Friday, May 24, 2019

#GlobalClimateStrike: educating ourselves

No, I can't just walk out, not show up.  School doesn't work that way. (Although honestly I have wondered how long it would take to get any number of excellent child-related needs achieved, including climate salvation, if 3.2 million public school teachers all walked out together for a week. Hoo, mama, could we stir things up!)

But I did book a sub for a sick day, and the code I'm using is "Illness in Family" because the home of the human family is indeed ill.  I'll be heading down to the White House to stand with @JeromeFosterII for a livable future for our ailing planet, our ailing attitude.  I think my sign will say

  lead the way to the low-hanging fruit

I will not be joined by an old friend of mine and of climate action, Robin Galbraith, because she is actually a substitute teacher in my district and is working today, but I want to highlight the work she has been doing to train and become a presenter for the organization DRAWDOWN, which you can read about here.  This organization is attempting to communicate to the public hopeful ways to impact what seems like an insurmountable problem, something that those of us who some days wake up feeling defeated already can really use.  I'm looking forward to seeing Robin present soon.

Project Drawdown aims to share 100 solutions to reverse global warming.  But today even 100 seems like more than I can personally tackle, and when I look at the list, I don't even know what some of them mean.  So instead I Googled "low-hanging fruit personal climate action."

Well, would you look at that!  Here's a paper that is actually called:


"The individual and household sector generates roughly 30 to 40 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and is a potential source of prompt and large emissions reductions. Yet the assumption that only extensive government regulation will generate substant-ial reductions from the sector is a barrier to change, particularly in a political environment hostile to regulation. This Article demonstrates that prompt and large reductions can be achieved without relying predominantly on regulatory measures. The Article identifies seven "low-hanging fruit:" actions that have the potential to achieve large reductions at less than half the cost of the leading current federal legislation, require limited up-front government expenditures, generate net savings for the individual, and do not confront other barriers

Although in isolation any one action may appear trivial, when multiplied across part or all of the roughly 110 million households in America, each can produce enormous emissions savings. These actions are the low-hanging fruit of individual and household emissions. They demand relatively little of individuals but produce prompt, significant CO2 emissions reductions when carried out in large numbers. They have the prospect not only of reducing emissions but also of kick-starting the process of engaging the public in its role of reducing emissions."

You guys, I am shocked to discover that the seven actions listed here are NOT AT ALL what I was expecting (which is kind of the point of the paper: we don't even know what we're doing that is heating up the planet)!  Look:

  • Reduce the component of motor vehicle idling that has net costs to the driver;
  • Reduce standby power electricity use;
  • Accelerate the substitution of compact fluorescent light bulbs for incandescent bulbs;
  • Adjust temperature settings two degrees in both summer and winter;
  • Decrease household thermostat settings on water heaters;
  • Maintain the recommended tire pressure in personal motor vehicles; and
  • Change air filters in personal motor vehicles at recommended intervals.

Friends, I have personally been driving on a flat tire for a week, ignoring the warning light on my dashboard.  I thought this research was going to say something sexy like "Ban single-use plastics!" or "Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing food waste!"  (Read through that article to see one human's "personal Climate Resolution [including] reducing food waste as a low hanging fruit to reduce GHG emissions and save scarce resources.")  But no, apparently I should start by UNPLUGGING all electronics that I am not actually using to avoid midnight vampire power sucking, as much as my refrigerator uses!

So if we can all take individual actions that will make a big difference, why would I bother going downtown (by Metro, of course) to demonstrate at the #WhiteHouseClimateStrike?  Well, because it's a visible platform, and I'm a communicator, and because our government does have a leading role to play even if it's not expensive and slow regulatory fixes.  The research paper points out that "It is quite possible that a well-managed public information campaign that had a budget of $1.5 billion and that reflected the most important advances in the social and behavioral sciences would generate reductions in the low-hanging fruit sufficient to achieve the 150 million ton target."

So it is a governmental responsibility to PROMOTE the scientific evidence that we American humans and our fossil-fueled modern advances in comfortable and convenient living are going to have GIVE SOMETHING UP to preserve the planet for our children. And also, if 14-year-old girls can go sit alone with their signs on a street bench, next to a police station, in front of a state house for weeks on end to bravely plead for my adult help, then by golly I can spend a morning in front of the White House trying to give it! @kidlit4climate

And here's my wee poem, which will not fit on a demonstration sign:

Stand up, sit down, shout
Take time to teach
Raise your voice; the
Iron is hot 
Kick up a fuss
Every action counts

Every action counts, even if it's only that you put a sign (painfully ironically) in your car window today and drive around showing that "I SUPPORT THE CLIMATE STRIKE FOR OUR FUTURE."

The round-up today is with Dani Burtsfeld at Doing the Work That Matters. Yeah, let's do that! And felicitations to all who are finishing up their school years today, with thanks for that work too.


  1. How serendipitous it is to read your post and poem today. My bookclub is reading Drawdown by Paul Hawken. I've bookmarked that article to read.

  2. Hooray for standing up and raising your voice! I'm afraid the low-hanging fruit article is out-of-date (written in 2008) and while of course we should all do these suggested things, it's not enough. (But if you still have incandescent bulbs, switch to LEDs, not compact fluorescent bulbs.)

    1. Thank you, Buffy, for adding this important catch. And of course no one thing or even seven things is enough. It's going to be a challenge to do enough coming from any angle in time, I know. But we all need starting places.

  3. Interesting, Heidi! Thanks for pushing us to think about what we can do. Thanks for getting out there and kicking up a fuss, too!

  4. I agree, I think every action counts too–a sign, attending a rally, raising our voices to care for our planet. Thanks for spreading the CLIMATE message!

  5. What an unexpectedly encouraging post! Thank you so much for sharing and for protesting. You're inspiring!

  6. You go, Heidi! I stand up for what you are doing and what the young girls are doing. Your wee poem is strong! Every action counts so thanks for taking your time to stand in front of the White House with your sign.

  7. Thank you for standing up and adding your voice on Friday, and for this list. We have a brand new, more efficient heating system, but I'm still going to turn it down. I also use my dryer as little as possible. It's one of the biggest energy hogs in our homes.

  8. Thank you for the reassurance that all the (seemingly) small things we do are adding up with others' small things to move towards big.

  9. I admire your standing up and doing something. I read to my students about Greta and her passion for the environment and tried to light a fire under them before leaving for the summer. I agree there are so many ways we can help in our own consumption. My area of concern is the increased vulnerability of our state due to wetlands loss, and we live in a red state. A red hot state that is already experiencing 90 degree temperatures.

  10. Every action does count, Heidi. I hope yours made a strong & lasting impact!


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!