Climate Action for the Apathetic

In any nationwide initiative to move the American population to change course, the two key demographics are the apathetic and the complacent. Unfortunately for most of our polling experts, these demographic groups nest comfortably within all age cohorts, zip codes, races, and economic profiles. Two representative projects seeking to push the general populace to address climate change are taking the challenge to rouse these lethargic individuals to pay attention. The question is whether these well developed, well presented efforts work as intended.

While The En-Roads Initiative presents an accessible presentation of what we need to do to address climate change, the academic presentation defines the audience who will interact eagerly with the webpage. The player can toy with all the sliders and watch the graph rise or fall as the player attempts to drop the rise in temperature to 1.5 oC. Those who enjoy science and who enjoy learning will embrace the site wholeheartedly. Developed and sponsored in part by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the academic approach is on clear display.

Back in 2019, CNN took a different approach to much of the same scientific evidence, offering an interactive quiz. The designers of the quiz offered a short piece of seven questions with four choices for all but one section (it had three). Each choice was ranked as a comparison to “how many millions of cars would be removed from the road.” After attempting to place the four choices of any question in the proper order, the quiz offered instant answers, rewards (you did better than 50% of others), and snippets of information. This worthwhile exercise led the quiz-taker to set priorities of what must be done first. According to the science, the top five choices most affecting the release of carbon in descending order are:

  1. Getting rid of chemicals in refrigerators and AC’s
  2. Wind generation installation
  3. Throwing away less food in every setting
  4. Eating a plant-heavy diet
  5. Restoring tropical rain forests

The CCN quiz ends at this point. The quiz/interactive article is short, working within the typical length of an online news media presentation of articles. Conforming to CNN publishing conventions, the articles convey the evidence-based information in a topical manner, allowing the reader to examine the presented evidence and make conclusions.

The data behind the quiz leads to a diversity of actions-to-take within the top priorities. Getting rid of chemicals is a regulatory process; wind generation is national legislation together with the free market economy; and changing diet while also changing how we treat food is individual action and free market economy. The top five solutions create a convincing conclusion of the necessity of a variety of approaches to solving the climate crisis.

Variety and diversity are anathema to addressing apathy and complacency though.

Both interactions with the climate science data are designed to convince and engage people who are asking one question: “Climate change is real, so, what do we have to do?” The presented solutions signal several angles of attack to address the crisis. Not stated, but certainly one concrete conclusion is no one elegant solution to climate change is possible. Several solution sets are necessary and within each set, a variable number of different tasks and protocols are required for success.

The disconnect between the reality of solution sets and the human desire for simple directions is daunting. When the apathetic are roused enough to ask, the request is typically circumscribed by the demand to “just give me the back of the envelope version of what I’ve got to do.” Such a thing does not exist. Even the plea for a one-page executive summary is probably not possible. Yet, the request is an opening for meaningful change to occur.

The Pew Research reports an aggregate of 62% of Americans believe in climate change, broken down at 90% of Democrats and 62% of Republicans in 2019. About 70 percent of the surveyed believe the United States should prioritize developing clean renewable energy. The numbers indicate a large popular movement willing to accept climate science. None of these recorded shifts in attitude give direction on how address the large groups of complacent or apathetic people captured within the findings though.

All the solution sets require these groups not only to accept but to participate. People need to participate in all the solution sets and in all the facets of each solution set. One set of solutions may examine personal actions such as beef consumption or electricity providers, but other sets are demanding from politicians legislative and regulatory action at the local, state, and national levels. Such behavior is contrary to the attitudes these people and their households are presenting, which is a request for a simple set of directions. Not only a simple set of directions, these groups want easy-to-follow directions.

To date, the challenge these two demographics present has not been met. For example, New York State mandates that its utilities must provide a community solar option for all its customers, which is an excellent development. On the Con Edison site, which serves New York City, the customer must log into their account online account first, then navigate three pages, clicking the correct buttons to land on the Choices page. On this specific page, the customer must navigate through pages on ratings, tips for selecting, and choosing. Only after these pages can the customer click the “find offers” button, only to be confronted with more choices before providers are posted. The customer then must navigate the page to find the correct filters for renewable energy providers (they are at the bottom of the webpage). Choosing a community solar provider is a complicated process complete with dead end tangents, misplaced buttons, and pages upon pages of text to navigate. Even the most dedicated are challenged.

These two demographics, the apathetic and the complacent, demonstrate the grassroots challenges that continue to thwart efforts to address climate change. Climate change is not simple to explain, to understand, or to address. Swaths of population are demanding that organizers, scientists, engineers, and lobbyists keep it simple. Their lack of actions indicate they will not rise reduce their carbon footprint until the process is simplified. The requests are not reasonable nor fair, but they must be addressed.

Holiday Light

candle_light_wallpapers_11As the days grow shorter with less sunlight, people around the world have ways in which we celebrate our faith with light.

Diwali is a five-day celebration held in November this year. It is the Hindu festival of lights that celebrates the New Year. The word “Diwali” means “rows of lighted lamps. During Diwali, people light hundreds of small oil lamps, called diyas, and place them around their homes. Firecrackers light the sky, dispelling darkness and ignorance and spreading the radiance of love and wisdom, in Hindu symbolism.

Diwali is also celebrated by Sikhs, who mark the occasion when Guru Ji obtained the release of 52 kings and princes who had been unjustly imprisoned. Good had overcome evil and light overcame the darkness.

Bodhi Day was on December 8th, and marks the day when Buddha attained enlightenment. Often, Buddhists will string multi-colored lights throughout their homes to symbolize the many paths to enlightenment. It is also traditional to light a candle each night for 30 nights beginning on Bodhi Day.

Hanukkah is the Jewish Festival of Lights and began this year at sundown on December 8th. Hanukkah commemorates efforts to restore the Temple in Jerusalem.  During the restoration, some people found there was only enough oil to light the lamp for one night, but miraculously, it burned for eight.

Christmas on December 25th, celebrated by Christians, is also associated with light, with some of its customs deriving from pre-Christian religions’ recognition of the Winter Solstice in areas that adopted Christianity.

Kwanzaa, beginning on December 26th and ending on January 1, is not a religious holiday, but for many it has spiritual overtones. Kwanzaa is a holiday celebrated by some African Americans and is centered around seven principals; Unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Seven candles represent the seven principals.

As we near the end of the year, we can take time to pause for reflection and for planning for 2013. In that spirit, we offer suggestions for ten ways to bring light into your life, and the life of your religious community, in order to lighten your footprint.

  • Caulk windows, doors, and anywhere air leaks in or out. Do not caulk around furnace exhaust pipes or your water heater.
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs with a compact fluorescent ones.  This will not only save energy, it will save you money.
  • Clean or replace furnace and air-conditioner filters regularly.
  • Wash only full loads in a dishwasher and use the shortest cycle that will get your dishes clean.
  • Defrost refrigerators and freezers before ice becomes ¼ inch thick.
  • Try going without meat for at least one night per week. Buy organic, locally-grown foods.
  • When you use your washing machine, make sure it has a full load of clothes. Use cold water for the rinse cycle.
  • Unplug electronics, battery chargers, and other equipment when not in use. Taken together, these small items can use as much power as your refrigerator.
  • Make your own holiday gifts. This could turn into a fun tradition!
  • Enable “power management” on all computers and turn them off at night. Laptops use up to 90% less energy than desktop models.

Happy Holidays and peace to all.