Laura L. Klure
It’s been HOT! In some parts of the United States, the weather during the past four months has been the warmest in recorded history. According to NASA and other reliable reports, globally 2015 was the world’s hottest year on record. Those facts may have convinced some doubters that “climate change” is real, and hopefully they have begun to understand that humans do have a role in influencing the temperature on our planet. We change the environment, we consume things, and we add heat and pollutants to the sky. So, now it’s important to ask, “What can we do to reduce our impact on the climate?”
People who have been elected to office or who serve on governmental committees will have many important decisions to make about things that can impact climate and the environment. Wealthy people should be donating significant amounts to organizations that do positive environmental things and to groups that accurately inform our citizens. Some people can spend enough money to buy cars that use less gasoline, to install double windows, to buy energy efficient appliances, and to take other expensive actions. But what about ordinary folks, people who do not have huge incomes? What can we do? The quick answer to that one is, “We can CONSERVE!”
It is beneficial to conserve, to reduce our use of water, electricity, gasoline, natural gas, and other things that can damage the atmosphere, change the environment, or influence our local climate. Let’s look at these problems one by one, and then consider actions that do not cost a great amount – and that instead can actually save us money.
Water is often a big issue in Southern California, because many parts of the region do not have enough readily available water for everyone to use excessively, such as growing huge lawns. Impacts of water use on the climate can include the energy used for drilling and transporting water, and the movement from one region to another changes the evaporation rates and the native vegetation growth. Our excess water use costs us money and also involves governmental costs, which could be used in other ways.
CONSERVE WATER — Shower quickly and only when needed, not necessarily every single day. Flush toilets only when needed. Don’t waste water in your yard, or running down your driveway. Follow any local water limits, and plant native species if possible. If your washing machine does not adjust for load size, only wash full loads.
Electricity is a big factor, starting with the methods of generation. All methods of generating electricity have environmental impacts, even including solar and wind, which are often touted as being improvements. Big wind fans and solar panels are made with special materials that have to come from somewhere, such as the mining of metals, manufacturing materials, etc.. Big arrays of solar panels or large groups of wind generators can kill native things in the spaces where they’re placed. Solar and wind may appear cleaner than using oil or gas to generate power, and they have different impacts compared to dams, but they still have impacts. After generation, our uses of electricity can have many impacts also, such as the fact that using light bulbs or some machines can raise the temperature near them.
CONSERVE ELECTRICITY – Turn off lights if you’re not going to be in that room for 10 minutes or more. Turn off the TV, if nobody’s watching it. Pay attention to when it’s good to open or close windows, to limit your use of heating-cooling systems or fans. Set climate systems at moderately comfortable temperatures to minimize their use.
Gasoline is made from oil, which is a limited natural resource. We cannot continue to use oil products at high levels forever, without eventually running out. Various methods of burning oil and gasoline add pollutants to the environment, and the burning releases heat.
CONSERVE GASOLINE – Plan where you’re going for shopping and on other expeditions, to minimize the amount of unnecessary driving around town. If you have a long drive to work, try to carpool with a group of co-workers. Consider walking or riding a bicycle, if you’re going somewhere nearby and if your health allows it. Use public transportation if it is readily available.
Natural gas, like oil, is a limited natural resource which should be conserved. It requires energy to remove natural gas from the ground, and sometimes fires occur. Many uses of natural gas can add CO2 to the air. Along with electricity, natural gas is often used in our heating and cooking systems, and we need to carefully manage those systems.
CONSERVE NATURAL GAS – As noted before, set moderate temperatures in your buildings. Don’t heat foods or drinks unless needed. Don’t waste hot water.
We’ve mentioned some of the major conservation issues, but thoughtful people can readily come up with many more. For example, purchasing locally grown foods and products made in the United States can reduce the transportation impact of imported items (such as gasoline and smoke involved in crossing an ocean). It’s also wise to avoid wasting any food, since energy and natural resources are used in producing all foods.
Recycling reduces the energy needed to produce new materials, and reduces environmental impacts. New paper production, for example, requires growing plants or cutting down trees for fibers, and then energy and other chemicals are used in factories to make the papers. Recycling items such as aluminum foil reduces mining needs, and reduces the atmospheric impacts from mining.
So, if environmentally conscious people are already paying attention to all the impacts mentioned above, what more can we be doing? We can write to elected representatives, encouraging them to act sensibly about anything that impacts the environment and our climate. We can vote for candidates who understand that it is crucial to make changes soon, to avoid a climate disaster.
We can make small or appropriately sized donations to good causes – small donations by many people can add up!
Educate yourself further about climate change by reading articles and watching programs about the environment. Many books cover such topics, including the following: “An Inconvenient Truth,” by Al Gore; “Plan B 4.0,” by Lester R. Brown; and “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate,” by Naomi Klein. Those three books range in order from the shortest and easiest to read by Gore (with many illustrations), to the longest and most difficult by Klein. Those references and other sources assisted in the development of this article.
Here’s hoping we can do enough!