Have you read the report from the latest climate change summit? It’s frightening. Inspiring, that so many countries are coming together to recognize the reality and looming dangers of climate change, and come up with creative solutions to mitigate the issue. But frightening how overwhelming the evidence that we are doing too little. Too late. We are racing toward the edge of the ecological cliff. Entire countries are in danger from rising sea levels. Entire populations facing the threats of drought, desertification, and acidifying oceans.

And warming the globe by drilling up the earth’s life-blood to run our dishwashers and SUV’s isn’t the only way in which we humans are causing destruction. We dump massive amounts of toxic waste into our own water supply, abuse and murder other sentient beings, and kill off entire species that share this planet with us.

It has to stop.

It can stop.

According to NOAA: “The exact amount of warming that will occur in the coming century depends largely on the energy choices that we make now and in the next few decades”.

Humans are capable of far more than just destruction. We are natural-born creators. We have enormous capacity for compassion, for altruism, for ingenuity. Many, many groups of people across the world are searching for and experimenting with new ways of living. Ways which put us back in synch with the ecosystems we depend on. Ways which still give us the benefits of our incredible inventions, without their use causing harm.

There are things, simple things, that we can all do to contribute to the healing of our planet. The good thing about our short human lifespans, is that change can happen in a single generation. We become accustomed to new things so quickly. After all, we all grew up without iphones and GPS didn’t we? And now these technologies are the norm. This is so encouraging! If we utilize our enormous capacity for acclimation, we can create new norms quickly. And it is our responsibility, the responsibility of every human being, to create new norms of living so that the next generation will be prepared to function in the world they are inheriting. We can all be backyard warriors for a better earth!

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And these aren’t wild, crunchy, neo-hippie ideas. These are mainstream scientific ideas. These are things scientist worldwide are urging. These are things suggested even by our local radio station last week. We mustn’t fall into thinking “I’m only one person? What can I do? Why should I change?” Because if every one of the 6 billion of us on this planet changed just a little, that’s a lot of change.

Each of us can examine our own lives and figure out in what small ways we can contribute. Here are a few:

Get Conscious of Your Energy Usage…Embarrassingly, a year ago, when we lived in our farmhouse, I probably couldn’t have told you what our monthly energy usage was. Probably too much. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last year, living off grid, it’s how simple and easy it is to cut out superfluous energy consumption. Unplug your TV and appliances when you’re not using them, use less water, don’t turn lights on when you don’t have to. Better yet, install some solar panels on your roof. If you can’t afford to, build your own. A year ago we had the idea that it would cost us a good $20,000 to install a solar system to run our household. Now, through picking and choosing our energy usage and learning how to install our own system, we are doing so for under $3,000. If you can’t/don’t want to be off-grid, then educate yourself as to where your power company gets their energy and request more green choices. Some local power companies even offer incentives for customers to install their own solar, and feed that energy back to the grid.

Eat Less Meat…You hear it everywhere these days. The Western meat-centric diet is terrible both for our health and for the planet. A ridiculous amount of our arable land is being used to grow cereal grains to feed meat animals, rainforests which are the lungs of our planet are being cut down to make space to raise more beef and the corn that feeds them, waste from factory farms are polluting our rivers and groundwater, not to mention the destruction wrought on the lives of the animals living in terrible conditions. And it’s not just meat, it’s all factory farmed animal products. Your eggs and dairy products are just as environmentally destructive. Luckily, if you want to eat animal products, there are better ways to obtain them. Choose local, grass-fed, free range. Support small local farmers who are making an effort to move towards ethical and ecologically sound practices. Just be careful not to assume this is automatically the case. Just because it comes from down the road, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s sustainable or ethically raised.

My husband and I spent twelve years raising our own meat and dairy animals, and I know well how truly difficult it is to run a small farm in both an ethical and sustainable way. Farmers who are managing this deserve our support.

If we are smart about it, ruminant animals can be part of the solution to desertification. Their hooves aerate the ground, their manure spreads seeds from one place to another, and land that is not suitable to grow produce on can be used for grazing herds. If you choose to eat meat, try and make sure that you are contributing to a move towards a more sustainable way of raising it.

If you can’t, don’t eat it. For us, we’ve found we enjoy gardening much more, and so we’ve adapted our entire diet to be plant-based.

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Plant A Garden…Even if you eat no factory farmed animal products at all, simply buying food shipped halfway across the globe is a practice that should be avoided, as much as is possible. It’s sad how incredible difficult this is to do, but the more we all move towards purchasing products from our local food shed, the easier it will be for small farms to produce them. The way we eat is one of the simplest and most profound ways in which we can each contribute to changing the current flawed system. And it’s not just better for the earth, it’s better for our health too! Whenever possible, buy local. Even better, pull up that water-hogging lawn and plant your own vegetables. It takes no gardening skill at all to grow potatoes in a 5 gallon bucket on your balcony, or greens in your windowsill.

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Opt Out Of the Culture of Consumption…Our entire economy is built on the idea of consumption. Spend, spend, spend so the economy will grow, grow, grow. It’s not even hidden. Politicians shout it from the rooftops! It’s simply unsustainable. And the more we consume, the more is produced, the more is thrown away, and the more ends up in landfills. Instead, learn to fix what’s broken. Buy used. Donate. Craft. Or, here’s an idea…simply have less.

Downsize…The American idea of a big huge house for one family is in great contrast to how people live in other parts of the world. So let’s learn from other cultures and move away from the idea that we need a bedroom for every member of the family, a room just to eat in, etc. Huge houses equal huge heating bills, huge water consumption, and huge use of toxic building supplies. Small living spaces equal smaller bills, smaller debt, smaller environmental footprint, and more freedom.

Raise Conscious Humans…If you are a parent, or ever plan on becoming a parent, this is probably the single greatest way in which we can contribute to change. Children grow up in the blink of an eye. The three year old hanging on your leg right now will tomorrow be a man, deciding how best to live on the only planet we have. Involve your children in the changes you are making, and why. Brainstorm as to other ways in which you can live in harmony with your local eco-systems. Raise children who are deeply connected to the natural world around them. Children who have a relationship with the plants and animals around them. Children who know where their food comes from because they grew it themselves, or met the farmer who did.

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And most importantly, we must raise children who have never been told what to think, but rather taught how. How to assess, how to be critical, how to sort through contradicting information. Top-down education only perpetuates the same cycles over and over, it cannot create new ones. Don’t give your children all the answers…rather, teach them how to ask the right questions.

Because, in the words of Dr. Seuss: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

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