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.

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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!

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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.

 

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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!

 

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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!!

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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/  

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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





How to Kill the Planet in 8 Easy Steps!

3 12 2017

dinosaur-fuelAfter billions of years, I think it’s about time that we realize that this planet that we reside on is truly only here to do our bidding. As such, I think we need to show it who’s boss. I am American, after all, so domination is the only solution. The problem? Well, the only problem is that those lazy dinosaurs didn’t last longer, and so we are running low on their decomposed corpse energy, so therefore, the Earth must pay!
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I know what you’re thinking. “How will I make time to properly destroy the planet? I’ve got soccer practice at 6pm!” Don’t worry, I will show you just how easy it can be to decimate the third rock from the sun, without impacting your schedule. Rest assured, no shin-kicking snots will go without their juice boxes… in fact, that’s part of the destructive fun!

 

In an effort to expedite to modern society’s 7 second attention span, I’ll even put it in the form of a list that can’t be divisible by five, because we all know that will get shared on social media more. So, without further adieu, here are the…

8 Easy Steps to Killing the Planet

#1. Avoid Using Your Legs

We all know how annoying it is to have to walk up a flight of stairs when the elevator is broken. Now people expect us to walk to lunch too?!? No way! Walking is too healthy, and might make your legs more muscley. We all know that our future is Wall-E, and the fashion trends are going to be more blobular. Therefore, we need to start practicing now if we ever hope to be in shape for space season! Plus, walking doesn’t burn ANY fossil fuels. What fun is that?

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hummerWhat you need to do is focus on doing everything humanly possible with a large hunk of steel surrounding you. Ideally, you want to do it alone. Taking the bus is a cop out. Go get in one of your cars, preferably a large SUV, and drive to lunch. Don’t get sucked into making other stops along the way because it would be more efficient. The bank can wait. Make sure that you take a separate trip for EVERY place you need to go! This way, you are able to burn as many dead dinosaurs as possible! Die, you bastards!!

futuristic-car-gadgetsPro Tip: Be sure to crank your heat/AC, charge your phone while using Google maps, blast your radio while simultaneously playing 4 movies on separate tablets, and turn on every overhead light in your car. This way, you can use just a skosh more energy!

 

#2 Use as Much Plastic as Humanly Possible

plastic recycling_636032246920960325The future is plastic. So is the past. Because plastic is made from… dead dinosaurs!!! Yay! The only thing better than that, is that plastic will NEVER biodegrade, which means that all 300 million tons of it produced each year will just keep building up in our landfills, oceans, and streets! Awesomesauce!

 

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What more can you do to help drown our planet in plastic?

Did you go to a restaurant today? Of course you did. Did they bring you a drink? You betcha! Did they forget to bring you a straw? WHAT?!?! That straw is a tiny but critical piece of our master plan! You simply must demand a piece of plastic to sip your beverage through every single time. How else would we accumulate  enough to clog drains and kill animals? If your waiter doesn’t know better, be sure to kindly request that they always bring guests a straw, and not to even offer an option to go without. It would just be tragic if someone’s lips had to touch that sterilized glass.

 

rKpPCocDid you know that you can also ask for your grossly oversized portions to go? Better yet, that toxic styrofoam (the best kind of plastic there is because it is entirely impossible to recycle!) will come in a plastic bag! Plastic bags are really the highest honor you can bestow upon the earth, as their elusively thin material makes them guaranteed to fly out of the beds of trucks, soaring into the air, where they can catch on tree branches, land on fences, or, ideally, float away down a river, to become part of the world’s 5 oceanic gyres. What’s a gyre, you will ask? Well, this is really a perfect bedtime story for your kids. A gyre is a magical place, far, far away, where allll the world’s plastic ends up. It’s a mystical place, where the currents swirl around an iceberg made of plastic, and the lonely plastic bag reunites with all of its ancestors, which break down into smaller and smaller bits, but never completely go away. So it’ll be there for generations to come! Now, there is a sad part to the plastic gyres. Some plastic does disappear, when it gets swallowed by birds and fish. Then their bellies get full of inedible garbage, and they die. So it does have a happy ending!

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plastic platesWhat else can you do with plastic? Well… everything! Vote with your dollars! You can purchase products that are wrapped in plastic. Be sure to avoid items with minimal packaging. You can also make sure to be individual sized servings instead of buying in bulk. Costco is for losers! (Unless you can buy massive quantities of individually wrapped items. Then it’s okay.) You can also ensure an ongoing supply of plastic by using disposable goods whenever possible. Plastic razors? Check. Unrefillable pens? Check! Red Solo cups for that party next week? Check and check! Dishwashing is lame. Why do you even own dishes? You could just buy plastic plates and forks and never have to wash dishes again!! Genius!

Pro Tip: What’s the best way to up the ante on your single use plastic plates? YES! Good job! Styrofoam is truly the best option because it’s cheapness is made up for with the fact that it cannot accidentally be recycled, so you can sleep easy knowing that your good deeds can’t be undone.

platic ringPlastic is forever. Seriously. For-ev-er. You should really consider replacing that engagement ring with a plastic one. It’s a much more romantic and meaningful gesture. Then, once you get married and have more babies than required to replace you on the planet, be sure to buy the next generation nothing but plastic toys to play with!

 

 

plastic bottlesLast but not least, the tried and true way to incorporate plastic into your daily habits is… the ubiquitous plastic water bottle! Can you believe that our parents grew up drinking water from the tap??? Heathens! We know now that companies can put that precious water inside plastic, and charge us way more money! Yay capitalism! Do your part by refusing to use a refillable bottle. Better yet, take your costco bottled water bounty everywhere you go, and offer it for free to other people! You’re guaranteed to be popular! At home, at work, or on the go, you’ll never be without BPAs or water, unlike those poor people in Africa who walk 4 miles to the river to get water. You should ship them bottled water too! See what a good person you are?!? Mother Teresa’s got nothing on you, hot shot!

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#3 Gobblety Gook

Did you think I was going to give you all 8 tips at once??? Silly human! Nah, I’m going to drag this out until I get my book deal.

Peace!

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How to Choose Your Own Adventure: 6 Valuable Tips!

7 11 2017

It’s true, we love to travel. A LOT. But we would still love to travel even more than we do. Which begs the question we get asked often, “What’s your next trip?”

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Believe it or not, we actually have SO many places that we want to visit, we need a spreadsheet to keep track of it all. And we are also armed with some very key strategies to help us choose, “Where to?”

 

 

For most people, planning vacation can be pretty easy. Pick a sunny beach in Florida and book a week in January. Done. Rinse and repeat. This is swell for those people, but this just doesn’t cut it for those of us with the insatiable Wanderlust bug. It can sometimes feel overwhelming, knowing that I won’t live long enough to see ALL the places I want to see before I die. So how do we choose?

 

We’re Not Getting Any Younger

Although I’m only 37 1/2, I’m very aware of the reality that, the older I get, the harder it’s going to be to travel. Some of the most vigorous hikes will become too challenging for my aching bones. Long flights will wreak havoc with my veins. It will take me longer to recover from the energy spent simply getting there.

Tip #1: Do the most difficult hiking now. Push your boundaries while your body is at its physical peak, before it declines too far. The older I get, the more I recognize my own mortality, which can cause doubt, and make you shy away from something you wouldn’t have thought twice about in your twenties.

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I can tell you know that I’ve enjoyed several life-changing hikes, and some of them were so physically intense, I doubt that I will ever attempt them again. Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park in Utah, USA is one not for the faint-hearted! At least that hike is only a couple of miles from the starting point. Havasupai in Arizona, USA was not just scary at one point, but also tested our endurance, with 34 miles logged in a 2-night trip.

15492141_1392043570878263_2220117331010704962_nTip #2: Fly as Far Away as Possible! While these longer flights can be tougher to afford when you are younger, your body will thank you for sticking closer to home in later decades. Recently, I spent over 50 hours traveling to Sri Lanka, and when I arrived, both of my ankles were noticably swollen! This has never happened to me before, and I didn’t realize that I wasn’t moving enough while flying. The swelling lasted for 24 hours, and was a bit scary and uncomfortable. This can also be a symptom of another serious risk, Deep Vein Thrombosis. The risk of thrombosis increases on longer flights, and gets worse with age, as well as many other factors (including birth control pills!). This may seem like a weird thing to think about when you are young, but, believe me, blood clots are a serious and deadly risk. This is why you see airline passengers standing and walking around for long periods of time on flights over 4 hours.

So, next on my long-distance list? New Zealand!

The Climate IS Changing… Faster Than You Think

When we add a new destination to our travel spreadsheet, a critical factor is climate change. There are some amazing places on this planet that I may not get to before they are irreversibly changed as a result of climate change. We prioritize these destinations based on the estimated risks.

Tip #3: Prioritize Places at Risk from Climate Change. This is not a hoax. In 2014 I decided to cross off Glacier National Park because I had read about the melting glaciers. I wanted to make it there before Glacier has no glaciers left to see. It was a last minute, 4 day trip, and was not nearly enough to explore all of the amazing sights and experiences to be had there. Now my goal is to make it back before 2020 for some back-country thru-hiking. 10426120_681178748631419_2884749765749576765_n

Here’s my own list of climate-change destinations that I’ve managed to check off:

  • Glacier National Park in Montana, USA. This is one of the most stunning, expansive parks in our country, with an incredible variety of visual decadence to explore! Experts believe we have until 2020 before the last of the monumental glaciers are gone forever.
  • Everglades National Park in Florida, USA. Sea levels are slowly rising, at different speeds across the globe. As the ocean starts to take back Florida and other coastal areas, the unique biodiversity harbored in the freshwater/seawater interchange will be devastated, causing extinction of numerous creatures.
  • The Maldives.  This chain of over 2,000 islands makes up a paradise country located closest to India.  The former president of the Maldives recognized the harsh reality that their entire country- no more than 4 feet above sea level- would eventually be completely lost to climate change. He fought to take the country to being Net Zero Energy to slow climate change, but was since removed from office after a coo. There’s a great documentary called The Island President that can catch you up on their plight.

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Travel is Getting Riskier

Turkey, Istanbul, Haghia Sophia Mosque interiorIt’s a scary time in our world right now. The number of terror attacks had rapidly risen compared to just 10 years ago. I’ll be honest- it’s terrifying to think about. I don’t want to let terrorists win by becoming a fetal position shut-in, but I also take this risk seriously. When we booked our flight to Sri Lanka last year, I debated about whether or not to take the cheapest fare, which took us through Turkey, with an 8 hour layover in Istanbul. I researched heavily before deciding whether or not we would leave the airport to see some of the city while there. The day we flew out of Chicago, we were delayed 4 hours in a snowstorm, and my phone started blowing up with messages from friends on Facebook asking if we were okay. There had been a bombing in Istanbul that we had just missed.

While the optimist in me wants to hope that we will win the ‘war on terrorism’ globally, my gut tells me otherwise. I see such a rapid increase in radicalized groups and violent attacks, that I fear it will never be safe again to travel to some parts of the world. Would I love to see Pakistan? Sure! Do I think I will ever feel safe enough in my lifetime to go there? Nope. 2E81B6E900000578-0-This_table_documenting_the_increase_in_terror_attacks_in_recent_-a-67_14477001334622E893C6400000578-0-image-m-13_1447774752237

Tip #4: Don’t Ignore Political Shifts. If a country that is on your list appears to be getting less safe, pay attention! I wish I had gone to Egypt a decade ago, and don’t know if I’ll ever get to go now. I’m incredibly grateful that I got to visit Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, however briefly, but I don’t think I’ll ever go back. I’m actually flying through that same airport again next April, and have zero interest in leaving the airport next time, due to safety concerns. Before you book your flight, do your homework and know your risks. 

There are many amazing, world-renowned world heritage sites, but some of them are at risk due to wars. UNESCO catalogs all of the official World Heritage Sites, and color codes them to highlight ones at risk of being destroyed. If it’s safe to go there, don’t wait.

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Make a Plan, But Don’t Stick to It!

I’m all about research, spreadsheets, and lists, but I do not recommend you treat this as a commitment. In my Wanderlust spreadsheet, I collect links and jot down places I’ve never heard of when I read an article about someplace new. For those that I’m serious about, I actually put in a target year for traveling there, and sometimes I actually get there that year. Other times, it may get pushed back, or some new destination takes higher priority. And that’s okay. When my friend Raina moved to Sweden 7 years ago, it got added to my list, but I’m just now finally making it over there to see her!

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Tip #5: Be Flexible, and Jump at New Opportunities! When your high school friend joins the Peace Corp and moves to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso for 2-3 years… don’t be caught kicking yourself at her welcome back party because you never made it to visit her while she was there! Knowing someone in a foreign country is a perfect excuse to travel, and a great way to get a local experience!

Tip #6: Make Your Own Opportunities! If you have the travel bug, and you know this will be a lifelong need, don’t waste time wishing you could travel more… build the life you want! Do you have a dream job that would help you to travel? Apply relentlessly!

While I love my job, my travel is limited to the state of Indiana, so I only get to travel on my own time. But, I chose to combine career advancement and my love of travel, and started applying to present at international conferences. This strategy has taken me to Split, Croatia, Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Kandy, Sri Lanka! I go on my own dime, using vacation time, but now I can proudly list on my resume “International Speaker” for 3 very prestigious conferences in my field of expertise. Win-Win!

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Do you have a natural ‘break’ in life, like going back to school or moving across the country? Take advantage of it! I actually delayed starting college after high school so that I could travel the U.S. for 3 months, and it’s the best thing I could have ever done. I made that choice when I was a sophomore in high school, and started saving up for my epic graduation road trip.

Are there volunteer opportunities that you can get involved with and get to travel? Do it! There are a number of ways to give back while sharing another culture. Build a school with a community, dig a well in Africa, or raise money for a good cause through travel sports! My first trip to Hawaii was done for ‘free,’ by fundraising $4,500 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society by running my first Marathon in Honolulu!

Bottom line, if you want to travel, there are a myriad of ways to achieve your goals. 

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Go grab the world by the mountaintops!

Remember, not all those who wander are lost.

 

 

 

 





Disappearing Countries (and what you can do about it)

3 12 2016

This December, I will be standing in a country that is expected to disappear. Why? It is at severe risk due to climate change. The entire country of the Maldives– a chain of 1,200 islands no more than 4 feet above sea level- is expected to vanish beneath the ocean in my lifetime. One of the most photographed places in the world, I want to see it before it’s literally gone.

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As a sustainability specialist, I’ve been reading about ‘global warming’ since the 1990s, in middle school science class (when it was still a highly debated topic). Today 97% of all scientists are in agreement that climate change IS happening, and IS caused by human actions (according to NASA, and every renowned expert). The effects are evident in the steep rise of extreme weather events, acidification of the oceans, melting glaciers, and globally rising ocean temperatures, which are leading to higher sea levels. NOAA tracks and records the weather events each year, and in 2015 alone, we can see how the weather events are increasingly dramatic, with records being broken all over the globe. And this is only a partial list.

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350-maldives-cabinet-thumb-436x292-3236The Maldives aren’t alone in this risk. While sea level rise does not increase uniformly around the world, changes are happening everywhere at varying rates. It’s not just about melting glaciers, either. If you think back to middle school science class, you learned how temperature can cause molecules to either shrink together or expand. When the oceans heat up, they expand. The only place to expand is up, and onto land.

 

Everything close to the water is at risk. This includes Micronesia. And the sensitive Florida Everglades. And NYC. Basically the entire eastern coast of the U.S. (National Geographic has an interactive map but you have to have a paid subscription of $1/month). Will they disappear next year? No. But governments are already working on climate change mitigation plans to deal with the harsh reality that is clearly heading their way. The Maldives have been on my radar for about 8 years, and seeing this beautiful country in person- before doing so requires scuba gear-  will be checked off my bucket list in 2016. By 2050, it’s expected that the entire population of the Maldives will have been relocated to either Sri Lanka or Australia, which will certainly be a very different experience. sea level rise map.png

 

So, what’s the point here? Go travel? No. Well, yes, if that’s your thing, but be sure to purchase carbon offsets for that jet plane.

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The point is that there are THOUSANDS of treasured places at risk due to climate change. Sea level is just ONE example of how climate change negatively impacts millions of people. But the solutions are plentiful.

  1. Talk to Trump. Of course, tell Trump that the head of the EPA should not be a person who chooses to ignore scientific facts, and an overwhelming consensus on this extensively researched topic. A climate change denier has no place heading the EPA.
  2. Paris Climate Treaty. This decades-long culmination resulted from extensive negotiations between 196 countries to try to find a way to slow down this globally destructive process. If Trump pulls out of this treaty, it will have a domino effect, and the whole thing will fall apart. This means things will only get worse even faster.Sign the petition to voice your concerns.
  3. Do Something Different! Every single day, we make choices and take actions that emit greenhouse gases (GHG). Even the most saintly environmentalist has a carbon footprint, so don’t feel guilty and throw your hands up in despair. Learn more about where GHG comes from. Any action will make a difference. Choose to avoid styrofoam by carrying your own reusable container to the restaurant for leftovers. Walk or bike instead of driving. When you do drive, plan your trips to run errands as efficiently as possible, and invite a friend to join you for a fun carpool! Insulate your house and buy LED bulbs to save money and reduce coal burning. Learn to cook plant-based meals, or start growing your own herbs or veggies. Buy secondhand whenever possible, saving money and giving new life to a product instead of extracting raw materials to manufacture more stuff!
  4. Spread the Word. Talk about it. Make it fun! Invite friends to a challenge together, to learn new behaviors, to become informed. Being an active part of saving our planet is a rewarding feeling, and particularly powerful today.

 

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Trump: Is it not the ‘End of the World’?

12 11 2016

Half of America is reeling from a gut punch. A quarter is celebrating what they hope will mean positive economic change. The remainder is ripping off their hoods in joyous devolution to a segregated America.
Many, many of my friends, allies, and acquaintances are scared. This is not, “oh shit, how did Bush get re-elected?” scared. This is far deeper than politics. This is, “will I be safe walking home now?” scared.
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What’s terrifying is the sheer volume of very real and probable actions that the president-elect claims to enact “on day one.” Add to that the immediate physical threats from some violent and hateful Trump followers (no, not all Trump followers are violent or hateful, but some are, and that’s enough to change my life), with horrific stories pouring in daily. It’s overwhelming, trying to comprehend all the ways that this might negatively impact my life. I could write an entirely separate post on risks to dark-skinned people, women, non-Christians, LGBTQ folks, etc. But I’m also scared for us all, globally, and you should read on to understand why.

 

We don’t really know what will happen once Trump steps into the white house. He can change his mind and do the opposite of what he proposed (which, in many cases, was very vague). I believe that this former democrat was actually much more liberal than he purported himself to be in order to get elected. With zero record of any public office, we have absolutely nothing to go on other than his own words- which contradicted themselves countless times depending on his audience.

 

Much of what will happen over the next four years will, indeed, be infuriating.We will fight. We will march. We won’t sit idly by and watch our rights flushed down the toilet. But with so many fights, how do we prioritize our efforts?

Global Detriment

Many things that Trump has threatened to do can be undone in four years. Many cannot be effectively undone. Most of them will impact America directly, and foremost. But there is another concern that, for me, as a sustainability expert, I find the most troubling.

What Trump plans to do to our planet will be devastatingly irreversible.

If this next president manages to royally fuck up our country, I can always move, because I’m lucky enough to have a college education, relatively little debt, and diverse skill sets. The rest of you struggling to make ends meet are stuck here, suckas! However, if his actions reflect his rhetoric, Trump is slated to make several bold, disastrous moves for the planet. Last time I checked, we don’t have a Planet B, so…. FUUUUCK.

What am I talking about? Let me tell you. For the sake of brevity, I won’t regurgitate the countless pages written by experts on these matters, but a quick google search should fill you in if you doubt any of my facts. And if you’re pretty sure it’s all a hoax by the Chinese government… well… you’re probably qualified to hold a position in Trump’s cabinet, so congrats!

 

#1- Paris Climate Treaty

paris-climateTrump has promised to back out of this multilateral agreement- involving 196 countries- in which the U.S. committed to carbon emissions reductions in order to curb climate change. This type of agreement takes decades to get all the right players at the table. There’s a very delicate balance, as industrialized nations point the finger at third world countries that are growing ans aspiring to be like us. “Why do we have to cut emissions so much but they are worse polluters than us?!” (Answer: because we’ve been polluting like this for over a hundred years already, we are better equipped to make changes, and it’s our fault that we are in this climate mess to begin with).

We are the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas polluter, after China.

Once the U.S. backs out, it’s likely that countries like Venezuela and India will have a fervor of fresh debate over what their commitments should be. This will stall the progress further, which will delay emissions reductions, and we will progress even more rapidly towards the climate cliff- the point at which our atmospheric CO2 equivalent levels hit a point of no return. We are already dangerously teetering on this edge as we speak. We have no more time to debate this, as summers keep warming, oceans keep rising, coral reefs keep dying, floods and droughts keep devastating farmers, and our costs continue to rise from rapidly increasing insurance claims.

This year is on track to be the hottest on record, blasting past the previous records set in 2015 and 2014.

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#2- Federal Oversight

child-laborRemember when the industrial revolution started? Ah, those glory days! There were no regulations back then, and companies prospered! Workers came home coated in soot, inside their lungs too, which is why they commonly died in their 50s and 60s. But government kept out of American lives! Back at home, the kids played outside in fields leaching chemicals from the factory downtown, frolicking in the polluted river next to mysteriously dying fish and frog carcasses. This was before we had a word for cancer, so many people just died of “unknown causes.” Once Trump comes to power, he is expected to appoint a new head of the EPA who chooses to ignore 98% of all scientists warning about climate change. Trump has vowed to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency “in almost every form.” He would need congress approval to completely abolish the EPA.

At least we’ll still have a Department of Energy, right? With a darling of the industry- McKenna- at that helm, there surely is zero risk for corruption, of course. Thank goodness we elected someone who has no personal business interests that would conflict with U.S. policy moves. We don’t need check and balances anyway, right? Companies always have our best interest at heart, always do the right thing, never focus solely on profits, and don’t require any oversight, ever.

 

#3- Clean Power Plan

Fortune magazine is also concerned about Trump’s plans for the world. Trump vows to repeal ALL executive orders made by President Obama. All of them, regardless of which ones are actually successfully improving our lives. Among those, is the Clean Power Plan.

trump-coalThe plan is projected to cut United States power plant emissions 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. “If Trump steps back from that, it makes it much less likely that the world will ever meet that target, and essentially ensures we will head into the danger zone,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University and a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which produces global reports on the state of climate science. (By the way, if you’re really concerned about American energy & the economy, you might want to better understand the negative implications of Trump’s Mexican wall & NAFTA threats)

According to the New York Times, he “could target the rules by appointing an industry-friendly justice to the Supreme Court and then refusing to defend the plan when it goes before the court.

He could also direct the E.P.A. to reissue the plan to be extremely friendly to industry. Such a move would also be subject to lawsuits by environmental advocates, which would further drag out the process. And in concert with congressional Republicans, he could decimate the E.P.A.’s budget, crippling its rule-making capacity.”

What about the coal miners? I hate to tell you this, but, much like VHS tape manufacturers, your job is becoming obsolete. Coal has been declining consistently due to market pressures, so if you’re pissed about layoffs, blame the free market. coal_employment_1985_to_2014

#4- Federal Lands

Trump has promised to open up federally protected lands to oil drilling, and pretty much anything else that will make a buck. He probably has no idea what a “proven reserve” is, or the fact that nobody actually knows how much oil is really beneath the snow in Alaska. But he’s willing to sell it to the highest bidder. If that runs dry, he’ll look elsewhere. Big Bend National Park in Texas is 801,163 acres, surely there must be some oil in there somewhere, right? Oil drilling won’t possibly leach into the Rio Grande, will it? No? Let’s try Glacier National Park in Montana next then. What endangered species?

alaskagallery-mendenhall2015So if you ever thought you’d enjoy seeing these expansive parcels of pristine wilderness, you better get there quick. Between melting glaciers and massive oil rigs waiting in the wings to move in, change is upon us. You might want to tell the caribou too.

There is good news. It’s not the end of the world.

Or at least, not the planet. Even the worst case scenario of climate change will only make the planet uninhabitable, so humans could die off, much like dinosaurs did, but not for a hundred years or so. Earth will still keep spinning, with or without us.

The good news? All international companies will continue to reduce their emissions. Most American companies that are already reducing their emissions through energy efficiency projects have realized that emissions reductions = cost savings, and will continue to pursue reductions.

And the shift away from coal has already happened. Low natural gas prices mean that electricity production from coal is cost prohibitive, and power companies are already planning their 5 year transitions to alternative energy sources including natural gas.Killing the Clean Power Plan won’t stop the business trends, but it will slow some of them.

What can we do?

First, self-care. You cannot fight without internal strength, which comes from rest, healthy habits, and love. Then, donate time or money to action groups with legal recourse. ACLU, Hoosier Environmental Council, etc.

Stay tuned in. Sign petitions. March in peaceful protests. Raise awareness.

The challenge is that there are so many alarming changes coming, it’s likely that some will simply get swept under the rug, missed by media while many larger stories dominate the news. Know these 4, pay attention, and fight like hell. We only have one planet, and if we fuck this up, there is no back up plan.earth








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