Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Oh Crap, It’s Earth Day

Ask any non-quack climatologist what’s happening with the planet and he or she will say more or less the same thing: it is experiencing climatic shifts that will likely rain down a shit-storm of nasty consequences: melting glaciers leading to elevated sea levels that will destroy most of the world’s major cities, desertification and fires that will prompt starvation and waves of climate migrations, mass-extinctions of flora and fauna that will shut down ecosystems and so forth. The same non-quack climatologist will also tell you what’s causing these climatic shifts: “anthropogenic drivers”–a fancy way of saying human behavior. Massive output of greenhouses gases–byproducts of the myriad systems that support the modern world–are getting trapped in the atmosphere, capturing heat and setting about aforementioned climate wonkiness. These are, for non-quack-science-subscribing individuals, facts.

Responding to these facts with ameliorative solutions will undoubtedly require geopolitics. But it seems unlikely geopolitical solutions will be implemented before there is a widespread behavioral and (forgive the term) spiritual shift on the individual level. Until every one of us understands how our behavior relates to, and has the power to destroy, the planet’s homeostatic mechanisms, the likelihood that politicians and corporate leaders will take action–folks who often have incentive to not take action–is slim, or at best insufficient to address the magnitude of the problem.

All this is to say that while there are many selfish reasons to follow our prescription for personal behavioral change that benefits the environment, it shouldn’t be forgotten that there is also a global, environmental imperative to do so. Big homes are disproportionately resource intensive and have bigger energy needs relative to small ones; moving to a higher density area that is walkable/bikeable/public transit friendly is perhaps the best way to reduce our carbon footprint; and curbing our consumption habits is a close second. The implications of these things, for many of us, will require behavioral shifts that are not necessarily familiar and many that are downright uncomfortable. Oh well. Such is life. Happy Earth Day!

Sunlight in trees image via Shutterstock

  • mikecrosby

    So shall we say, we can agree to disagree.

    If someone believes global warming is true, and caused by man, he’s nothing more than a hypocrite if he doesn’t practice a vegan lifestyle.

    • David Friedlander

      i think on an absolute level, yes, we should all be eating vegan, but sourcing all of our veggies from non-irrigated agriculture. on some levels, most environmentalists are hypocritical. flying, driving, meat consumption–if you engage in these things, you’re most likely doing some harm to the planet. i think it’s a process of reducing the level of hypocrisy, acting in accordance to the information at our disposal and common sense rather than in direct opposition to it, which is kinda what a lot of us do currently in these matters.

  • WithheldName

    (“Will destroy most of the world’s major cities”)

    Huh? I agreed with you until I read that sentence.

    Miami? Yes, they’re screwed. New Orleans? Maybe. But that’s about it for the United States in the next 100 years. Check your sea level maps.

    In the mean time, think electric vehicles and solar panels everywhere. And that’s just today’s technology. Tomorrow there will be skyscraper farms and cultured meat manufactured in Petri dishes.

    It’ll be a slow, messy turnaround. But we’ll turn it around. A global (virus) pandemic may kill off 1/4 of us like the Black Plague did in Europe. But humanity will march on and climate change will be a historic footnote in a century or two.

  • I am not a scientist but common sense tells me the warming climatic shift is caused by human behavior. I ignore all predictions, regardless of who makes them. Predictions are usually wrong, especially in complex areas. Nature is an example of a complex system that humans have only scratched the surface in understanding. Here on Earth Nature has the ability to correct itself when homeostatic mechanisms get a little crazy. It has been doing this for a very long time, and I believe will continue to do so. The less-is-more lifestyle benefits me and planet Earth.