I had the privilege of attending Power Shift 2009 in Ottawa this past weekend, Canada's largest ever youth conference on Climate Change. There were big speakers, workshops, and a “fill the hill” event in conjunction with 350.org's international day of climate action on October 24. On Monday, many attendees met with their MP's. Some attended question period in the house of commons, and, although it wasn't supported or organized by the conference, a few people chose to cause enough ruckus to get detained and escorted out. Blood and everything. Not really my style, but it got front page attention and multiple live interviews unlike the majority of the “inside-the-box” conference events. Interesting, these political games are.
But what now? I spent last month's newsletter talking about why I think it's a good idea to care about climate change. This month is about action. What can you do. Here are some options, some easy, some harder, but all steps in the right direction:
Get involved in local organizations. Involvement doesn't equal climate impact, but it DOES open the doorway. Plus, I'm a big believer that you are a product of the people you hang out with, so you're doing yourself a favour when you choose to spend time with people who care. Challenge: Find one organization that you connect with and go out for three events.
Eat differently. Specially, eat less beef, and in general, less meat. Raising cattle for food takes 40 times more energy than growing grain, so by eating even a little less meat, you can make a big impact. Challenge: Ask your family to designate one day of the week “vegetarian day”. It's not hard, and you'll likely discover some new delicious recipes.
Drive differently. Or rather, drive less. When the time comes, choose to live close to work so you can reduce your driving. As a bonus, commuting is one of the main causes of unhappiness, so you'll live happier! If you do need a car, choose the most fuel-efficient vehicle in the size class. Challenge: Go on a public transit adventure. OR Challenge 2: Next time gas prices increase, try cheering instead of complaining. Hooray for incentive to be more efficient!
Choose efficiency. Higher efficiency stuff generally costs more upfront, but saves you money in the long term. Have a discussion with your family about what type of appliances you buy and why. Discuss how much insulation is in the house. Discuss whether your windows are doubled or triple planed. Discuss whether you'd buy a hybrid car or not. If you have a fixed budget for a house, will you choose efficiency or extra features? Challenge: Start saving now so you can afford to pay upfront for the efficiency. You'll save money and the environment in the long run.
Write a Letter. We are fortunate to live in a democracy, which means that our government is elected to represent us. Tell your representatives what you think, and specifically what you want them to do. Tell them that you want an international agreement to science-based carbon targets in Copenhagen this December. Tell them you want them to do better than they did with Kyoto. Tell them that you think carbon SHOULD have a price just like pollution, and that you're willing to pay it. Most of all, tell them that Canada should be a global leader, not a laggard in reducing emissions. Challenge: Write something to government. Use your voice. It's a privilege.
Get educated on the issues. If you want to make a positive difference, add good information to your good intentions. Energy issues, for example, are one specific area about which most people are plainly ignorant, though it's not necessarily their fault. We might need to make up ground where our education system has been lacking. The issues are complex; there are no perfect solutions. Nuclear, Wind, Hydro & Solar are all low carbon alternatives to fossil fuels, but they're not perfect. Can you name the pros and cons of each? Challenge: Read an article. Actually, read two. Don't believe everything you read. Ask questions, demand evidence, and think for yourself.
So, there are six general things you can do, though not necessarily in that order. You might try getting educated before writing the letter, for instance. In fact, while you're thinking critically, and in the spirit of not believing everything you read, why don't you write me a little note and tell me what you think about this newsletter? Which actions are most meaningful? Which do you think don't matter? Go ahead and tell me you think I'm full of baloney if you like, but please, whatever you do, don't just sit there and do nothing. Think and take action!
The Flash Dance on Parliament Hill - a few thousand Canadians, mostly young people, gathered on the front steps of parliament to rally for action around climate change. On the agenda: Green Jobs, Commitment to Science-based Targets & an International Agreement in Copenhagen, and a moratorium on expansion of the Tar Sands in Alberta, one of Canada's largest contributing factors to our national GHG emissions. Photo: ecosanity.org
October 29, 2009
Climate change poses clear, catastrophic threats. We may not agree on the extent, but we certainly can't afford the risk of inaction."
- Rupert Murdoch
Chairman & Director, News Corporation
Joel Hilchey speaks and facilitates workshops across North America, empowering students, educators & business leaders who want to build stronger, more positive teams and communities. Contact him by phone at 1-877-487-5635 or check him out online at www.joelhilchey.com!
RIDDLE: I'm fluffy and pink and I'm found all around. I keep people warm but also keep them cooled down. Some say that I'm thick, though I'm rarely thick enough, so talk to your builder so he'll care about this stuff! What am I?
The Green Jobs fair was a a highlight of the Power Shift 2009 conference.
Not only can Canada be a world leader, we can create new jobs that add real value to our planet and to our lifestyles.
JOEL'S OTTAWA DEBUT:
I know what you're thinking: what about the Arctic issues you brought up last month?
(you were thinking that exactly, weren't you?)
The Arctic folks did have a nice bit of representation at Power Shift in Ottawa. They released and read a declaration that resulted from the Inuvik conference at Fill the Hill on October 24th. I'm very fortunate to be quoted in it, making the reading my first time being quoted on Parliament Hill! Lookout world!