In a column a few weeks ago, I asked readers for their thoughts, after a summer of extreme weather, on what sacrifices we must be prepared to make to ward off the most serious effects of human-caused climate change. Response came, well, flooding in.
Before I get into specific reader suggestions, it’s important to note that mitigating the worsening climate crisis will require concerted and continuing actions at the national and international level, which is why it’s so important that, despite the war in Ukraine and heightened US-China tensions, the international community resolves to push hard ahead on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
That said, individual changes will necessarily be part of national efforts — and some readers are making admirable attempts at the personal level.
Michael Kozuch, 53, a Boston educator, said he had reduced his carbon footprint from the American average down to lower than the average European creation of carbon dioxide by, among other things, moving from a condo in an air-leaky triple-decker to a newer, better-insulated unit with passive solar; purchasing 100 percent renewable electricity; buying, with the help of tax incentives, an electric vehicle; purchasing, with the help of rebates, a heat pump; flying less; and riding the train, walking, and biking more.
“We must be willing to sacrifice something as we did to win World War II,” he said.
“I’m working hard to conserve my wardrobe, limit my food waste, turn my lawn into an edible garden, use public transport — four-plus hours, four days a week — and practice low impact vegetarianism,” wrote the Rev. Lourey Savick, a Boston resident whose church is in New Hampshire.
Those are big personal commitments indeed.
Kathy Bourgoin, a doctor from Orono, Maine, wanted everyone to know about the many constructive suggestions offered by Project Drawdown, a nonprofit that bills itself as “the world’s leading resource for climate solutions.”
Several readers wrote to highlight the work of the Carbon CREW (Carbon Reduction for Earth Wellbeing) Project, started by three 70-something women from Long Island, N.Y.
Darr Reilly, a cofounder of that organization, said she stopped trying to educate people that there was a climate change problem and now focuses on those ready to take real steps to lower their carbon footprints. CREW has small groups meet via Zoom over five weekly sessions to discuss steps individuals can take. The goal: To have participants develop immediate, one-year, and five-year plans, with the long-term goal of reducing their carbon footprints by 50 percent.
“Actions range from things as small as replacing light bulbs to installing solar panels, with lots of different solutions in between,” wrote Sheila Peiffer, of Southampton, N.Y., another of the group’s founders.
Once participants complete the program, they are encouraged to start new groups of their own, the better to spread the word exponentially.
Other reader suggestions: Minimize flying. Buy carbon offsets when you do take to the air. And invest in green funds.
Cities, towns, and individuals should explore geothermal heat, suggested Laurel Kayne, director of communications at HEET (Home Energy Efficiency Team), a nonprofit that sees great promise in getting natural heat from the ground. Eversource is working on one such project in Framingham, while National Grid has a project in Lowell, she noted.
Climate change is at a point where we must focus not just on prevention but also on adaptation, wrote John Bolduc, who retired last year as a Cambridge climate change planner but is still active on the issue. He suggested people focus locally on actions to take at home and in their communities, and push for changes that reduce pollution, strengthen social connections, enhance infrastructure and green space, and provide a better quality of local life.
That, he said, is “a better way to reach people than emphasizing the worst possible effects, because people generally look away from that.”
But not everyone viewed this summer’s extreme weather as underlying the fact that human activity is altering the climate for the worse.
Susan Fiorello, a retired hair stylist from Lynnfield, said God is in charge and humans are making a mistake by trying to “change the laws of nature.” Why, I asked, isn’t God stopping the extreme heat, storms, and flooding? Because of “the moral decline in our civilization,” she replied.
Another emailer posited that extreme weather might signal “the return of Jesus Christ” and advised me that “man cannot change the world, only God can.” I posed the same question: Why doesn’t God change the extreme weather? “Because he is trying to wake people up who refuse to know him, just like in the days of Noah,” she advised.
Which got me thinking of an action I should take.
Mend my wicked ways, you ask?
No, no, build myself an ark.