In the spirit of the title, I’m aiming to keep this month’s newsletter short and sweet – or at least shorter and sweeter than those past. Attempting to summarize even a small portion of the climate news each month was – as mentioned in my last newsletter – coming to feel overwhelming and exhausting. One reader commented, via email, “wow, that is a “link heavy” blog !!!” which struck me as funny and indisputably correct.
My goal in summarizing was to let the aggregation of articles, podcasts, video clips, etc. speak for itself, and although I found it a worthwhile exercise, in deference to my own well-being and in an attempt to draw down less data from power-hungry data centers, I’m going to pivot somewhat starting now. Going forward, at least until the next pivot, I hope to use this writing as a way to work through and share my own progress in taking climate action big and small.
One key idea here is that – as the title suggests – for those of us living in rich countries, or who are relatively rich, and especially both, some of the most important climate action we can take is what we don’t do. We should fly less. Drive less. Consume less. We should watch less, and less carelessly. We should waste less, and less wantonly. We should take seriously the responsibilities of stewardship and lower-case-c citizenship, even if it leads us to uncomfortable questions.
We shouldn’t delude ourselves that shopping local, or not using plastic bags, or buying Fair Trade – or any of the other palliatives the relatively rich use to salve our consciences – will actually “solve” the global climate crisis that is a function of extractive capitalism; however, harm reduction is harm reduction, and to repeat the redundancy, when we do less harm, less harm is done. Rather than let ourselves be overwhelmed by the scale of the problem, and hence wallow in fatalism, denial, and toothless guilt, we should always be looking to take concrete steps that feel achievable, while also having the courage to stay uncomfortable about everything that still needs to be done.
What I’m Doing
Some good news to share:
- We have signed on with OnForce Solar, via PowerMarket, to get both our residential and commercial electricity via a community solar project currently under construction in the South Bronx. What this means is that, rather than paying a minuscule premium on our ConEd bill to Arcadia Power in exchange for their purchasing (and retiring) Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) on our behalf, we will now be paying OnForce – which will in turn pay Con Edison – in exchange for OnForce feeding solar-generated electricity directly into the New York City grid. Our electricity still will not, necessarily, come directly from a renewable source, but we have moved one step closer to that goal, and in the process, we will be saving approximately 10% on our electricity bill (an unexpected bonus which I don’t fully understand yet, but which I suspect has something to do with government subsidies, and will be looking into). If you live in New York City, and would like to save a little money on your electricity bill, I encourage you to check out PowerMarket and OnForce, and if you would like to learn a little more, just reach out, and I’ll be happy to introduce you to Travis at PowerMarket.
- I’ve attended a number of public forums and events on climate issues in the last month or so, and am pleased to see a wide variety of organizations – including the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP), the New School, Columbia University, Civic Hall, and Green-e (a great resource for educating yourself about some of the more arcane and technical aspects of current US renewable energy policy and circumstances), among others – taking the necessity of climate action seriously.
- I attended a workshop of The Truth Has Changed, a powerful monologue by Josh Fox centering climate issues, the Global War on Terror, and their intersection in the fracking boom that has been driven by the post-9/11 shift towards American “energy independence.” Look for the show to open this September 11th in NYC. Josh and his team are currently seeking funding and support should you be interested in backing the theatrical run, which we may. If you haven’t yet seen his film, Awake: A Dream from Standing Rock, I recommend you check it – and Gasland – out. One episode in The Truth Has Changed is devoted to recounting the coordinated energy lobby-funded smear campaign that was launched against Fox after the release of Gasland in 2010.
What I’m Reading
Charlton Heston: Prophet of the Eco-Apocalypse? – excellent piece by Justin McBrien framing climate resiliency as a form of apology for capitalist exploitation and calling for an end to eco-apartheid, all through the lens of the films and life of Charlton Heston.
This Is What Happens When Bitcoin Miners Take Over Your Town – is what it sounds like, from Politico.
The Last Days of Jerry Brown – owing to Gov. Brown’s support for fracking in California, I have come to be something of a skeptic, but I learned something in reading this piece from The California Sunday Magazine, and recommend you have a look.
Latin America: End of a golden age? How the Commons creates alternatives to neoliberalism and the vanguard left – fascinating, dense, and long deep-dive into recent and current state of politics in the Americas to the south.
The Year Climate Change Began to Spin Out of Control – a piece as alarming as it sounds like it would be from the MIT Technology Review.
IN THE RUINS OF THE PRESENT – a sweeping assessment of the current global political situation from Vijay Prashad’s Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research – among the best things I’ve read of late.
This helpful series of short videos from UCLA’s Climate Lab, in partnership with Vox, offers great primers on easy climate action steps you can take right now related to take-out food, two-day delivery, and many other day-to-day mundanities. Although I don’t endorse all the (often corporatist) positions advanced in the series – for example, support for nuclear power generation – I hope you’ll find many of the ideas and tips actionable and accessible yourself.