Guest Opinion by Kip Hansen
There are a lot of good things that you can do in your life. In fact, doing good things is one of the greatest privileges of being a human being and the opportunities to do good are myriad and diverse. Many philosophers and religionists claim that one can judge the success of one’s life, the value of one’s life, by the good that one accomplished in their lifetime. Most of our decisions in day-to-day living are not choices between good-and-evil or right-and-wrong, but fall somewhere along the lines of “Should I do this good thing or that good thing?”. Thus life gets complicated by the pressures to choose between things that might be characterized as Good, Better, Best choices — and for many of us, such choices are the hardest because each option is itself good and often necessary.
The lovely folks at the New York Times’ Climate Team have made a habit of offering their readers things that they can do to help save the planet — mostly how to save the planet from the humans. Each week the Climate Team sends out a little email newsletter, called “Climate Fwd:” filled with a mix of scary stories about the climate and “things you can do” to save the environment or stop global warming. Recent topics included “Climate change is a man-made problem that requires a feminist solution” and “One thing you can do: Think Dairy” — which suggested that to have a “huge impact” you should consider switching from dairy milk to “pea milk and yogurt, made from yellow split peas.” Seriously, I encourage you to sign up for the newsletter — it is an opportunity to be amused by the inanity of “green journalism”.
Last week, the Times’ Smarter Living section teamed up with Climate Fwd: “to pull advice from a recurring feature in their newsletter: One thing you can do.” Below are eight things that you — yes, you! — can do to care for the planet.
Many of the suggestions are good ideas, good things, that you could choose to do.
SPOILER ALERT: None of them will have the slightest effect on anything outside of your little tiny one-person world.
Since I’m sure we all want to do our best and save the world (yes…ok…you can put on your favorite super-hero suit and cape so you feel the part…) here are the “8 Things You Can Do to Care For The Planet”:
1. Hang on to your smartphone
A GOOD THING — “The little computer you carry with you requires a lot of energy to assemble. The production of an iPhone 6, for example, released the equivalent of 178 pounds of carbon dioxide, or about as much as burning nine gallons of gas….” So try to keep it working as long as you can, you see, and if it breaks, consider buying a used replacement. Besides, it cost upwards to a thousand dollars. This is sure to have an planet-saving effect on the international cell phone market and you’ll be able to feel proud and publicly exhibit your virtue by making sure all your friends see that you are using an out-dated, scratched-up old iPhone6s. Hint: Repeatedly upgrading to the latest model phone just eats up your budget — a bad thing.
2. Leave leaves
POOR ADVICE — “Leaves provide shelter for worms, moths and some butterflies, which then become prey for neighborhood birds. They also help nourish and fertilize soil, and you won’t burn fossil fuels by using a lawn mower or leaf blower.”
Yes, there are better things to do with fallen leaves than the suburban neighborhood solution of raking them up, putting then in bags, and leaving them on the curb for the trash man.
Those of you who live in Fall Leaf Season zones know that the leaves can create an inches thick layer and suffocate any and all but the toughest lawns. We have three fully mature maples in our yard (think 50 feet tall) and they drop a prodigious amount of leave matter. While real gardening advice differs, most call for you to use your gas-guzzling lawn mower and special mulching blades (which we use for all mowing) to reduce the leaves into tiny pieces and spread them evenly over the lawn in the fall while still dry — by mowing over them several times (in other words, extra mowing — not less).
At our house (now that my wife and I are back on land) we mow, mow, mow the leaves on the lawn, leave leaves in the perennial flower beds as mulch and put any extra leaves in the compost pile. (When I say “we” I mean my big strong adult boys.)
3. Use a dishwasher, not the sink
A GOOD THING, MAYBE — “Dishwashers have improved over the years: Average models certified by the government’s Energy Star program use 3.5 gallons or less per cycle.” Compare that to 1.5 gallons of water down the drain if you’re washing under a running faucet. Putting the day’s dishes in the dishwasher when there are only two of you eating 1.5 meals at home each day can also lead to running a dishwasher 1/4 full and wasting water and electricity.
Maybe the author has always had a dishwasher (he may not be old enough to remember when a family’s enslaved children were made to wash the dishes after dinner). For instance, he suggests: “If you don’t have the luxury of owning a dishwasher, try to do the two-bucket method: When washing dishes by hand, don’t let the water run. Fill one basin with wash water and the other with rinse water.” (Duh…that’s why there are two basins.)
Note that “saving water” is a good thing if you live in an area that has a water shortage or gets it water pumped up from a deep aquifer. If your use of water simply diverts water that would otherwise flow into the sea, it is a moot point. (Water is complicated….)
4. Buy fewer clothes
A GOOD THING — but not because they use water and chemicals to make clothes! And not that not all clothes are biodegradable, so “it’s best to wear your clothes for a long, long time.” (hey, but please, wash them regularly, even though it uses water!) However, over-consumption is not a good thing — so buying fewer clothes is a positive.
You can clearly see the tremendous impact you will make in the global environmental footprint of the fashion industry by wearing used ripped-knee blue genes instead of buying brand new ripped-knee blue genes. If your fashion sense needs greening-up, visit the lovely little hamlet of Woodstock, New York, where the date never changes — it’s always 1968.
5. Consider your online order, from click to carrier
A GOOD THING — Buy in bulk to reduce number of shipments, don’t buy-try-and-return. Good ideas — and just think of the difference that will make in the Global Average Surface Temperature in the year 2200!
6. Divest from fossil fuel
DUMB — To his credit, James K. Williamson, author of these “8 things…” correctly offers no reasons why this is a good thing — as it is not. If you do so publicly, and make a big fuss about it to make sure people are watching, you might get a little boost of virtue signaling — or — others might just think you need a better financial advisor.
Divestment is a strategy that neither fights climate change nor saves the planet. It just changes who owns the world’s most valuable resources — fossil fuel reserves — and who shares in the profits.
7. Be mindful of your food waste
A GOOD THING — But not because “A massive amount of energy goes into producing the food we eat, especially meat and dairy. For example, the production of a single hamburger uses the same amount of water as a 90-minute shower.” (Note that a long shower is NOT an example of a “massive amount… of energy” — it is wasting fresh water — a problem in some areas.)
It is morally wrong to waste food. This includes over-buying resulting in food that goes bad in your cupboard or refrigerator. Smart buying and better storage avoids waste. However, not wasting food in your home does not feed the starving children in China — however, donating the money you save by not wasting food to reputable charities does feed hungry kids.
8. Tune your heating system
A GOOD THING — “…poorly maintained systems can burn more oil or natural gas than is necessary.” That is wasteful and hits your budget. However, the Times’ falsely claims that tuning your heating system will “to cut down on indoor particulate matter.”
Your furnace or boiler does not contribute to indoor particulate matter air pollution (unless it is seriously broken and vents directly into the house — you would already know this from the smoke and smell or finding that someone in your home has died due to carbon monoxide poisioning — another reason for getting that tune up.) While tuning the heating system, check and clean your HVAC system’s outdoor machinery as well — often the heat transfer fins will be clogged with dirt and debris making the system less efficient and eating up your electrical budget.
THE BOTTOM LINE
We have 5 GOOD THINGS, 1 MAYBE A GOOD THING, 1 DUMB THING, and 1 bit of POOR ADVICE.
However, “Caring for the planet” is not a reason to actually do any of the 8 Things — none will have any discernible effect on the planet or on the environment. Several will make your family budget go a little further — which is a good thing!
Suggestion: File the article under “Climate Silliness” (along with the pea milk and feminist-climate-solutions).
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Author’s Comment Policy:
One thing about being human is that we like to think we are rational beings and that we do things for perfectly good reasons. This proposition is dubious. Far too often we are just bumbling along and bobbling the balls life has thrown at us — mostly trying to do the right thing.
It does not improve your life to do the right thing for the wrong reasons — or to do the wrong things for the right reason — and by this I mean fooling oneself into thinking your actions are having a bigger or different effect than they really are. This is where many activists and advocacy groups go wrong — they mean to do good, “Save the Birds” or whatever — but they go off the rails, like the National Audubon Society which sends out strings of misleading scare stories, misinformation, (both Bad Things) to garner donations to fund their good work of bird conservation.
The Climate Activist Propaganda machine has determined that people will support climate activism if they feel they are really contributing — so they foist off on the public long lists of SILLY THINGS, which are really totally ineffectual, that people can do to “save the planet” thus buying into the whole climate/environmental craziness.
Address your comments aimed at me to “Kip”… so I’ll see them.
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