Who could have imagined a global crisis larger than climate change? But here we are! Life as we know it has come to a halt as we hunker down to shelter in place indefinitely, to protect ourselves and tamp down the spread of a virus. Everyone, even those less food- and shelter-secure, must press the pause button and stay put, as well as those who help them. Now what?
How can we contribute to the common good sequestered home, even if our concern about big issues like climate change, feeding the world, curing disease, and other environmental and humanitarian causes hasn’t evaporated with our day-to-day lives? The good news is that there is much that we can do from our couch and kitchens.
Here are some ideas:
1. Work on Climate Change.
There is a simple and effective way to address the universal threat of global warming, through the bipartisan Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, or H.R.763. It will reduce America’s emissions by at least 40% in the first 12 years, and boost the economy at the same time; something government leaders are most concerned about as fallout from the coronavirus pandemic looms. This one policy can create over two million new jobs and promises economic growth in local communities across America – A crucial way to propel our sinking economy.
The Solution: H.R.763 – a revenue neutral act that allocates fees collected on carbon emissions at the source to all Americans. This funnels money into the pockets of American consumers to spend. The government keeps none of the fees collected, so it’s not a tax, but money returned to all Americans with a social security number.
Most significantly this bill is bipartisan. A growing number of republican and democrat representatives alike have signed on as cosponsors as they review its effectiveness. The majority of Americans support Congress acting on climate change, including more than half of republicans, and this relatively painless measure is something that we can all agree on. Climate change is too urgent to forget about, or to get caught in partisan politics.
What you can do: Write or call your state representatives and urge them to support H.R.763. Join Citizens Climate Lobby, a non-profit, nonpartisan organization focused solely on this one national policy, because it is the most immediate and effective tool that we have. Their consistently respectful, nonpartisan approach is designed to create a broad, sustainable foundation for climate action across all geographic regions and political inclinations. Joining them is the easiest way to educate ourselves on the climate change solutions available.
2. Consider Your Food: Eat a Plant-Strong Diet and Don’t Waste.
According to a large body of research including Project Drawdown, food choices make a big impact on global warming. Choosing a plant-based diet along with eliminating wasted food can reduce your personal carbon footprint more than other habits; more than eating local, more than giving up a car, and more than recycling, (1). It turns out that eating beans, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, tubers (like potatoes), mushrooms, nuts and seeds, is not only good for us, but good for the planet.
The Food: Given that the global food system is among the principal drivers of climate change as well as the biggest indicator of chronic disease, imagine the impact each of us has on greenhouse gas emissions, soil preservation, deforestation and biodiversity. Fortunately for us, those health-promoting foods mentioned also tend to be the most climate-friendly foods – whole plant foods, (2). Eating these foods delivers the nutrients to fight bacteria and viruses, as well as boosts our immune system so our bodies can overcome foreign invaders like viruses when they do infect us.
Conversely, the foods that carry known health risks are also the most climate-polluting foods. For instance red and processed meat that is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease (3), type 2 diabetes (4), and certain cancers (5), are the highest emitters of greenhouse gasses, (6).
The Waste: Globally thirty percent of food is wasted. Americans waste closer to forty percent. That means food that is never eaten still uses up precious land, soil, water, and fuel, with the biggest demand on these resources coming from animal food production; then processed foods, (7). Most of that wasted food ends up in landfills to generate large quantities of methane as the food decomposes, a potent greenhouse gas. According to the FAO, thirteen percent of animal food by volume is wasted, which is a low percentage compared to other foods, but due to their high emissions intensity, a high percentage of greenhouse gas. Meat alone accounts for roughly one‐third of greenhouse gas emissions associated with food waste, (8).
By cutting food wasted globally we could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 4.5 gigatons by 2050, (9). Not only is that significant, but we individual citizens have a say in it. Diet is something that all of us can improve upon, in the seclusion of our own home.
3. Start a Garden, Indoors or Out.
Your body needs green veggies now more than ever, and we can grow these, the healthiest of foods, even without a house with garden space, any time of the year, in just a few days!
- Counter: Start a kitchen garden in a jar, with water and sprouting seeds. Soak a tablespoon or so of seeds overnight, (alfalfa, radish, sunflower, wheat groats, lentils, etc.). Strain them with a dish cloth or strainer. Rinse them twice a day and watch them sprout. In a few days when you see teeny green leaves, they’re ready to add to salads, stews or sandwiches. These sprouts are packed with nutrients and antioxidants and are the most protective foods around – the ones that fight bacteria and viruses, and boost our immunity.
- Container gardening: Push a few leafy greens or lettuce seeds into a four-to-six-inch-deep container of dirt or potting soil and keep moist with watering. These need sun during the day, but a few hours sunshine can grow lettuce continuously. Plant another seed to replace each harvest.
- Outside: A small, square foot garden plot is all you need to grow a sizable harvest of vegetables. You may find this simple method at the Square Foot Gardening Foundation a great way to start.
4. Fight Hunger
What local food redistribution programs operate in your area that may need assistance in this challenging time? For instance, school nutrition programs have been stymied while schools are closed. In my area the YMCA is stepping up to distribute foods to children in the school food programs. Volunteers are needed, and maybe from the safety of your car or home. Our local Meals on Wheels program, as well as many other charitable programs, cancelled their annual spring fundraiser due to the COVID-19 crisis and must depend on online donations. Whatever you could do that feels right, will result in personal satisfaction. Bonus: time spent on charitable work could lead to rewarding interactions now in the time of seclusion, as well as ways to give back to your community later, when we’re back to some kind of normal.
5. Practice Cooperation
Like global warming, viruses know no boundaries. We are all in these planetary-wide challenges together. So protecting the developing world as well as sharing what we have and know, is the only way towards a successful outcome. Now is the time to practice skills such as cooperation and diplomacy, and figure out how to work together to overcome a global crisis. Start at home. Start now, and keep busy with meaningful work that’ll aid us all when we pick up with the work of survival on the other side. We’ll be facing new daily challenges for a while, but it’s good to remind ourselves that we are not alone.
As our local Citizens Climate Lobby leader recently did, I close with a timeless old song with a relevant message – It’ll end, and “We’ll Meet Again”! Now go and find your silver linings in this most challenging time.