Climate Injustice: How it Affects You, What You Can Do, and Why Action is Critical

This is not a doom and gloom, scare people into action type of article. In fact, it’s the opposite. If you’ve given up on listening to climate change advocates because it’s depressing and overwhelming, give me one more chance to help your perspective! I have so much hope for the Earth, and I want to share that with you. You can make a difference. We, as a globe, have a chance to reverse the direction we are going and return to a state of sustainable living on planet Earth. No, this doesn’t mean limiting the number of people or mandating vegan diets. It means raising awareness and encouraging humans to reconnect with nature. Read on to find out what I’ve learned and changed in the past 6 months as proof that sustainability is not only a way to thrive, it’s a way to save the human species from the inevitable 6th mass extinction.

How I Got Started

            I just learned how to effectively recycle (rinsing food from all plastics containers, removing stickers from containers, and separating correctly). I also recently learned how to effectively compost and why we should do it. I’ve grown most of our vegetables myself, and visited our local market once a month for local, organic produce. Finally, I began cooking 25-50% of our meals vegan or vegetarian and began making all of our soaps, cleaning products (laundry detergent and surface cleaners) and bread from scratch. Bread and shampoo are not expensive. Simply put: I can make soap and bread, so why buy it?

This all started as a time-filler. I don’t commute 90+ minutes to and from work every day, so I felt the need to fill that time with something productive. I had always been curious about my impact on the environment, but wrote it off as something I simply did not have time for. After a month or so of trying new DIY, gardening, and recycling projects, I started feeling better. Stronger, more resilient, more in tune with my body. Happier. Healthier. A passion to learn more about sustainable living grew each day. I began researching ways to live more sustainable. Soon I was checking out climate change books from the library, following activists online, and watching environmental documentaries.

I want to live in a world that doesn’t have an expiration date. At the rate we are currently using limited fossil fuels, destroying forests, and pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, we are only accelerating our projection towards extinction. We have the opportunity to shift our focus entirely to sustainable, renewable energy resources. Voting for leaders that are ready to make that investment will not only help our atmosphere, but it will unite us with nature while providing more abundant energy for people in all class systems- not just the wealthy.

 I also want to contribute to the change we all have to make as a society in order for our species to survive. Being in nature is healing and healthy, we all know that. Can you imagine if we lived WITH nature, instead of manipulating it, sheltering from it… abusing it? You see, we’re in a bit of a redundant cycle with Earth. We drill, harvest, hunt, and burn, expecting life to go on as normal merely because everyone else is doing it. We travel long miles to see pretty landscapes and immerse ourselves in the few corners of the worlds that aren’t as inhabited, unknowingly pumping tons of carbon into the atmosphere in the process.

What’s Happening?

The oceans can’t absorb our emissions much longer, and the reefs are paying for our flippant actions. Every Instagram post of a friend snorkeling in the ocean is now shadowed by the knowledge that several tons of carbon were expelled to allow such a luxurious photo op. I calculated our home’s emissions. Even without air conditioning, driving an average of 3,000 miles per year, AND recycling/composting, our household of two emits close to 11 tons of CO2 per year, 5.5 tons each. If you would like to calculate your carbon footprint, click here.

As a globe, we should aim for each individual to emit 3 tons of CO2, total, per year or LESS. This includes our monthly home energy, travel, and waste emission totals. Ideally, we reduce our emissions to zero so our future generations can thrive. But…baby steps. Ideally, we just need to start by reducing emissions, instead of increasing.

By limiting our travel, or traveling in energy-efficient ways, we can dramatically reduce our carbon emissions that are causing global warming, which could directly help decrease wildfires. California, Oregon, and Washington suffered an extreme loss of forest during this year’s wildfire season, and we’re only halfway through “fire season.” In Washington state alone, more acreage burned in one day than in the last 12 of 18 fire seasons combined. Over the past 10 years, there were an average of 64,100 wildfires annually and an average of 6.8million acres burned annually. For more statistics, please click here.

Unfortunately, the wealthy are responsible for a large portion of the world’s emissions. This is why climate justice would mean justice for the poor. By providing clean, renewable energy to poverty-stricken areas, we can help the globe AND those less fortunate. This would help, not solve, the racial injustice problem by providing more opportunities to minorities while eliminating close to 30% of the emissions the upper 10% are responsible for. We need to hold the wealthy accountable for their actions.

Farming methods can also be improved. The current method of tilling, planting, spraying, and harvesting is not sustainable. We are slowly killing our soil, and knocking down trees to make room for edible livestock. We are stealing the planet’s diversity to push things like chicken, beef, dairy, wheat, and corn. Insects are going extinct. Large fish are being eliminated from over-fishing, and rare animals are even harder to find as we destroy their homes and poach them. Have we already forgotten the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s? We tilled and tilled the land, which coupled with Mother Nature’s wind storms, giving us the first hint of what is to come if we don’t LISTEN to the Earth and LEARN from Her.

Deforestation is happening at an incredible rate. If we follow our current patterns of cutting down trees to make room for animals and crops, or for timber and paper production, by the time your newborn baby is YOUR age natural forests could be reduced to a mere 15%. In the past 50 years, we went from 66% natural forests remaining to 31%. That means by 2070, the world will look incredibly different. Your grandchildren will be wondering why we didn’t change sooner, when we could save forests and entire species from perishing instead of as a last resort. Good news: some countries have already turned the tide! Bad news: the US is not one of them. In fact, in the past few years we’ve only produced more emissions and waste.

The population is often brought up in climate change arguments. While people are causing the problem, people are not the problem. People can change. I am proof of that. All species have a ceiling, and I’m confident that humans will eventually level out in terms of population growth. Japan may be an example. The Japanese culture has developed rapidly, and experienced a notable decline in birth rates. This could be explained, in part, to limited job availability as technology advances. Robots are being used in place of humans, serving in restaurants for example.

Humans are still gradually evolving and adapting. The more informed, educated, advanced and equal our society becomes, the sooner our population can right itself and stabilize.

What You Can Do

Recycling is the first step. If you aren’t involved in a recycling program, I invite you to make a plan to start participating in one. This is an investment in our future. The second step is to look at your lifestyle and assess your emissions. It’s ironic that our cost of living goes down as we invest in sustainable options. Another idea: gardening! Growing plants is a great way to help our environment. Plants breath in carbon dioxide and emit oxygen. If you need help starting an indoor container garden, refer to my 30 minute DIY post. Hydroponic indoor gardens just may be the future of farming!

The way we eat has become a grotesque model of unsustainable consumption. It’s not just the single-use plastic packaging (which is awful in and of itself), but also the mass production of plants and animals. We are manipulating nature to provide for our growing appetite. Instead of diets and keto-fad diets, we could try simply taking a small step back. Eating vegetarian 3-4 times per week. Not every day, every meal…perhaps start with 25-50%. We all know dairy products are linked to GI issues, so limiting these items serves as a health benefit and climate benefit. We love a good steak, so now it’s a special monthly occasion instead of weekly. I enjoy making my own almond and oat milk, and swap coconut oil or avocado oil for butter when possible in baking and cooking. When possible, buy or grow organic.

As mentioned before, eliminating or decreasing wasteful travel and clothing purchases is another effective way to reduce your emissions and save money. Travel by train if possible, or by electric car. We have family in Hawaii, and would like to travel to see them. Until energy-efficient flights are available, I have committed to flying roundtrip to Hawaii once every other year, instead of 1-2 times per year. Production, like new Lululemon pants or Gucci bags, requires energy and materials. Where do those come from? You guessed it: Earth. Buying clothing second hands skips the emissions from production AND eliminates the waste of used clothes. Confession: Almost all my name-brand clothing (yes Lulu!) and home décor/kitchen wares have come from second-hand stores. One man’s trash is truly another man’s treasure, at least in our household. You’ll save money and Mama Earth, how can you say no?!

When it’s time to replace your car, think about investing in electric. We are making a plan to phase in solar power options, as well as eliminating our two vehicles to eventually invest in one electric car. Yes, solar panels and electric cars are more pricey than natural gas and diesel cars. In the long run, we will save money and *HELLO* the planet! I have to believe my nieces, Emma (5) and Lydia (3), are worthy of a clean future, so this will be my investment in them. If you are a parent, I hope you begin to see the impact of climate change in such a way. You may also consider improving the economy of your home by lowering the temperature of you home in the winter by a degree or two, and the inverse in the summer to save electricity. Swapping out energy-efficient light bulbs is another trick, as well as setting devices like computer to energy-save mode.

Lastly, VOTE for leaders who will take climate change seriously and act to equalize the distribution of wealth by providing sustainable, renewable energy. We can learn from countries like Costa Rica, Morocco, and France. These countries once suffered from deforestation, contaminated water, average temperature hikes, and drought. After their country leaders to action, these countries flourished where they had suffered. Morocco is now exporting energy produced by their solar farms to other countries. Costa Rica, largely powered by renewable energy, has seen its forest double in the past 30 years. France has worked to provide a clean, public water system. The Paris Agreement, formed in 2015, is our best hope at reducing emissions as a GLOBE. The goal of the Paris Agreement is to allow the global temperature increase below 2*C by reducing emissions. Sadly, President Trump withdrew from the Paris agreement upon taking office and the Unites States per capita emissions are among the worst globally at 16.2 tons, compared to a global 4.8.

Encouragement to End

Here are some encouraging articles where climate action is showing beneficial, economical gains:

You see, it IS possible for us to change. The proof is right in front of us. We just lack the desire, or perhaps the group effort, and leadership. It starts with educating yourself. Cleaning up your household, reducing individual emissions, and living a sustainable life, one without an expiration date, is as liberating as it is resilient. I’d be thrilled if you calculated your yearly emissions, and/or googled your next flight emissions. It’s incredibly humbling.

Eventually, the choice won’t be there. Eventually, we will drain the world of fossil fuels. Eventually, Earth will be a barren desert, burnt up from carbon emissions. But, if we act now, we can start going back towards a thriving, diverse planet. Your children deserve a thriving future. By 2050, the world will look vastly different if we continue on this destructive path.      Vote for leaders who will take us in the right direction. Think about an electric car when it’s time for a new vehicle. Consider more economical energy options. Buy second hand when possible. Eat vegetarian once or twice a week. REDUCE travel, clothing purchases, and plastic use. REUSE items before throwing them away (repurposing is SO fun!). RECYCLE and compost!

You can do it. Email me with any questions you may have. I would love to hear from you!

In Good Health,

Becca Kawaoka

“We can’t just consume our way to a more sustainable world”

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