Another hot week in September, on top of the hottest summer on record, is yet another reminder of the relentless changes in the Earth’s climate. World leaders, from U.S. President Barack Obama to the Pope Francis, are declaring the time for debate is over and the time for action is now. They are calling for action by governments, of course, but also actions by individuals across the globe to address this challenging issue.
So, what does that mean for you and me? What kinds of things can we do that will be helpful in reducing the amount of carbon pollution reaching the atmosphere? No one is suggesting we go back to the Stone Age, but there are a number of steps you can take.
Energy conservation is fundamental, since most of your carbon pollution is linked to energy use. Driving an energy-efficient vehicle, carpooling when possible and using public transit are all good first steps. Take a long, hard look at how you can reduce energy consumption in your home. Make sure your insulation is adequate and air leaks around doors and windows are sealed. Check the energy efficiency of your furnace and appliances. Invest in programmable thermostats to turn down the heat at night.
The Couchiching Conservancy is taking this energy-conservation strategy one step further by retrofitting its office building at Grant’s Woods to make it close to energy neutral. The oil furnace is now scrap, soon to be replaced by geothermal heat and rooftop solar panels. Triple-pane windows, enhanced insulation and many other features will make this a demonstration site to inspire others about what can be done.
Here’s a tougher pill to swallow — reduce your travel, especially by plane. You can cancel out a lot of energy-conservation steps at home with just one southern vacation. So, think about reducing the number of long flights, perhaps by limiting trips to every second winter.
Modifying your diet can help, too. Look for locally grown produce when possible and avoid foods that have travelled thousands of miles. Reduce your meat consumption, especially beef. It takes far more energy to produce meat than grains, and the digestive systems of cattle produce surprisingly high amounts of greenhouse gases.
Governments at all levels must do their part as well. Base your vote on strong commitments to address climate change with specific programs now, rather than vague promises for some kind of action decades away.
One of the best things we can do to prevent carbon from reaching the atmosphere is to invest in natural areas. Forests and grasslands soak up carbon and capture it in the soil, so preserving and expanding these natural habitats is a vital part of reducing climate change.
The Couchiching Conservancy and other land-trust organizations are local leaders in protecting these natural areas. By supporting their work, either financially or through land donations, you make a valuable contribution to a more stable and livable world for generations to come.
Ron Reid is the Carden program co-ordinator at the Couchiching Conservancy, a non-profit land trust that protects ecologically sensitive land in the Orillia region. For more information, visit couchichingconserv.ca.