Posted on 29 November 2011 by Daniel Bailey
After writing the blog post Throwing Down the Gauntlet, 'Actually Thoughtful' suggested SkS authors/contributors write about what personal measures they've taken in regard to climate change, and what steps readers could take. Previous, personal, iterations of this theme were explored earlier by dana1981 and Rob Painting. This is my response.
Given the enormity of the task we as a civilization face in the changing climate we are the cause of, what is one person to do? After all, I live in a temperate northern clime, my job requires me to travel up to several hundred miles per day via car (necessarily a 4-wheel drive SUV due to the snow & ice in the winter) and I live in a downtown area, not in the countryside. Given that, it would be easy to throw my hands up in despair.
But giving up is not in my nature (when someone mentioned to one of my coaches that I didn't know the meaning of giving up, Coach cracked, "I've seen his grades...there's a lot of words he don't know the meaning of." Funny guy, that Coach). Well, the words of Lao-tzu come to mind:
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
What To Do...
Well, for starters, the obvious stuff comes to mind:
- Changing out incandescent light bulbs to CFL's
- Insulating wall cavities in the house
- Insulating above-grade foundation walls in the basement
- Injecting foam insulation into electrical outlet boxes on exterior walls
- Replacing leaky single glazed woodframe windows/storm window combination units with high-efficiency double-glazed vinyl windows
- Replacing inefficient wooden exterior doors with modern thermal exterior doors and modern thermal storm doors
- Turn off all lights in rooms not in use
- Installing light timers in rooms staying lit while out
- When appliances fail, replacing them with more energy efficient models
- When replacing personal vehicles, choosing ones with better efficiencies (my commuting radius exceeds the capabilities of all-electric models & the winter snowfall levels here entail vehicles with 4-wheel drive capabilities)
- Recycling all paper and cardboard products (all that our local recycling center takes, unfortunately)
- Installing a gas insert into our fireplace to improve efficiencies
A good start, but clearly not enough.
The Road of Barnabas
Given the talents I was endowed with, the knowledge I've learned and the experiences which have shaped me throughout my life, I have decided that the best use of my time remaining to me was to build up a new generation of those who can make a difference amongst those around them. And by my participation here at Skeptical Science I can do that with individuals worldwide.
So I work mostly behind the scenes here at SkS, sometimes writing blog posts, moderating (a very thankless task I find, but someone must do it) and by performing in an outreach capacity with the climate science community (scientists, bloggers and talented individuals alike). With the hope that, in my own small way, I am making a difference.
So What Can You Do?
Once upon a time there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
One day he was walking along the shore. As he looked down the beach, he saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself to think of someone who would dance to the day. So he began to walk faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man and the young man wasn't dancing, but instead he was reaching down to the shore, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean.
As he got closer he called out, "Good morning! What are you doing?"
The young man paused, looked up and replied, "Throwing starfish in the ocean."
"I guess I should have asked, why are you throwing starfish in the ocean?"
"The sun is up and the tide is going out. And if I don't throw them in they'll die."
"But, young man, don't you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it. You can't possibly make a difference!"
The young man listened politely. Then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves and said, "It made a difference for that one."
There is something very special in each and every one of us. We have all been gifted with the ability to make a difference. And if we can become aware of that gift, we gain through the strength of our visions the power to shape the future.
We must each find our starfish. And if we throw our stars wisely and well, the world will be blessed.
So go and find your starfish...and do likewise. For we will be judged by those who come after us both by what we did do...and what we didn't do...in the time given to us.