Merry Wanderer of the Night + LIFE

Leif Reads: Eaarth and

Climate change seems like a huge, insurmountable problem. What can one little person do about this huge monster that is taking over our planet? It's pretty easy to look at the data, think about how much you will have to give up, and decide you're just not going to do it anything about it. But that is a big mistake and simply not true. There are little things each of us can do and together they will build up to something bigger.

I became intensely aware of Bill McKibben during fall semester when I became involved in a student organization called Eco Hawk. We decided to participate in a climate awareness event called 10/10/10 on October 10, 2010. Students and environmentalists around the world participated in the event, doing different things to promote climate awareness. In Iowa City we had a bike ride to raise awareness about different modes of transportation that are carbon free. The event was organized through, which just happens to be the environmental organization Bill McKibben co-founded. Since Bill McKibben was also visiting Iowa City for a lecture I figured I better read his most recent book, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet

, and Aths joined me to create this new feature called Leif Reads.

There is a lot in Eaarth about climate change, but I think this section gives a good introduction to the problem we're facing. "Normally--over all but the last two hundred years of human civilization-- the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere remained stable because trees and plants and plankton sucked it up about as fast as volcanoes produced it. But now we've turned out cars and factories into junior volcanoes, and so we're not just producing carbon faster than the plant world can absorb it; we're making it so hot that the plants absorb less carbon than they used to" (23).
What does 350 mean? Scientists say that 350 parts per million CO2 (carbon dioxide) in our atmosphere is the safe number for the Earth. We are currently at 388 parts per million. Doesn't seem so bad, right? But for most of human history it has been 275 parts per million CO2, until about 200 years ago when we started to burn coal, gas, and oil for energy. So scientists aren't saying 350 parts per million is the ideal number, it's just a number we could possible reach that would make our planet safer.

Throughout Eaarth though, McKibben admits that he thinks we have already lost the Earth we once lived on-- and we will never get it back. Hence the name Eaarth. It's the new name of our planet, and with this new planet we have to get rid of the old rules. They simply will not work any longer.

What can you do?
One of the first steps you can do is to educate yourself. Visit and read their frequently asked questions, their mission, read anything you can find on there. Join their movement. Consider ways you can cut back on the amount of energy you use. Not every city or town is made for walking, but when you do take the car out consider making the most of it. Instead of going to one store and then going to a different on the next day try to make fewer car trips. One of the absolute best things you can do though? Write to people. Write to your local government, your state government, your transit system, your landlord. Don't be afraid to ask people questions. What kind of fuel are your local buses using? What small changes do you see that could make where you live a better place to live? Government officials are there to listen to the people in their neighborhood and you might have an idea they have never thought about. Get your friends to join and write letters with you. The more people they hear it from, the better. Why do I suggest you do this? Because to make truly powerful changes that will change the rules that fit the new Eaarth we live on better we need our government to take notice and back up our choices. If you want to make big waves, this is a great way to do it. And educate yourself. Read a book like Eaarth to learn what you can do to be part of the new Eaarth we live on.

More info!
A link to find the contact for your state representative.
Eaarth facts and figures.
What is your carbon footprint?
Green Reads podcast in which I talk about Eaarth more generally.

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Leif Reads: Eaarth and + LIFE