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Anthropogenic climate change is wreaking its destruction across the planet in the threatened extinction of half of all living species within 100 years. So said the International Union for Conservation of Nature at its quadrennial World Conservation Congress, which wrapped up last Saturday. This is the gloomy bottom line to the discussion we’ve been having in this space over the past several weeks. Such monumentally discouraging predictions seem so far removed from our own daily lives and so far beyond our individual capacity to change and improve that it’s easy to shrug them off as irreparable.
Yet we can–and we must–do something. For, as Dr. Seuss’ Lorax famously says, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, “Nothing is going to get better.
Some of what you can do is easy, and some of it–depending on your resolve and your resources–is difficult. Perhaps the most useful framework for identifying what you can do is to begin with conservation’s universal axiom: REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE. (The suggestions below by no means encompass the broad spectrum of actions that you as an individual can take; they merely represent some changes that could be more challenging for some people.) So for starters, perhaps the biggest thing you can do is REDUCE your use of fossil fuel. Buy or lease solar electricity for your home or business. If you’re a renter, talk to the landlord. Move away from gas-guzzling cars: buy an electric vehicle or a hybrid, take public transportation, start walking, or ride a bike. Get rid of the gas lawnmower and use one that’s electric, or even better, a manual one, or lose the lawn entirely (more below). Take fewer long trips by airplane.
Remember also that plastic is derived from fossil fuel. And though it’s counterintuitive in our American consumer culture, where an increasing GDP is seen as the sign of a healthy society, BUY LESS STUFF! Especially if it’s packaged or manufactured with plastic. Avoid the many throwaway uses of plastic, from plastic grocery bags to those plastic lined coffee cups at Starbucks. Bring your own reusable bags and tote your own coffee cup. Buy groceries that have less packaging, or at farmers’ markets that offer locally produced foods. Use high-efficiency lighting.
Next, REDUCE your use of water. Water your lawn a lot less. In fact, get rid of the lawn and put in drought-tolerant landscaping. And don’t contaminate the water with toxic chemicals and fertilizers. REDUCE or cut them out altogether.
Furthermore–and we didn’t promise this would be easy–don’t keep a pet. Pets use enormous amounts of resources. This is not to suggest you should take dear old Fido to the pound. Just don’t get a new puppy when Fido passes on.
Eat less meat, or at least less red meat. (It takes 52,000 calories to raise one pound of beef; that’s enough to feed twenty-six people.) As for REUSE, hang on to those old clothes and that TV, smartphone, or laptop a little longer. When you’re done with them, donate to a charity that will find them a new home. And did we mention REUSABLE bags and REUSABLE coffee cups?!
Next, RECYCLE everything that you possibly can in your Downey CalMet Services recycling bin, including paper, cardboard, aluminum cans, and especially those pesky plastics we mentioned above. And compost at home! Those food scraps can be transformed into healthy fertilizer (see above).
Finally, VOLUNTEER, GET INVOLVED, BE AN ACTIVIST.
Last Saturday in southern California, as the IUCN completed its World Conservation Congress in Korea, over 9,000 caring citizens joined in Heal the Bay’s Coastal Cleanup Day, working together “to protect what they love, scouring local beaches, inland waterways, regional parks and urban neighborhoods,” to quote the website.
Here in Downey, Keep Downey Beautiful hosted the local version of Coastal Cleanup Day in the San Gabriel riverbed at Rio San Gabriel Park. Over one hundred participants, including some fifty Downey High School Kiwins, braved the near-record heat. Mathematically, those 100 represent a mere .1% of Downey’s total population. But they came out and did their parts to help save a battered planet.
That would make the Lorax proud.
Published: September 20, 2012 – Volume 11 – Issue 23