Recent reports have shown that climate change is occurring faster than scientific estimates had predicted. Despite repeated warnings over the past 50 years we have not managed to curb our addiction to carbon. In fact we have barely started to take any real action. In the next several weeks I will be developing and sharing with you a 12 Step Carbon Recovery Program. Like so many things in life, most of us have to hit bottom before we are ready to make real life changes. Will hitting bottom require us to go through major environmental crisis or can we take charge of our own carbon addiction after careful scrutiny of our carbon footprint?
Thomas Berry coined the term Ecozoic Era for the challenging era we are confronted with as a result of our addiction to the burning of fossil fuels. Berry compares the current climate change challenge before us with Earth’s two greatest mass extinction eras: the Paleozoic Era and the Mesozoic Era, and proposes that a “degraded earth produces degraded people.” We are challenged to take personal responsibility in climate change and enact positive changes that will contribute toward mitigation of, and adaptation to this new climate.
|This is me enjoying nature at Big Bear, California.|
I have chosen the 12 step recovery framework as developed by successful addiction recovery groups to model the Carbon Recovery 12.0 Program. The steps will include coming to realization about the depth and breadth of carbon addiction, reconnecting with the environment, taking a carbon footprint inventory, identifying who, what, when, where and how carbon addiction causes harm, making amends in real ways through mindful systemic change, and spreading the word through local “Meetups”, social media sharing of personal stories, and starting local 12.0 groups. Intervention will also be touched on as a way to push heavy carbon users and climate change deniers towards taking a real look at the scientific evidence that unequivocally shows that burning fossil fuels is the major contributor to current changes in our environment.
This week I will share the first three steps along with my own personal journey. Please also join the new Meetup, Pittsburgh Environmentalist 12.0, to participate in the program and check back in the next weeks as the journey continues. I will begin at a grass root level with a website and will employ social media to build base support. This program is being offered as a pilot project to local environmental organizations and civic groups of which I am an active member. I encourage you to go through this process with me, or simply follow my journey.
Step One: We admitted that we were addicted to carbon-based energy and our lives have become un-sustainable.
When I read the latest report on the state of global warming I have to admit that my first and second emotions were fear and helplessness. How can one person make a dent in the major climate change issues our world now faces? It feels rather akin to attempting to turn back the hands of time; an impossible task. But once the deer in the headlights stage passed, I began to pull up my bootstraps. I began to look at my personal contributions on a daily basis to the problem; I saw that just like the layers of an onion, my own mindless carbon addictions are multi-layered. Once I peeled one layer back, I exposed yet another. I can see that I am living as a “taker” on this earth, and as Ishmael wrote so insightfully, "The Takers' story is 'The world belongs to man.' ...The Leavers' story is 'Man belongs to the world.'". How often have I thought to myself, "I am running late, and although I had planned to walk or bike to my next appointment, I will have to drive in order to be on time?" These cop outs do not allow me to take personal responsibility for my footprint.
Step Two: Came to believe that Mother Nature will continue to provide for us on planet Earth if we learn to walk lightly again.
When I look at scientific evidence of evolution, it is clear that living beings can adapt to environmental changes IF those changes occur slowly over time. The Gaia Theory, developed by James Lovelock proposes that all living organisms and the inorganic environment evolved together as a single living system and the interconnectivity of these greatly affects the chemistry and conditions of Earth. Earths ecosystem is intricate, balanced, and malleable; when humans tilt the weight too heavily in their direction, all of the other elements on Earth tilt, too. Isn’t it time to return to a balanced harmony with our environment? This is the essence of sustainability: to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. (World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), the Brundtland Commission).
Step Three: Made a personal daily pledge to walk lightly in harmony with Mother Nature.
So I have decided to make personal changes in my life that will lessen my carbon footprint and pass on this idea to others. How can I maintain these changes over time? I see that it will take a daily commitment to be more mindful. I will also have to connect with Nature on a daily basis. “The Natural Wildlife Federation” suggests that everyone get outside for an hour a day through its One Green Hour program. This seems so simple, and the benefits of an hour outside are so great.
Evolving a relationship with nature reconnects us to the natural world. Environmentalist Aldo Leopold wrote about the mind, nature, body connection in his 1940 publication, A Sand County Almanac. “A land ethic … reflects the existence of an ecological conscience,” he wrote, continuing, “This in turn reflects a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of land.”
Thank you for joining me on this journey and I look forward to your feedback.
Berry, Thomas, The Ecozoic Era,Eleventh Annual E. F. Schumacher LecturesOctober 1991, Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
Quinn, Daniel, Ishmael: An Adventure of Mind and Spirit, 1992, Bantam Turner Books, USA.
World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), the Brundtland Commission, Our Common Future, 1987, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Leopold, Aldo, Sand County Almanac, 1949, Oxford University Press, New York.