Sustainable Energy is Possible Today. Let’s Help Make it Happen

When it comes to climate change, it’s not all bad news. An article published by CarbonTracker.org back in April  (tinyurl.com/sbwu6j2y) and cited in Forbes magazine states that:

Solar and wind are inexhaustible sources of energy, unlike coal, oil and gas, and at current growth rates will push fossil fuels out of the electricity sector by the mid-2030s. By 2050 they could power the world, displacing fossil fuels entirely.

The world does not need to exploit its entire renewable resource — just 1% is enough to replace all fossil fuel usage. Each year we are fuelling the climate crisis by burning three million years of fossilised sunshine in coal, oil and gas while we use just 0.01% of daily sunshine.

But here is the kicker: the key barrier to moving to a fossil fuel-free future is not technology, it’s politics. We have all the technology to make this come true today, we just need the political will to pull it off. It’s time to call, write, or email your political representatives (tinyurl.com/contact-your-leaders). 

In the words of Pope Francis:

Yes, love is interpersonal, but love is also political. It involves all peoples and it involves Nature.

Working together, we can help take care of our common home. 

Paul Litwin

Throwing stones at ourselves

In a new study published on Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, the authors attribute 38% of all heat-related deaths in the 732 locations in 43 countries studied between 1991 and 2018 to climate change. And this increase in deaths was seen on every continent. This is yet more evidence that the human toll of climate change is no longer in the distant future; no longer solely a problem for future generations. No, climate change is here, front and center. 

We have already warmed the planet by 1 degree Celsius. And we have already experienced a significant increase in extreme weather events like hurricanes, typhoons, floods, and fires across the planet. Then there is the extensive bleaching of the coral reefs. And, of course, the disappearing glaciers and sea ice. Add it all up and climate change is upon us.

The lead author of the paper, Ana Maria Vicedo-Cabrera, commenting to the New York Times said, “We are thinking about these problems of climate change as something that the next generation will face,” she said. “It’s something we are facing already. We are throwing stones at ourselves.” Of course, future generations will indeed bear the full brunt of climate change as Dr. Vicedo-Cabrera echoes, “This burden will amplify,” she said. “Really, we need to do something.”

Working together, we can help take care of our common home. 
Paul Litwin

How long do we have?

Last week, I had the honor to speak to Nathan Hale High School students about climate change as part of Nathan Hale’s 2021 Climate Day of Action, where about a dozen speakers, some who were students and some, like myself, were not, spoke about climate change. My talk, which was based on Climate Reality Project leadership training that I completed back in April, was entitled “Climate Change and its Solutions” which I shared with about 50 students. 

The day was organized by three amazing young women: Meghan, Bayly, and Una. The three kicked off the event with Bayly stating “Six years left. That’s how many years we have until the effects of climate change are irreversible.” Wow, I thought. Where did they get that number? Is that right?

The Global Carbon Project says we have around 16 years (2027) until we reach irreversible changes at 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming over preindustrial temperatures. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated we had 12-35 years back in 2018 (2030-2053). Climateclock.net says we have less than 12 years (2030). Recent modeling by a group of scientists at McGill University says we have until 2027- 2042. Finally, I came upon the Climate Clock in New York City which says we have a little more than 6 years (2028) if we continue to burn fossil fuels at the current rate. That must have been what Bayly was quoting.

How long do we have left to change the direction of this impending crisis? Somewhere between 6 and 32 years. Any way you slice it, this crisis is real and coming for all of us, especially the youth, including these high school students I spoke with last week. And its greatest effects will be on the poor and the marginalized both in the US and throughout the world. We are rapidly running out of time to fix this. As Pope Francis said on Earth Day, a few weeks ago, “It’s time to Act”. Time to demand action from our leaders. What are you waiting for?

Working together, we can help take care of our common home. 

Paul Litwin

Connecting to Nature during the Pandemic

It’s easier to work towards preserving creation when you regularly experience the wonders of nature. Unfortunately, the pandemic has kept many of us locked up inside our homes, away from the natural world.

A recent column in EarthBeat (articles on the climate crisis, faith, and action from the National Catholic Reporter) by Barbara Fraser, offered six tips to connecting with nature when shut in:

  1. Open your eyes to the world around you
  2. Make it intentional
  3. Stop and look
  4. Write from the heart
  5. Stop and listen
  6. Remember that we are nature

Look out your window and observe what has always been around you: that tree that changes with the seasons, the flowers blooming in the Spring, the birds and squirrels. Listen for the songs of the birds, the barks of neighbor dogs, the chattering of people. Notice the cycle of the days: first light, clouds in the sky, the beauty of the rain, and of course, spectacular sunsets. 

Many confined people find it helpful to record in a journal or to write some poetry. Don’t consider yourself a poet? “Try an ‘ABC’ poem: look around you and build a poem of things you see, hear or smell, in alphabetical order.”

And let’s not forget…

“We in the West live in a culture that thinks, feels and understands the human being as being outside of nature, of creation, as if we were some sort of special kingdom within another kingdom, as if we were not also earth and natural world,” Moeme Miranda, a Brazilian lay Franciscan told EarthBeat. “Pope Francis, in Laudato Si’ [paragraph] No. 2, has said we have forgotten that we are earth.”

Working together, we can help take care of our common home. 

Paul Litwin

Just…start

When dealing with the climate crisis, you may be paralyzed with inaction since the problem seems so “intractable and hopeless.” It isn’t. In fact, the climate crisis is waiting for you; it’s calling your name; it needs your help; you just need to start. 

The Nigerian poet, Ijeoma Umebinyuo, wrote:

Start now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling but start. Start and don’t stop. Start where you are, with what you have. Just… start.

As far as I can tell, Ijeoma was not talking about climate change, but nonetheless, it is a wonderful quote. The climate movement needs you: yes you. 

May I suggest you start by talking about climate change; start by talking to your family and friends. Have those discussions; it’s easier than you think. You may also want to educate yourself on climate change. Check out the facts at NOAA’s climate.gov. Or read Pope Francis’s seminal encyclical on climate change, Laudato Si, at tinyurl.com/ReadLaudatoSi

And when you are ready to act, consider joining a group such as Al Gore’s Climate Reality climaterealityproject.org or Citizen Climate Lobby at citizensclimatelobby.org or perhaps Project Drawdown at drawdown.org. Just…start.   

Working together, we can help take care of our common home. 

P.S. Want to learn more about purchasing and owning an electric vehicle? Please consider joining us virtually on May 9 at 3pm for a panel discussion of EV owners, including me, at tinyurl.com/ev-meetup 

Paul Litwin

Will the market cast fossil fuels into the dustbin?

An April 26 Forbes article claims that the writing is on the wall for fossil fuels and that they are already overpriced when compared to renewables and it will just get worse for fossil fuels in the coming years.

From the article:

Solar and wind energy have the potential to meet global electricity demand 100 times over, and the costs of these renewables are collapsing so rapidly that fossil fuels could be pushed out of electricity generation altogether by 2035, according to a report by a U.K. think tank.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidrvetter/2021/04/26/how-renewables-could-kill-off-fossil-fuel-electricity-by-2035-new-report/?sh=4531fdd865ed

The original report can be found here:

From the report:

The technical and economic barriers have been crossed and the only impediment to change is political. 

All that’s left to do is to push our politicians to change the policies to make this happen even sooner. Or elect new politicians who will do the right thing for future generations.

Don’t send flowers for Valentine’s Day; send trees

Send love, not carbon

From a blog post on earthday.org:

Nothing is stronger than love — except maybe climate change.

Did you know that a gift of flowers will often travel thousands of miles (often by jet plane) to your florist? Add the refrigerants used to keep the flowers cold and then there is the additional travel for you to get to the florist and the flowers to get to your love. Maybe a gift of flowers isn’t such a good idea after all.

Perhaps a gift that celebrates both your loved one and the planet is a better idea. Perhaps, the gift of a planted tree is the right thing. Here’s a couple of ways to send trees this Valentine’s Day (or birthday, anniversary, …):

  • Earthday.org has a program, the Canopy Project, which is reforesting the planet.
  • Ecosia.org, a reputable carbon-negative search engine with an excellent privacy policy, sustainably plants trees (as researched on a How to Save a Planet podcast) using the advertising revenue from people using their search engine. Ecosia also has its own tree gifting program which I used this Valentine’s Day to gift trees to my wife.

So celebrate your love, responsibly by planting trees for your love. They will thank you and so will Mother Earth.

Paul Litwin

Buy Nothing: good for the neighborhood and the planet

Ever look around your house and realize you have too much stuff? We did. And while the instinct is to make a run to Goodwill or St. Vincent de Paul store, there is an alternative. In your neighborhood, there is most likely a “Buy Nothing” group on Facebook where neighbors offer up items they wish to rid themselves of, so other neighbors can pick them up from your front porch or other agreed upon location. (Alternately, you can do something close to this which is to put the item out on your parking strip with a “FREE” sign attached to it. This works better for larger items and when the weather is better.) 

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Not only is this a great way to recycle items you no longer want, but rather than sending the goods to some outfit that you hope can put them to good use, you create a direct connection with someone who most definitely wants your item and will put it to good use — instantly. Plus,  it’s a lovely way to connect to your community one on one, properly distanced, of course, and in most cases contactless and without you getting in your car. (This is not to say, that donating to St Vincent de Paul or Goodwill is not also a viable option; it still is, but it’s a bit less personal.)

This past weekend, we cleaned house — quite literally, and in the process sent an office chair, several storage bins, a mop, a drill, children’s books and games, a mirror, a cooler, two cast iron frying pans, a lamp, and a keyboard, all in a matter of a couple of days, and in some cases, minutes to happy neighbors. And last week, we happily rehomed a set of bunk beds and an espresso maker. We also put a desk out on our parking strip when no takers were interested online and a couple passing by in a car scooped it up in less than an hour. 

Do you feel burdened by your possessions? Maybe now is the time to let some stuff go and further the cause of “buy nothing” or at least “buy less”. 

Working together, we can help take care of our common home. 

Suzanna and Paul Litwin

Countdown on Climate Change

TED is a conference that features short but powerful talks from scientists, entertainers, teachers, and other thought leaders. Those giving TED talks have included luminaries such as Bill and Melinda Gates, Madeleine Albright, Bono, and many notable speakers. 

Countdown is a new global initiative from TED to accelerate solutions to the climate crisis. The Countdown talks were originally live streamed back on October 10th, but you can still watch the talks for free at https://www.ted.com/series/countdown

The Countdown talks are loosely arranged into five areas or topics: urgency, leadership, transformation, breakthroughs, and action. Under urgency, you will find talks like “Why is the world warming up?”, “The state of the climate crisis”, and “The case for stubborn optimism on climate”, among others. Leadership features “Kids are speaking up for the environment. Let’s listen”, “Europe’s plan to become the first carbon-neutral continent”, and “The city planting a million trees in two years”. 

Transformation includes “Where does all the carbon we release go?”, “Fossil fuel companies know how to stop global warming. Why don’t they?”, and “24 hours on Earth — in one image”. Under Breakthroughs, you will find “The global movement to restore nature’s biodiversity”, “Community-powered solutions to the climate crisis”, and “How we could make carbon-negative concrete”. Finally, action features “Why act now?”, “The race to net-zero emissions by 2050 is on. Can we count you in?” and a talk entitled “Our moral imperative to act on climate change — and 3 steps we can take” by none other than Pope Francis.

The Countdown talks I have already watched have been both inspiring and educational and I am planning to dig in and watch them all. In fact, I am hosting a series of virtual meetings to watch and discuss the Countdown talks in the coming weeks. The first TED Countdown discussion meetup will be held Sunday, November 29th from 3-4:30 pm. Please consider joining us by RSVPing at https://www.meetup.com/SeattleClimateChange/events/274682032

Working together, we can help take care of our common home. 

Paul Litwin