Eco-tips alone can never have a significant impact on “saving the earth.” They’re baby steps—and if they don’t lead to something bigger, then we’re in a world of trouble. Literally.
The problem, as Javna saw it when he set out to remedy the situation in the 21st Century edition, which has just been released, was that the original 50 Simple Things “didn’t really educate people about the nature and extent of the environmental problems themselves.” Such a charge will never be leveled at this new edition of the book.
Javna partnered with 50 leading environmental organizations to create mini-primers on 50 of the most pressing environmental issues facing us today. He suggests that you don’t read the book straight through, but instead pick an issue you think you might be interested in working on and start there. The new 50 Simple Things lays out each problem, introduces you to the partner organization for that problem, and provides a basic road-map for action. (I just went ahead and read the book straight through anyway, because I really found it quite horrifying to read about all the problems we face and quite inspiring to read about all the dedicated groups working towards solutions. It was a good read.)
The new 50 Simple Things is still based on a pretty simple idea, and the book is easy to use. There’s really nothing simple about most of the solutions, of course, as the problems are fairly large and complex. And most of the solutions certainly won’t be easy to accomplish. But if even half the people who were inspired by the original 50 Simple Things are galvanized to action by the 21st Century edition, it could be a significant boon to the myriad organizations that make up the environmental movement today.
The United Nations estimates that there are 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile in the world’s oceans. Plastic bags in oceans kill a million seabirds and 100,000 sea mammals a year.
If you’re concerned about global warming and want to do something about it, Joseph Romm’s Hell and High Water: Global Warming – the Solution and the Politics – and What We Should Do (HarperCollins, 2007), is a fantastic primer.
Romm starts off by discussing what the best scientific models predict will happen to our planet if global warming goes unchecked for the remainder of the 21st century – hence the title, Hell and High Water, since we’ll probably see rising sea levels and recording flooding coupled with record droughts and uncontrollable wildfires.
The second half of the book discusses global warming solutions. Romm clearly and concisely details the technologies and policies we need to adopt to avoid the worst consequences of global warming and, along the way, dissects the rhetoric used by Republicans and conservatives to continually deny global warming is a serious problem (and somehow still be taken seriously) in order to delay any kind of meaningful action.
Rather than rehash Romm’s arguments, since you can read them for yourself, I’d like to share a few ideas I had while reading the book. I found the chapters on global warming rhetoric to be the most interesting.
Even Republican messaging guru Frank Luntz admitted, in a 2002 memo, that “The scientific debate is closing” against the Republican position on global warming. Since they can’t possibly prove the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community is wrong, they have to rely on obfuscating and creating doubt around the issue. As long as the public has any doubt left in their minds, they are going to be okay with delaying action.
Here are some ideas for reframing the global warming debate that were suggested to me by Hell and High Water:
• Skeptics = Deniers
“Skeptics” is a term that makes it sound as if the viewpoint that global warming is not caused by humans and/or is not a serious problem is actually legitimate. Romm prefers to call them Delayers and Denyers, which implies they are denying reality and delaying the inevitable, and I think that is a very valuable tactic. (Minor quibble: I would personally rather spell it Deniers; not sure if Romm’s spelling is the British version or what, but “deniers” is actually a word, whereas “denyers” isn’t.)
• Climate Change = Global Warming
Luntz encourages his devotees to always use the phrase “Climate Change” because it “sounds less frightening than global warming.” Well, it is in fact a frightening situation. I’m not saying we should use fear to persuade the public – that is another Republican tactic – but Global Warming does indeed connote the severity of the situation. It denotes that something is being done to the planet, whereas Climate Change is more passive and sounds like something that would probably be happening anyway.
• Sound Science = Politicized Science or Science Fiction
Republicans like to use the term “Sound Science” as often as possible in order to give the impression that that is what they are basing their views on. But there is no reason to deny the existence of global warming except for political or monetary gain. The arguments the Deniers are peddling are not based on science at all, they are pure fiction.
• More research/New technological breakthroughs are needed = We can’t afford to wait