Where to Begin?

A family was driving through Maine, and was a bit lost. Realizing they had bad cell reception so Siri couldn’t help them, and knowing they needed to get to wherever they were heading by nightfall, they stopped at a local market in the small town they were passing through to ask the proprietor how to get to their destination. After some hellos, purchase of sodas, indulgence in a coffee for mom, and with a bit of back and forth in explanation, the owner of the corner store stuck his pipe in his mouth and his hand in his pocket. “Ye-up, I know where you want to go and I can give you mighty fine directions, but if I were you I wouldn’t start from here.”

New England pragmatism at its finest. “If I were you I wouldn’t start from here.” Yet here we are. And from here we must begin.

Everything would be easier if China, for example, did not want to emulate the American way of life as they move into the status and power of a truly first world country. Climate change would be much easier to tackle if we, in the USA, had not invested all of our eggs into the basket of single occupancy vehicles and highways, or if we stopped deriving our national self-worth from GDP figures that say NOTHING of value or long-term resource effects from our decision-making. This would be an absolute walk in the park if we and other nations had an election system based on performance rather than the sheer quantity of hours of commercial air time the candidates can afford, and how eloquently they can blacken the reputation of their competitors. Every decision would be clearer if we included environmental degradation, and necessary remediation, into the daily cost of doing business.

And this would be so amazingly easy if the rest of the world were doing the right things and we didn’t have to do all the work…? Wait, what?

The US is the one that pulled out of the Paris Accord, and the US is the first-world nation that is fully embedded in subsidizing the fossil fuel companies, and the US is the nation that buys significant number of products from nations with lesser environmental oversight specifically because those products are cheaper, even though they are more dangerous to us and the world. US companies move their manufacturing elsewhere not only to avoid tax burdens, but to avoid environmental oversight, find cheap labor, and to duck environmental reporting, along with, often, social justice goals.

Yet we are where we are, and from here we MUST begin. It is that simple. And it is that hard.

First, every little bit matters. Some people seem to think that what we do as a nation (or as a state, or as individuals) is pointless because “China is not doing enough” or “Other countries aren’t pulling their fair share”. This is factually ridiculous. Every choice that reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in truth reduces GHG emissions, and is a beneficial choice in addressing climate change mitigation. The notion of holding improvements hostage until the rest of the world ponies up is amazingly detrimental as well as hypocritical as it has been our rate of consumption and lack of stewardship that has led the downward spiral.

Second, there is not one solution to this issue.  Too many people are saying “we need innovation” or “what do we do now that we see solar PV can’t get us there”. Yes, we need innovation and yes, we need solar PV, and yes we need to compost and yes, we need to develop wind use and yes, we need to fund public transit and yes…and yes…and more.

We know what we need to do.  The United Nations has published their Sustainable Development Goals, listing the world concerns that we must face. These 17 goals are profoundly engaging. They deal with social equity, poverty, clean water and air, climate shift, innovations, education and more.

Moreover, we know what we need to do! Project Drawdown has listed the 100 current technologies and programs that draw down the CO2 in our atmosphere. This work includes the resultant GHG emissions reductions from each of the solutions, as well as the investment needed to achieve broad adoption and uptake.

We know how to do so very much. We have to publicize what we know, include the tools at our disposal, and continue to innovate to develop those solutions AND to find new ones. We must engage people in this awareness and in the work. No decision should occur without understanding how that decision affects the climate. We cannot do that if we continue the faulty, divorcing rhetoric that nothing we do matters if they (over there, them, not us) are not doing their share. Because here is the third most important point I must make. The only way we can get “there” from “here” is together, because we are in this together, and affected by this together. This moment is a lousy place to start, AND it has amazing opportunities for achievement if we look for them. Together we can build toward common goals, with uncommon passion.

I have put together a website linking Project Drawdown and the U.N. SDGs, putting the top 100 solutions alongside the goals we seek. The site includes links to the Drawdown site, with deeper information on what can be achieved and tools to engage your project team, your local government, your high school teacher (basically everyone) in accessing these solutions.  I have also included the link to the SDGs and their site includes information, encouragement, data on the needs and more. Please share, comment, engage; Problems, meet Solutions.

We are where we are, and from here we MUST begin. It is that simple. 


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