Rachel Fried, Program Assistant, Lands and Communications, Washington, D.C.
You know it’s summer in Washington D.C. when you walk outside at 8:00am and begin to sweat. The heat hit me like a ton of bricks one Friday in early July as I biked home from work. I thought I was going to choke. The thermometer registered a stifling 104 degrees but with the heat index, it registered as 110. The oppressive heat felt toxic in my asthma-prone lungs and my vision played tricks on me as I rode into a hazy mirage of foul car exhaust. But it was something more than the sticky humidity that I sensed that day. It was a gut-wrenching realization that these conditions were becoming the new norm.
It’s hard to deny that our world is getting hotter and hotter and it’s quite clear to me that we’re feeling the effects of climate change. Historic droughts in the Southern United States and Mexico, devastating floods in Brazil and Thailand, record destruction by tornados in the Midwest, cold snaps in North Korea, powerful tropical cyclones in Australia… the list goes on and on. All of these extreme weather events occurred in 2011. Last year.
It’s easy to get lost in news reports of the many climate-related disasters, but it doesn’t really hit home until you’re stuck in the middle of one. In 2011, severe weather events struck communities all over the US, breaking 3,251 monthly weather records. Get ready; more and more of us will experience such events in the years ahead.
I’ve felt it. I practically suffocate on my steamy bike rides home from work. A few weeks ago, I huddled in my dark bedroom after losing power from the deadly freak storms in D.C. Yesterday, I sat outside for a quick lunch break and this happened to my phone:
If only everyone would protest like this when it gets too hot outside. We have to connect the dots to what we’re witnessing with our own eyes – floods, fires, melting ice, and feverish heat. It’s not just a portent of things to come, but also signals the very troubling climate change already under way.
But so many people (including me at times) feel that the problem is too big, the political system too broken, the polluters too powerful… that there is nothing one can do to change the situation. We accept the science behind climate change, but it’s too scary to think about, so we pretend the problem doesn’t exist.
This sort of denial is exactly what Gen Xers (those born between 1961 and 1981) are experiencing; according to a University of Michigan study released this week. We’re not talking about the Millennials (Generation “Hot”), but it’s the Gen Xers who feel overwhelmingly “disengaged” towards climate change. This age group is full of young parents who might be more focused on their kid’s soccer practices and homework than the weather. In a recent news piece, a journalist and mother of two young boys wrote that she “began to think it a bit crazy that I attended to every bump and scrape on my children’s little bodies and budding egos, but largely ignored the threat likely to put sizeable areas of the world, underwater within their lifetime.”
Yes, we’re all “Busy!” “So busy.” “So crazy busy.”
It’s understandable. But, there’s a lot at stake. Instead of saying “meh” we can use this as an opportunity to teach our children. Kids like learning about why and how things work and this is like one big science project. I have many memories of cooking and baking with my parents – it was always fun to watch a gooey mixture of ingredients turn into fluffy banana muffins. Similarly, we can begin addressing climate change by bringing the discussion into the family room, kitchen, and backyard. The most concrete actions we can take to reduce our energy-consumption and combat climate change are in three main categories: transportation, home-energy use, and food consumption.
Here are eight easy things you can do TODAY.
- Take mass transit- learn the new bus routes in your city- take some time to ride the metro or subway – you’ll meet some really interesting people!
- If you’re thinking about buying a car, choose one that’s fuel–efficient or electric.
- Be smart with your water; turn the water off while brushing your teeth, and try taking shorter showers.
- Use cold water for laundry. About 90 percent of the energy used for washing clothes is for heating the water.
- Unplug video game consoles and cell phone chargers, when not in use.
- Look for the ENERGY STAR label when purchasing household appliances.
- Recycle more and buy recycled (bring your own bag to grocery stores).
- Eat less meat, play with new recipes and learn why organic food tastes better and is so much healthier!
Most importantly, learn and teach others. Check out EPA’s website for more suggestions on things you can do to protect the climate, reduce air pollution, and save money. http://epa.gov/climatechange/wycd/
I know it feels like small steps, but they really do add up. I don’t want to be in a situation where I need to slide the dial on my iphone for an emergency call. We don’t even have that option with the Earth; there is no simple emergency reset button. Help the earth cool down a bit so our children and our children’s children can live here, too.
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