed gender in the workplace!

 

Don’t let all these things get you down. It’s true that men make less money today, (but still 20% more than women), have to compete with women for promotions, can no longer blatantly sexually harass women at work, work more hours every week than European counterparts, receive less vacation, sick time, paternity leave, no longer get pensions for retirement, and pay exorbitant costs for health insurance. On the bright side, there are some wonderful opportunities to make your job part of your climate change plan!

pinky and the brain

Use your power to influence others. As long as you still have control, there are lots of great policies you can implement to ensure continued destruction of the planet.

Need to share a report with your team? Don’t just email a PDF, make sure to print it out for every individual that may or may not attend the meeting, plus a few extras, just in case. Don’t skimp out, either! That puppy ought to be single sided, full color, and with any references or appendices also printed out. If you’re really an overachiever, you can print out a copy of your slideshow too, with one slide per page so they can take copious notes about your sheer brilliance as you dazzle them with your wastefulness.

depositphotos_79874734-stock-photo-close-up-stack-of-papersPro Tip: When printing, be sure to avoid using ‘Print Preview’ because you could accidentally catch a mistake before you hit print, and save paper. Also, when you do print, make sure to print all copies at once. If you just print a test copy, you may also catch mistakes before printing the full amount, which could minimize the number of misprinted pages that you can trash.

 

no-recycling-e1395606642495Abolish recycling! It used to be so easy to say, “We don’t recycle here.” Nowadays it’s far too easy to recycle, and even rural businesses now have options to do so. The heat is on, and suddenly even our kids are coming home from school brainwashed and asking about recycling. Resist!! Even if it’s too late to get rid of recycling at work, there are still some things you can do to make it far less successful.

NEVER place a recycling bin next to every single trash can. This makes the choice too obvious, and people are likely to choose to recycle when it’s that easy. You can also make sure that the recycling containers are much, much smaller, and emptied far less frequently than the trash. That way, they fill up, and once they start overflowing, people will be forced to toss perfectly good, recyclable materials into the landfill-bound bin instead!

recycling binRemember, information is power. If some GenZer decides to label your recycling bins with pictures of what is and is not recyclable, you should come in an extra hour earlier and rip off all the labels. We don’t want people making better choices that eliminate contaminated recycling bins. After all, when we contaminate the recycling with actual trash, it makes it harder to process, and therefore more expensive. If you do a really good job of contaminating it, the recycling center will even be forced to landfill the whole lot!!!

 

styrofoam trash

Refuse to change. It’s inevitable that someone will try to “improve” on the way you’ve always done things. Like, insisting on having ‘real plates’ in the break room, so they can be washed and reused a million times, instead of filling the trash with smelly, unrecyclable, styrofoam plates. You didn’t come to work just to do dishes, did you?!? No, you didn’t. And unless they are providing a work wife to take care of your dirty lunch dishes, you should refuse to give up your single use disposables. 

Styrofoam plates are one of the most evil genius inventions to help kill the planet, after all! They’re simply perfect! Styrofoam is manufactured using nasty chemicals, which can’t be healthy to breathe in; shipped in even more plastic bags, which we already know nobody recycles; they’re far too fragile to even think about rinsing and reusing, especially once your fork stabs through the foam into your thigh; and even in the rare location where a recycling center has invested in equipment to recycle it, it’s still so lightweight that it will never make sense to pay freight charges to haul it very far, so, off to the landfill it goes!

salmonSince we all know that plastic (which styrofoam is a type of) never ever disappears, you can rest easy knowing that the 20 minutes you spent eating off that plate will mean an eternal life for that plate in the landfill. Or, if you’re really lucky, it’ll get blown off that truck and make its way to a stream, where it will flow down to the ocean and get eaten by fish. It all comes full circle once you take a bite of that styrofoam filled salmon, off your next styrofoam plate at the company picnic!





How to Kill the Planet in 8 Easy Steps! (excerpt)

13 08 2018

As some of you may know, I’ve been happily writing my next book! This one is a snarky guide to killing the planet, broken down into 8 easy steps. In each of the 8 chapters, I’ve laid out exactly what you need to do to ensure the complete destruction of our environment, and everything in it.

 

Food is another really great way to stick it to the planet! It’s something that we do almost every day, and there are endless choices. Read on to learn all the fabulously evil ways that you can screw over the next generation while barely lifting a finger!

 

Method #1: You Are What You Eat

We don’t often jump to our diets when thinking about how to make it hot in here. (Unless you live in a hot climate without air conditioning, where spicy food is a cultural norm to help you feel cooler.) For most of us, food is simply the reward we stuff in our mouths after a hard day’s work, or when we need a break… or if we are bored, or anxious, or sad, or happy… or- sometime-, just because we are hungry. Food can do so much more for you than just give you nutrition to survive and fill the void where your father’s love used to be!

 

The production of food, and how far it travels to get to your plate, are two major factors that go into the carbon footprint of your diet. Did you grow up on a farm? That’s too bad, because the food you grew didn’t have to get shipped far enough to help burn much gas. Maybe you can make up for it by eating more of the stuff that takes exorbitant amounts of water, hormones, grain, and pesticides to create a single serving of calories! Or, you can substitute unusual foods that traveled from distant countries to arrive in the U.S., consuming vast transportation fuels, and maybe even depriving the country of origin of much needed calories. It’s not too late to eat worse for the planet!

 

Not only can your choice increase methane emissions (remember, those are worth more points that CO2 alone!), but the impacts can double down with other ethical quandaries, like humane conditions or world hunger.

brochure6a-thumb-615x906-57921

This can be a tricky subject these days, what with all the food allergies, fad diets, and holier-than-thou vegan types. Nevertheless, you can rest easy by keeping a miniature version of this chart in your wallet to reference whenever you are contemplating your dinner choice at an all-you-can-eat buffet. The redder the choice, the worse for the planet. Easy peasy!

foodprint5

Remember, sometimes things can be accidentally vegan. Be wary of such items, as the vegans are conspiring to sneak this into all sorts of unfathomable places. That side of veggies being smothered by your steak? Vegan. Those delicious Doritos that came with your boxed lunch? Vegan. Even the all-American Oreo has been coerced by this ruthless community of earth-worshippers! Once you know how much of your diet might be currently made up of these low-emission foods, you are now armed with the information you need to become a super-emitter! No more garden fresh tomatoes for you, bucko!!

 

If you really are committed to making a difference, red meat is really your only choice. If you have religious conflicts that might prevent you from consuming this product, it’s super easy to convert to one of hundreds of religions that don’t regard cows as sentient beings. If you still feel conflicted, just look at the facts. Where else can you get so much bang for your buck? Not just CO2, but water consumption, runoff pollution, energy consumption, and so many more great ways to decimate our planet! So go fire up the grill, and don’t you dare let an Impossible Burger near that sacred altar.

 

red-meat-consumption-cardiovascular-diseases-13-638

Feeling embarrassed about not being a true carnivore? Are you concerned that you might be a closet vegetarian? Do you actually ENJOY eating healthier options? Don’t worry, we can still help you destroy the planet. Remember, not all foods are created equal. For example, instead of going apple picking this fall and having your honeycrisp travel a measly 20 miles to get in your belly, you can still make much less sustainable food choices.

 

How about a banana? Unless you’ve mastered the art of growing tropical trees in your McMansion, this deliciously portable fruit can be picked green, thrown in a shipping container, travel over oceans, get stored in a warehouse, be gassed, and then get trucked to your local CostCo for you to pick up! Now, the carbon footprint of a banana may still only be about 80 grams of CO2, but almost all the ones we get to eat are of the ‘Cavendish’ variety. The monoculture often requires clear cutting diverse forest habitats, and liberal use of pesticides and fungicides, so you get some bonus points there! 

 

What else can you do to make your food choices worse for the planet? If your heart can’t take another ounce of artery-clogging cholesterol, there are still some good plant-based ways to do bad. Have you ever heard of palm oil? It’s like the high fructose corn syrup of the 21st century! Do-gooder grocery chains like Whole Foods have made this liquid gold corn syrup harder to come by, but palm oil is even EVILER! Firstly, it’s not grown here in north America, so we already know that we get to ship it from distant cultures with much laxer laws protecting the lands. Secondly, palm oil has rapidly infiltrated all sorts of heavily-processed, highly-packaged foods. Just read the box!

 

Palm oil means that you get to knock down rainforests, which is a double whammy. You not only get to kill thousands of CO2 absorbing trees that are working to counteract all those emissions you’ve worked so hard to generate, but you also get to destroy habitat for our distant cousins, like orangutans. Remember, there’s only room for ONE species at the top of the food chain. Don’t let those cute little baby orangutans crying for their endangered dead mommies fool you! Your need for this preciously ‘cheap’ palm oil in your french fries or cookies is obviously far more critical than their existence. Same goes for the elephants and tigers that are being wiped out as well. However, we need your help! In the past 20 years, the consumption of palm oil has only quadrupled. We need you to use MORE!

 

Palm-Oil-2-6-14-2216px-1

Method #2: Eat out, and eat often

One of the best ways we can do our duty to be wasteful is to make sure that we give every chance possible for food to go to waste. Nearly 40% of all food ends up in the trash, from farm to table. So if you eat out at a restaurant, there’s more opportunity for the kitchen to cut off imperfect scraps, reject ugly fruit, and scrape your plate of any leftover morsels that you were unwilling to take home after gorging yourself on king-sized portions. If you do get swindled into taking home a doggy bag, be sure not to give it to your dog. She deserved a fresh meal, after all.

 

No, your leftovers should go promptly into the fridge, preferably to the far back corner, where they can sit in isolation and manifest the next version of themselves. Once they have achieved leftover euphoria, only then may you remove the halo of mold and discard it directly into the trash bag.

 

No matter how many times your neighbor offers to take your organic spoilage for her compost bin, do NOT give in! It’s worth the stench of the rotten trash bag to know that your food waste is never going to become anything other than plastic-encased slime. Remember, if you let your food waste go into the landfill, it produces methane, which is 20 times worse than CO2! So, if the average household trash bag is made up of 20% food waste, make your goal 50% Throw it all away!!!

 

The best way to ensure that you pitch your dish is to pretend that you are turning over a new leaf (literally) by deciding to eat only salads. By the end of the week, that 10 gallon plastic container of pre-washed lettuce mix you so proudly bought will become a science experiment of epic proportions, and you’d surely be able to toss 90% of your health pledge. Time to go buy another plastic tub of empty promises!

 

If it accidentally got composted, it would create a friendly habitat for earthworms, turning into nutrient-rich soil, and then allow some yogi a chance to grow organic heirloom tomatoes with strange stripes and weird colors, which they would inevitably try to share with you. (And food that only travels from within your town has a tiny, baby-sized carbon footprint). Keep your devil tomatoes to yourself, yogi!!

Food-Waste-Infographic

There are so many other ways that we can ensure mutual destruction of our future. Keep an eye out for the entire book, How to Kill the Planet in 8 Easy Steps, coming soon in 2019! You will find the link to buy it at https://kellyweger.weebly.com/  





Sweden

13 06 2018

About six years ago, a dear friend of mine moved to Sweden. It was quite a departure from her life in San Antonio, Texas, where she had moved after we graduated Architecture school together in Austin. In fact, winter in Austin was just slightly cooler than summer in Stockholm, where she now calls home.

18

For years, I had been meaning to prioritize heading there to see her and her husband, Carl. It just kept being pushed to the back burner for more adventurous trips that aligned better with our travel matrix. You see, as an avid traveler, with a modest budget, I can only make it so many places in a given year. Usually I try to travel to places that are higher on my list, which is a pretty simple assessment.

 

Top Travel Priorities =

  1. Places at risk of disappearing due to climate change (already checked off the Maldives, Glacier National Park, and the Everglades)
  2. Places that require very long travel times (Asia, Australia, very remote islands, etc.), which are easier to handle while my body is young, and will be more painful if I wait until I’m older to explore.
  3. Once-in-a-lifetime events and cheap deals that are too good to pass up. (Solar Eclipse in Paducah, KY is a local example, or visiting a friend in the Peace Corp in Ouagadougou, which I regret missing out on)

 

So, when I heard an interview last fall on NPR about silly-cheap flights to the Nordic regions, I had to explore. Apparently, Norwegian Air was offering round trip flights for as little as a few hundred bucks, which was less than half of my first European travel back in 2001! Online I went to explore the possibility.

 

At first, it seemed too good to be true! $400 to fly to see Raina and Carl? Totally worth it! As I worked my way through the airline’s website, however, I was nickeled and dimed to death, with add-ons for so many ridiculous things that mainstream airlines like Delta or American Airlines don’t pester customers with. Eventually, I made it to the final page, with the “no-turning-back” button staring me down. As I prepared to click to book the flight, I was accostsed with yet another pop up. “Want to pay with credit card?” It taunted, “That’ll  just be another $33 fee!” This was the last straw.

I opened another tab and did a quick search. Turkish Airlines, which we had flown last year to Sri Lanka, was all-inclusive, and just about $500. It was worth it to know I had an assigned seat, room for my luggage, and even free drinks on the flight! Plus- BONUS- I had enough reward points from my credit card hobby to buy both our tickets without spending a dime!!

 

Thus, our trip was booked! Free flight, free accommodations (thanks to Raina and Carl for putting us up in their office/spare room!), so we just had to pay for meals, entertainment, and local transportation. My wife and I were very much looking forward to a different kind of vacation, with the ease and comfort of knowing locals, and a cultural experience more like our own than different.

 

What I discovered, was a bit surprising. This is very much my personal experience, which reflects my own travel history moreso than Sweden’s generous offerings.arctic circle

 

Sweden is north.

31408117_2000582690024345_6353055795422657402_n

Really far north. Like, “further-up-than-most-of-the-country-of-Canada” north. Which means the sun plays tricks with your body, by doing things like making the sky light at 3am (or 10am, depending on the time of year). While it technically rose at 4:30am, the sky begins to glow for hours before and after the official existence of the sun in the sky. This seemed like no biggie, but after tacking up extra curtains, wearing an eyemask (thank you for the freebie, Turkish Airline!), and covering my head with a pillow, the sun was no match for my body’s incessant alignment to the cycles of the sun. I slept well every second or third day, which made it tougher to fully enjoy our daily excursions.

Sweden is soooo easy.

Never in a million years did I expect this to come out of my mouth, but our vacation was almost TOO easy for me. I didn’t realize how much I enjoy the challenge of learning a new language, adapting to other countries’ cultures, and the challenges of figuring out how things work. This is definitely a sensation that has evolved over years of traveling to less and less developed parts of the world. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a lazy day where I can relax, order a beverage in my native tongue, and not have a care in the world. But I also (apparently) really enjoy the challenges of foreign travel. Maybe it just makes for better stories.

There’s no language barrier.

In Stockholm, as in many large European cities, everybody speaks English. Here, it’s partly because they have free college education as citizens. Even when we tried speaking Swedish, people responded to us in English, which, as a language lover, was sometimes disappointing. Clearly, I’m privileged as a native English speaker, but it was also beautiful to see so many other visitors from countries all over the world speaking in their native language, and then switching to English (instead of Swedish) to order a meal.

 

Cars not required.

Our friends and hosts, Raina and Carl, do not own a car. They live and work in a place where they can either walk, bike, or take the metro every single day. Even when we wanted to escape to the country, we could do so by simply taking one of many ferries out through the archipelago to a remote island, knowing that there was a regular schedule to allow us to return home at regular intervals. Never once did I feel ‘stuck’ without a car, because their transportation system is so interconnected, frequent, and redundant, that at almost any point we had multiple options of how we wanted to get home.

Stockholm was inviting.

This city is extremely clean, feels very safe, and most importantly, it has good urban design.

 

As an Architect, I relish in discovering the dichotomy of ancient ruins, historically preserved buildings, and modern infill. Yet, unlike other major European cities I’ve been to, Stockholm feels much more preserved. It’s not that there is no modern design, but that the scale is kept in check with historic neighbors. There is not a ‘downtown’ filled with skyscrapers, in fact,  there are seldom any buildings taller than the predominant 5-8 stories. Instead, new construction is respectful, and typically built no higher than the tallest neighbor, which is often a church steeple from 400 years ago. The city has maintained a human scale, where you feel like you still matter. This makes it feel like a much smaller city than Indianapolis, despite having 50% more residents.

 

The density of the built environment n Stockholm is much more consistent, versus the skyscraper cluster that transitions into single family homes in less than a mile of downtown Indy. Single family homes are rare in Stockholm, and our friends owned a flat in a 4 or 5 story apartment building with a beautiful courtyard filled with bicycle parking.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

People MOVE here.

I’m not talking about immigration, although they DO have an unbelievable program that paid for Raina to take a year of intensive language courses specific to her field of expertise so that she could be a fully productive member of their society.

 

No, I’m taking about how people get around. I mentioned the mass transit, and referenced the bikes, but it really is amazing to see just how little cars are used here. It took me a few days to put my finger on it, but when I did, it was truly eye opening. After spending endless hours walking the cobblestone streets of the chain of islands that make up Stockholm, we sat at an outdoor cafe, joined by others willing to brave the chilly 61F temps to celebrate winter’s passing.

 

31403986_2000446300037984_1177753822146862086_nWith a glass of wine in hand, we sat and watched the boats pass by, the regular trains over bridges, and the abundance of pedestrians. I started watching more closely to observe the footwear of those who clearly were walking to or from work. What I noticed was starkly contrasting to what I would see back home. Unlike the business professionals in Indy, the very stylish Swedes made one small concession. They wore comfortable shoes. Think about this. Not a single woman walked past us wearing high heels. They were just too impractical! Instead, women wore sneakers- all of them! They might have fancier shoes at work to change into, but nobody was judged for wearing logical shoes on their walk to work. And you can see the difference in how fit everyone is!

 

There’s room to breathe.

One of the very unique aspects of Stockholm is that is is made up of a series of islands. Each island is connected via numerous bridges and tunnels, and many waterfronts are also lined with public parks and trails for biking and walking. While many of these parks are narrow strips of green, the interstitial space between the islands effectively functions like additional park space. No matter how dense the buildings are, you are seldom more than a 15 minute walk to a waterfront, which functions as a ‘release’ from the density. It gives your mind and body space to breathe, and enough visual distance for beautiful vistas that encourage you to slow down and enjoy the view.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

People Matter.

Hands down, the most fascinating thing to me about our experience in Sweden was the culture.  It left me so impressed, I can imagine why people want to live here, despite the dayless winters and nightless summers.

 

Taxes are high, and they have the social support system to prove it. For example, I saw more men pushing baby strollers on any given day than I have seen in the US in any given year. Swedes get 14 months paid leave when they have a baby! They also value work-life balance. When you work overtime, it gets banked as extra vacation time, on top of the 4 weeks of standard vacation folks already get. And your boss expects you to actually take all that vacation time!

 

Lastly, I have one word for you. FICA (pronounced “Fee-kuh”). Fica is a national concept that every employee, EVERYWHERE, takes a mid-morning break, where it’s practically mandatory for you to leave your desk, grab a coffee, and socialize with your coworkers for 15-25 minutes. Then, in mid-afternoon, you do it again. We actually went to Raina’s architecture firm to witness a Fica, and it was surreal. They even play ping-pong like socialists. Everyone grabbed a paddle, walks in a circle around the table, and takes one turn to hit the ball before continuing forward to make room for the next player. It felt like I was in a commune (but in a good way, and much cleaner). I’ve now taken it upon myself (as a person who eats lunch at my desk while working) to embrace this concept of Fica and bring it back to Indianapolis.

All-in-all, we had a very enjoyable experience. I didn’t even get into the specific sites and attractions Sweden offers, but that’s what your ‘big box’ travel sites are for! If you’re looking for a nice entry to oversees travel, I highly recommend it. Or if you just want an easy place to wander, you’ll never feel lost in Sweden. Say “Hi!” to Raina and Carl for us!





4 Reasons Why Our Planet Desperately Needs Women Leaders

8 03 2018

It’s International Women’s Day, and a perfect time to declare women as the solution to our planet’s woes!

When I wake up in the morning, I am driven by one thing, and one thing only. I want a better future. Not just for myself, but for my community, my country, and our planet. I am passionate about Sustainability, which is the delicate balance of improving People, Planet, and Profit: The Triple Bottom Line.

 

KellyWeger-FINAL-1As a sustainability specialist, I am all too familiar with the historical state of imbalance of these three critical aspects of the equation. We focus far too heavily on Profit, at the expense of People and Planet. The scales are starting to tip, but there is still much work to do in order to achieve a truly sustainable future.

The Triple Bottom Line: People, Planet, and Profit 

 

Assuming that our economy has a pretty good handle on how to make a profit, I choose to focus my efforts on the remaining two-thirds: Planet and People. Together, finding a balanced way to improve and promote these aspects, will also naturally yield greater profits. I’ve seen this time and time again in my consulting work, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars for dozens of companies, and it can work for you too.

triple-bottom-line-1

Here’s the thing. We have so many different uniquely narrow passions, with extremely taxing battles to fight, that we tend to become myopic in our approach. A Social Worker is mired in emotionally draining efforts to literally save lives on a daily basis. An Architect is neck deep in detailed technological advances and complex interactions that can make or break a good building design. A Trans Equality Advocate is swimming against the tide of public opinion to simply dispel myths that plague and endanger hundreds of thousands of Americans. An Atmospheric Scientist is struggling to share decades of verified changes to our planet to fuel positive policy and personal behavioral changes.

map1_Tagxedo_comEach fight is absolutely critical to our community’s future success, yet they lack a sense of interconnectedness that is inherent to their separate paths. Each one of these individuals is fighting for the same thing. Sustainability. They are failing to unite in this common goal.

 

The term sustainability is broad, intentionally so. It is often defined “as the ability to meet our society’s current needs, while still allowing future generations to meet their own needs.”

Basically, let’s provide a positive future for our grandchildren by being aware of the long term ramifications of our choices today.

SEEDSClublogo

We have already seen cycles of unsustainable living, and their devastating impacts on People, Planet and Profit:

  • _90804563_d3e69c4d-f914-4ce4-9aac-1242b91af58dExcessive water use leads to decreased water tables, which leads to droughts, which leads to wildfires, which pollutes clean air, destroys homes and habitats, which negatively impacts humans and animals. Leaving people homeless, with expensive and lengthy cleanup.
  • Unchecked development with impermeable surfaces means there is less open land for rainwater to soak into, which increases stormwater runoff, which rapidly transfers oils and contaminants into the gutters, which overwhelms and floods systems, streets, and our basements. New infrastructure investments cost us millions.
  • Rapid consumerism leads to a throw-away society, where people purchase cheap items, use them once, then discard them, which means they go to a large garbage pile and get buried for the foreseeable future. Then they purchase the same item again, which consumes an enormous amount of raw materials and creates greenhouse gases in the production and transportation of that item every single time you buy it. Air pollution leads to atmospheric warming and increased  instability.

What if I told you that the solution to solving our sustainability dilemma lies in one particular focus?

The answer is women.

 

101445447-160002665It is no secret that women are still working in inequitable positions compared to their male equals. They get paid less. They are expected to be the one to leave the workforce when a couple chooses to start a family. They are increasingly starting small businesses, but fail to grow enough to hire employees. They are far less likely to be in leadership positions. Women make up just 4.5% of CEOs in Fortune 500. Women are TWICE as likely to live in poverty by age 75, because they aren’t able to put as much money into retirement. Women are at far greater risk of becoming homeless. So… what?

 

Why should we all care about empowering and advancing women in careers? If you care about our sustainable future, then you are deeply invested in women- or you should be, starting now.

 

DollarsCompanies make more money. By having at least 30% of leadership positions held by women, or the “C-suite,” companies add an average of 6% to net profit margin. Getting more women on boards also means that you end up with more women in leadership, known as the “pipeline effect.” 

 

So where does that magical 6% profit boost come from? Much as in nature, where mono-cultured crops develop major problems with devastating infestations of pests, diversity in the workforce also yields better resiliency and better products. Men and women have different values, and women tend to be more holistic, think more broadly, be more attuned to environmental and social concerns. They aren’t as likely to be focused on short term gains at the expense of long term failures. Where men take bigger risks and fail faster, women are more thoughtful and strategic about risks. The two balance each other out in a way that benefits the company overall. 

 

7398240996_bfc467485b_b1. Women care more. 

According to one study’s author, Lehigh University professor Corinne Post, “(Women) think about themselves usually in relation to others. Whereas men – either born or developed – see themselves more independently, as standing apart from others. For individuals who see themselves as more connected to others, it becomes natural to think about the implications for others.” Women have more empathy and concern for the well being of others.

 

getty_rf_photo_of_woman_reading_label2. Women dig deeper.

Women are also less likely to have a sense of stubborn arrogance that can sometimes plague successful men. With their greater sense of accurate self-awareness and humility, women also tend to ask more questions and come more prepared to make an informed decision, which, in turn, tends to increase male preparedness over time as well. So, a board room filled with women and men benefits from overall better researched decisions. 

 

rainforest-woman-NATUREWOMAN05173. Women listen internally.

At an individual level, women are far more likely to be in tune with their bodies and minds. The best cure for stress is to pause and be intentional. Those who listen internally develop a better appreciation and love for the healing power of nature. You’ve experienced the physical relieve of escaping a long week with a quiet walk in the woods, or working with plants outdoors. Those who choose to be still long enough to reconnect with nature, are far more invested in protecting and restoring our natural environment.

 

Woman Giving Money4. Women give more.

Did you know that supporting small, women-owned businesses has a much greater positive affect on those around them? Women are far more likely to spread their profits among their employees, which can improve the overall stability of employment in that area. Instead of just one family doing better, every family connected to a woman-owned business tends to see an improvement in quality of life and financial stability over time. But many small women-owned companies struggle with funding to grow, and have difficulty overcoming this hurdle to grow their business and its positive impacts.

 

Women can improve the future for People, Planet, and Profit. Women often have a natural desire to nurture and protect other people, and our environment. If more women in business are given the support they need to succeed, it will not only improve the lives of people in their community, but it will likely improve the stability of neighborhoods and cities, create new passion for cleaning up our environment, and add jobs and income to our economy. Women truly are the key to the next jump in our Triple Bottom Line.

nielsen video

Where do we start? First, we need more women on boards. Second, we need more women CEOs. Third, we need more equal opportunities for women in the workplace, and to enforce zero tolerance for sexual harassment and discrimination. Fourth, girls need to be educated and empowered. According to Worldbank, “Better educated women tend to be healthier, participate more in the formal labor market, earn higher incomes, have fewer children, marry at a later age, and enable better health care and education for their children, should they choose to become mothers. All these factors combined can help lift households, communities, and nations out of poverty.”

 

On a personal note: This is why I felt driven to co-found WomIN’s Fest. Our mission is to support, empower, and inspire women and girls for a better future. Through the next generation of women, we can achieve a more sustainable future for everyone. white-1342988_960_720








%d bloggers like this: