© Harry Bliss; Used with permission of Pippin Properties, Inc.
What You Can Do
Although switching to high efficiency compact florescent light bulbs, recycling, and turning off lights are all good things, clearly we need to do much, much, more if we are to keep the atmospheric levels of the global warming gas carbon dioxide (CO2) below 450 parts per million.
Fortunately, you have more power than you think.
By the 2008 elections, more than half of you will be able to vote. And any major change in cultural attitudes has usually come from the youngest generation — whether it has been the introduction of quantum mechanics or the civil rights movement.
What you do can make a big difference, not just in your individual life, but in changing general attitudes toward energy use and the environment and in government policy.
Here are some ideas for you:
- Fight Misconceptions Wherever They Occur: If you read an article in a magazine or newspaper, or hear something on TV or radio, write a letter to the editor pointing out their errors. See Adults Say the Darndest Things. There is no debate about global warming in spite of how much effort certain groups have put into creating this illusion. here are also solutions, on today’s time scale, in spite of what some leaders tell you about waiting for “tomorrow’s technology”. You may not change the author’s mind, but you may make the publication think twice and even make a difference to their readers.
- Make Your Voice Heard: Write to your state and federal representatives. They are extremely sensitive to letters from their constituents, especially their newest ones. Ask them what energy policies they are supporting and why.
Better Yet: Invite them to your school. Most state representatives love to talk to schools, and this is an important chance for you to ask about what they are doing or not doing at the state policy level. Be prepared and ask intelligent questions – you will surprise them.
- Pay Attention to New Construction: Is your state authorizing new power plants? What kind? Who is doing the financing? Who is doing the permitting? What about buildings in your town—municipal buildings and schools. Are they net zero CO2 buildings? Again, make your voice heard.
- Pay Attention to Companies Where You Shop: Many companies are now truly working hard to decrease their energy consumption and especially their creation of CO2. Some companies are “green-washing” to be sure, but not all. And other companies, instead of looking forward, are stuck in the past, refusing to acknowledge any problems or solutions. Which companies do you currently buy from? Ask them what they are doing to convert to clean energy. Which ones do you want to buy from: the ones whose policies and profits you wish to support, or those who are looking backward?
- Pay Attention to Your Investments (or to your parent's investments): People build things because they believe that the investment will justify itself in the long run. If people decline to participate in the product that these investments create, they will become increasingly unattractive to the financial community.
- Write to Companies: Why is there a shortage of silicon for solar cells and turbines for wind farms? Encourage these companies to understand that there is an increasing demand and that they should work to make sure that they can meet the demand.
- Buy a Sweater: Americans often cool to 68 degrees in the summer and heat to 72+
degrees in the winter. Ask where the thermostat is set, and complain if it is too cold (in summer) or too hot (in winter). For example, in 2003 I went to a conference in Munich, being used to U.S. air-conditioning practices, I wore my standard winter suits. I was surprised to find that I was way overdressed—in Germany, they actually kept the air-conditioning set in the 70s!
- Pay Attention to Your Own Consumption: Try to follow all or at least some of the standard guidelines for lowering your own energy consumption. Start a contest in your class or your school to see how low you can go. And most important—if you are not using something, TURN IT OFF!
- Get involved with Organizations in Your Area -- see the partner organizations and resource partners for possibilities. For example, this April 14th, tens of thousands of Americans will gather all across the country at meaningful, iconic places to call for action on climate change. "We will hike, bike, climb, walk, swim, kayak, canoe, or simply sit or stand with banners of our call to action: "Step It Up, Congress! Cut Carbon 80% by 2050" See StepItUp2007 for more information.
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