Thomas Teuwen

Designer Builder , kandf sustainable lifestyle strategies

This conversation is closed.

What are your personal strategies to curb climate change?

It has been said that 60% of us know that climate change is the biggest threat facing our modern civilization, yet only 5% of us act on that knowledge.

If that is true and the 55% who know but don't (or can't) act could somehow get engaged maybe we could reach the tipping point and stem climate change.

There are three steps that we have personally taken in our lives to reduce our carbon footprint by 80% We live car-free/care-free, we eat Vegetarian (mostly vegan) and we built a small footprint house that we hope to get net-zero in another year.

I would be very interested to hear what strategies others have employed. But please let's not debate the existence of man made climate change here, ok?

If you are still in denial about that, then I don't see why you would have an interest in this conversation in the first place. Unless of course you want to further spread misinformation and add to the confusion of the uninformed.

Closing Statement from Thomas Teuwen

TED asked me to enter my closing statement and answer this question:

"Now that the conversation is closed, let people know the final answer -- what did you conclude? Was the question effectively answered?"

Thank you for the few of you who actually addressed the question constructively.

But I am still disappointed at the level of denial that is out there, especially among the TED community. If there was ever a group of people that could apply themselves to solutions rather than bury themselves in denial I thought it was this group. Instead most of the conversation centered around "it's not as bad as you make it out to be." read: "please don't make me change anything n my lifestyle".

In fact all the predictions by the best climate models are being exceeded and the runaway effect is accelerating. The window of averting global disaster is closing and as we ride the rails over the cliff we are still arguing in the bar car about how far away the cliff really is.

Climate change is not about a few storms and sea level rise. Its about severe climate fluctuations and perturbations that could end agriculture as we know it in decades. Its about the runaway methane effect that gets triggered once the arctic is ice free and the permafrost melts. Its about the bottom of the food chain, the zoo and phytoplankton, collapsing due to ocean acidification.

No the planet does not care what we do. It has survived these sort of upheavals before and simple renews itself. But we don;t have that option. Our civilization is based on agriculture and agriculture has only been possible for the last 10,000 years because of an unusually stable climate. Its that stability we are disrupting at our own peril.

I leave you with these two links to ponder:

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    Mar 24 2014: Aet, I could not agree with you more. Well said. I was hoping that TED is a productive forum for this kind of discussion but until your insightful comments I must admit I was a little disheartened by the response. I would like to keep this conversation going here and invite others to chime in with their strategies.

    In addition though we have a facebook page dedicated to sustainable lifestyle strategies and a twitter feed you can also visit our web page and find more opportunities to contact us or see more examples of communities that are making a difference.

    All our efforts are geared to helping those who understand the urgency of the situation to draw strength in community and get encouragement by realizing they are not as alone as it may seem to them sometime. Although we like to high-lite the latest research form time to time the primary focus is in finding strategies that allow us to act as individuals to stem climate change. Our experience (and hence our message) is that its not rocket science. We can turn this around.

    It really is too late to be pessimistic.
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    Mar 21 2014: The biggest strategy I can offer is in tracking how you are spending your dollars. The easiest way for us to impact change is to make intentional choices in what we are supporting, and to step out of the bliss that ignorance can be. In supporting clean energy, auditing how much I am spending on fuel, and understanding where the food that I eat comes from I can make better choices with my wallet, and over time use this as a tool to vote for what I want the world of business to produce.

    While I don't agree completely with the perfect view of capitalism I was taught in school, I do know that when we can create demand for something that business will always create the supply in order to profit. I know that in creating demand for goods and services that will restore the environment and not only sustain it that we can shift the culture around this issue.
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    Mar 21 2014: Yes Aet, I share many of your experiences. We too are not immune to these moments of hopelessness. It seems like such a no-brainer to us. We love taking hot showers, knowing that we are apes, that the sun is a star and the stars are suns. We love eating strawberries and grafting our apple trees and we love reading books, listening to music and having long dinner conversations. None of these luxuries would be possible without the civilization humanity has built. So why are we so reluctant as a species to protect that civilization from self destructing?

    But let me answer your questions about the "well of hope".

    First Carl Sagan made it clear that the natural state of the universe is that technological civilizations do have a tendency to self destruct and if we do, the planet will breathe a sigh of relief and set about repairing the wounds we have inflicted on her.

    Second Bishop Spong has pointed out that once something is fiercely argued in public discourse, change is inevitable, it may take time but its inevitable.

    Third, Simon Sinek reminds us quite graphically that there is something to the 100th monkey effect although not referring to it directly. The tipping point for massive social change is lower than we think.

    Finally there are some little details that help. Alternative energy companies are about to go mainstream. Urban agriculture is a thriving movement. Carfree living is taking hold in cities like New York and speaking of New York I think its significant that the Michael Bloomberg who controls 88% of Bloomberg news, a major information service for the financial markets, is keen on sustainability.

    All these are signs that we are on the cusp of change. But perhaps the most interesting one is the fervor with which the denial community if fighting for their cause. They would not be so aggressive if they did not feel seriously threatened by the facts. So keep your head high and live your example out loud. We need heroes like you.
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    Feb 27 2014: My personal strategy is to not be concerned with how others are attempting to fix climate because I am not involved in their decision making.
    Even though statement is unclear, I disagree with your claim of 55% engagement could reach tipping point.
    Inefficient lifestyles were imposed upon many self sufficient, energy efficient nations throughout history. Now the nations who imposed inefficient lifestyles want to impose again, this time with perceived efficient lifestyles. Maybe stop wanting and imposing of others would help situation.
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      Feb 27 2014: I agree Michael. Not only did we impose our consumptive lifestyle on other nations but we also led by example - the wrong example of over-consumption and irresponsible wastefulness. That's why I feel that we need to develop a new lifestyle that is sustainable. Not to impose on others but to live it ourselves... because its the right thing to do.

      The tipping point is all about the Diffusion of Innovation curve. It has a pretty good track record of predicting change. It also inspires hope that we don't have to worry about the deniers getting it. The laggards have always benefited from the progressive action of the early innovators.

      Keep innovating...
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        Feb 27 2014: I checked out the Diffusion of Innovation curve. Interesting chart. Reminds of the Gartner Hype cycle. Seems the Hype cycle preludes the Diffusion curve.
        I think of a new chart, called Concentration of Regression. One line starting at bottom of graph. Then gradually sloping upward as awareness of value of forsaken tradition and culture increases. At times sloping downward, but with time, and as cultural centers are constructed, less downward movement.
        Here are two forces that I believe can drive the upward slope.
        "I think as US citizens we have a lot of hard work to do. The yin and yang of this nation as a whole, can be:
        yin-gaining knowledge from around the world, empathy. Reading, traveling quietly to other places, speaking with community elders, asking questions to those of other cultures and simply listening to the answer.
        yang-changing structure of US culture to integrate worldly knowledge. Supporting local places like YMCA and cultural exchanges, finding ways to take care of self so that can be open to influence from others." -excerpt from my blog
  • Mar 24 2014: I find this conversation helpful overall - and wonder what to do to keep it going, and to start more. You mentioned, Thomas, that I - anyone, I presume - can return "here" to be "cheered on" :). Could you be more specific? I am not entirely clear how this would work - is there a forum outside a particular conversation or would I have to hope that similar conversations will pop up regularly and that I find likeminded individuals there? I would also like to see people with the sense of urgency to have more of a linked up network - do you know of any? If this conversation closes before you have a chance to reply, you are more than welcome to contact me on Facebook.
    Mike - I agree climate change should not be considered a religion. However, denying that extreme weather events are already occurring in many parts of the world, following roughly the pattern suggested by climate scientist, would not be standing against extremist zealots but facts. Modelling has its flaws, but if you look at the already recorded data (see, for instance, here:, you must be a blind optimist to wave it off as insignificant. I am a social scientist; I would caution anyone against using models in social sciences - human societies are too unpredictable to do that. But physics, chemistry, and a number of sciences that are based more directly on those baselines of life set certain parameters that just have to be reckoned with. I am not blinded by physics-religion when I avoid walking on the edges of tall buildings, I am simply managing risk. The same applies to how we should take climate. Yes, we do not know everything - and yes, humans may suddenly come up with some sort of solution to climate change - but instead of carrying on with business as usual with that hope clouding our ability to judge, we should all educate ourself to the maximum we can on what is already happening and what should be done right now to prevent even worse results.
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    Mar 23 2014: One of the most powerful tools we have to affect change is our wallet. While voting at the ballot box can be disheartening, we get a chance to vote at the cash register every single day. It is this cumulative effect of consumption that funds the arrogant corporate entities of which you speak. Without sales they collapse. Of course it needs to be a cumulative effort. Hat is tipped to you for keeping your consumption to a minimum.

    In my 55 years I have never met a politician that actually leads. Most follow, some manipulate, none lead. We don't like to admit it but collectively we, the consumers and citizens, do determine the trajectory of history by our daily habits. Whether we allow ourselves to be manipulated or choose our own principles to live by is of course the key question.
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    Mar 21 2014: No Mike, it is definitely not a religion. Religions tend to be based on blind dogma founded in contradictory scriptures. The climate change computer models you refer to are indeed that, models. But it turns out that most of the predictions these models have made in the past have been exceeded ahead of schedule. Change is happened faster than even the most pessimistic of us allowed ourselves to accept. I am reminded of the cosmological constant that Einstein later called his biggest blunder.

    Your point about the climate always changing is true. It has changed dramatically in the past sometimes swinging the earth in and out of ice ages in mere centuries or less. The point is that our civilization has been able to thrive during an unusually stable period since the last ice age. A period of carbon equilibrium that lasted for 10,000 years. A period that allowed us to invent agriculture, industrialize and swell our population from roughly 5 million to 7 billion. The evidence solid that our persistent extraction of carbon from the earth and our dumping it into the atmosphere at accelerating rates is destroying this delicate balance.

    Is that a risk we are prepared to take just to perpetuate old technologies and outdated lifestyle habits? Are we really prepared to bet the farm on one last fling? Would it be so terrible if we changed our trajectory and secured a vibrant future for our grandchildren?

    The irony is that what I am really proposing is a very conservative notion. Lets conserve the stability that has built our prosperity. Let's live on our interest instead of eating up our principle. Let's value and protect the natural capital of our inheritance and protect it for future generations. Let's live responsibly and take control of our destiny. Some may call that extreme or over reacting. I would call it prudence.
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      Mar 22 2014: Thomas,
      There are some who have proposed jail for those who are not convinced about the climate... those are the high priests of whom I speak. Many of those have no academic relevance in the science of climate and that is why climate is ignored by many.... I believe.
      Again, the oxidation of carbon does release heat and man is doing a lot of that.

      But that is only half the story. We have paved and roofed over tens of thousands of square miles in major metropolitan areas creating giant heat sinks, Wind farms suck energy out of prevailing winds, just to name some of the things we have done to effect the weather. So, what to do. We can go back to human civilization of a few thousand years ago when our carbon and all other foot prints where minimal to none or we should expand our efforts to find new sources of energy, new patterns of clustering, rather then falling back on old technology, spending on nonproductive science and expensive meetings all over the world.
  • Mar 20 2014: Recycle, cycle, walk, try to use appliances minimally or most efficiently (e.g boil the one cup rather than whole kettle etc); buy almost all of my clothes/shoes etc from charity shops; try to buy local and/or minimally packaged food. Have just started growing a bit of my own - although I am limited by the amount of land I have. Unfortunately, most of my efforts go up in smoke because I travel about 4-6 times a year by plane. I do hope to change that within the next few years - and before kids, was making the same 2000 mile journey by bus for environmental reasons. My future plans do include a fully off the grid house and considerably more food grown by ourselves.
    However, I disagree that we can be unconcerned with how others behave and consume. There is rapidly increasing urgency to change not only my own but human consumption more widely, in particular in the USA which puts more CO2 into the atmosphere than several other major economies combined. We do need to think of the strategies that would convince those who are still in denial - and the best way to bring home the point to those who think the whole climate change topic is just a joke might simply be green tax. A debate on why is green tax (or carbon tax etc) not even considered by most countries of the world is, in my view, highly necessary. There were some during the abolition movement who were simply not going to come around peacefully and without impositions. Waiting patiently for them to change was not an option then and is not an option at all today regarding climate change. I do not think we must stop changing harmful behaviour simply for the fear we might appear smug. I'm sorry, I'd rather appear smug (and I do not feel smug, that would be a a somewhat pleasant feeling which I cannot afford. I am simply angry at the change not happening fast enough!) and have a life for my children. Better than thou? Yes, if thou destroy the future, those who do not are indeed better.
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      Mar 20 2014: Fantastic Aet!!!! Thank you for everything you do! Do not sweat the air-travel bit for now, just buy carbon offsets. You get it and it is clear from your account that you are working towards solutions and not resting until you are there. As far as the denial crowd is concerned, I have stopped wasting time on them and here is why.

      A majority of us know how perilous climate change is. Some of us as intensely as you. We will drive the change. We are the early innovators and early adopters of a new paradigm. If we can demonstrate that acting on that knowledge is not only gratifying but fun and rewarding we offer solutions to all those who want to act but don't yet. Your example is no doubt inspiring to more people than you realize. Living your life and your values out loud so people can see the sincerity is a powerful agent of change.

      Once all those who get it act, things like carbon taxes and net zero housing will quickly become the norm. The deniers will scream and shout but they won't be able to stop it. They know it and that is what frightens them so. I am constantly amazed the passion people exhibit when they defend their consumptive lifestyles. You only get that worked up when you know you are in the wrong.

      So keep on keepin on. You are leading by example and I am so please to hear your story. If you ever loose hope, come visit our web site, facebook page and twitter, and connect with your community. We will always be there to cheer you on!
  • Feb 28 2014: In my experience most people who exhibit hostility towards a way of life such as not eating meat or driving a car do so because of 2 reasons. First of all there is an implied 'you should change too', which while fine in concept comes off as dictating how others live. That's very off-setting to people. The other is the Smugness factor, where those who have taken more environentally-friendly lifestyles deem themselves 'better' than those who have not. For a funny, yet accurate description of that concept I refer you to South Park's 'Smug Alert' episode:

    I hope you enjoy it without taking it personally.

    I agree that there are many actions we can take to preserve our ecosystem. I mentioned some such as banning CFC's and water conservation.

    What I don't agree on is a full-blown movement to a zero-footprint lifestyle. I think that such a movement requires tremendous effort and forced compliance. The level of effort would yield greater rewards if applied to other areas, like population reduction or green energy use.

    I take a bus to work everyday, not for environmental reasons but financial ones as my job pays for the bus pass. I'm sure it helps combat climate change. But the reality is that I spend 3 and 1/2 hours every day to travel 50 miles. That is half a workday wasted. If I drove it would take 1 and 1/2 hours tops. Those 2 hours/day extra would go a very long way towards increasing my quality of life. Those who can afford it drive their Hummers on the tollway and get to have those 2 hours/day extra. Passonate global warming proponents will argue for punishments for the Hummer driver and might give me a pat on the back but no reward. Those on the other side put a 'Drill, baby, Drill' bumpersticker on the Hummer and run over the endangered tree-frog without a thought. Neither side gets closer to a solution.

    What should happen is allowing tele-commuting for both of us.
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      Mar 1 2014: Have you made any inquiries into telecommuting one day per week? It may not affect your carbon footprint, but saving two hours even on one day would seem worthwhile. What would you do with two hours?
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      Mar 1 2014: Congratulations on riding the bus. You must get to read a lot of great books. I'm curious though, why do you have to live so far away from work?

      For us its not a "we are better than you attitude" although from the comments in this thread you would think we are pompous know-it-alls. We have dedicated ourselves to finding ways to reduce our carbon footprint without sacrificing our quality of life and after years of working at it have come up with some strategies that seem to work well for us. We felt it was a positive thing to do to share what we've learned. Of course our way doesn't apply to everyone that is why I asked the question: "What are you doing..."

      Most solutions that are presented to stem climate change are all about "them" doing something. And most require decades to implement if they ever get off the ground at all. Our strategy is something that can be implemented, by most healthy people, in a matter of just a couple of years if the will is there.

      But I would love to hear about other strategies that accomplish the same thing.
  • Feb 25 2014: Recycling. Walking to the shops. Catching the bus on the way back with the shopping. Don't eat meat. Buy organic (fossil fuel is the raw material to make inorganic fertiliser.)

    We are held back by our impatience. Because it is boring at the top of the food chain.
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    Mar 22 2014: I do very little to curb climate change. But I have lived a very simple and mostly consumer free life style for most of my 66 years and it seems that is supposed to be a form of helping.

    But as long as long as certain arrogant corporate entities are allowed to continue doling as they damn well please regarding emissions and environmental loss I find it laughable to ponder how limiting personal behaviours will matter in the least.

    The sad fact is, nothing will change until the political decision making process is changed. Until them the arrogant and the self-righteous will always be able to gain office or to corrupt the process and have their way while the rest of us bear the cost of their excesses.
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    Mar 21 2014: I do not deny the obvious, the climate is changing... it is always changing. but, I am still troubled by the implications of this conversation. Climate by definition is an accumulation of weather data from around the world. In effect, as weather changes so is the global climate. This is a fact. Now, there are "man made follies" that can change weather, some of which have been noted and some have been ignored.
    In all cases, meteorologists have yet to able to accurately predict weather more then a few days in advance.
    Most of the data presented to show that mankind is headed for an "uncomfortable future" are computer generated models based on past occurrences. Yet, there are the variables, some of which have been incorporated and some of which are unknown. For example, that are several super volcanos in the world, an eruption could have the effect of causing another ice age.
    So, should we be cut back on using carbon fuels? Sure, but not to the effect as some would suggest. Should we be recycling Sure, but maybe not to the level that some would suggest.
    what am I saying, To be considerate of our earth's resources is appropriate, but it is not a religion and we should not be swayed into over reaction by extreme zealots.
  • Mar 21 2014: Thank you for encouragement, it is greatly needed.

    I just wonder how you manage to trust such change comes early enough? Where do you find this well where to fetch hope?

    I agree with you, change will come, it has to a small degree already happened; when I think of the time 18 years ago when I became environmentally more aware, people certainly recycled less and having arguments on environment was constant (or maybe I was simply younger and fiercer and today simply won't bother). There might be scores more evironmental groups and communities today than then. But when you then look at the statistics, and how CO2 levels have kept on climbing, and read how agreeing on targets has yet again been postponed, or see how perfectly fit and able people keep driving to work in a small town with good cycle paths - then, hope really shrinks and dwindles. We don't have another 20 years to wait until all those indifferent people come on board - do you see a sudden landslide which brings them around? I so wish that would be the case, but the realist in me has great doubts.

    Maybe it won't be all that bad, maybe somehow, us humans can adapt yet again (and we have had to let go of the hope that all the other creatures will, anyway...)...But that hope, perhaps, is what stops us from acting and demanding change right now. Waiting is a luxury.

    I'm sorry to be so pessimistic - not really what I generally am like. This topic triggers it... But still, Thomas, thank you. It's encouraging even to simply communicate with people who act the same.
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    Mar 20 2014: This article just published helps to underscore why I asked this question. Looking forward to more responses. Even the little things you do are important.
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    Mar 20 2014: FYI: Pine tree smell fights global warming.

    Personally I have over a dozen evergreen trees, including short and long needle pines and cedar trees. I suspect cedar smell has the same effect as pine smell.
    But they were not planted as personal strategies to curb climate change, I’m not a man-made global warmest. Some are wild, some planted as winter time wind breaks, for shade, privacy and just for my enjoyment.

    Long before the smell research, so I recommend planting evergreens no matter how you stand on the manmade global warming theory.
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      Mar 20 2014: Yes planting trees is a good thing. I focus mostly on fruit trees to pay forward what I have harvested from the past. But I do preserve evergreens and while others cut them down around their houses I simply clean my gutters more often. And yes they are effective at sequestering co2 out of the atmosphere as are all other plant forms. After all that is how the oil got into the ground in the first place. Ancient sunlight, it has been called. And the climate imbalance is not from natural fluctuations in the co2 cycle since there are no natural phenomena that can extract this ancient sunlight from deep beneath the earth's crust and spew it into the atmosphere.

      I have worked in a cola mine and stood on the drill floor of an offshore oil rig to direct drilling operations. I know what is involved in extracting this ancient sunlight from the earth and it is definitely a man-made activity. Isn't it time we took responsibility for our actions?

      I love the benefits of our civilization and I want it to survive so that future generations can enjoy them as well. But to survive we need to change the way we interact with our biosphere. It's too late to be pessimistic and its certainly too late to be in denial.
  • Mar 16 2014: If you are seriously following what you have said:
    reduce our carbon footprint by 80% We live car-free/care-free, we eat Vegetarian (mostly vegan) and we built a small footprint house that we hope to get net-zero in another year."""

    Then , you are doing a great service to the universe
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      Mar 20 2014: Thank you Prakar. Yes we are living a fantastic and rewarding lifestyle that has made us so much richer in so many ways. But its not about saving the planet or doing a service to the universe or even our natural world. The planet will be just fine and there is nothing we can do to cause it any grief. It has survived mass extinctions before and will certainly survive this one. It lives and breathes on a different time scale and in a dozen million years any trace of our meddling will be wiped away.

      If we are doing it for anyone but ourselves we are doing it for future generations of humans. We awake each morning in awe of the bounty and riches that our civilization has bestowed upon us. We need to spend precious little time foraging for food or keeping warm and can enjoy the wealth of learning, growing sharing and loving. This is something we would like to pass on to our nieces and nephews and their children.

      Yes it is that critical even as the deniers foam at the mouth and scream in terror, refusing to consider that they are responsible. We are all responsible. Each and every one of us. And we are all able to respond to the crisis. There is so much we can do that will make a difference. In this talk we offer some simple strategies and show why they matter.
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    Mar 9 2014: Actually urbanization is defensible when we consider the population explosion of humanity. I visited a village in Germany last year that was a perfect example of how small villages in a rural setting are a much better solution than urban sprawl. The only catch is that they don't allow expansion. they are at 2,500 population and they will stay at that level. You have to rent for five years before you can buy and you can't sell for ten after you do unless you sell back to the municipality. I love the idea but its hardly a way to accommodate a species that is intent on overrunning the planet with its numbers.

    So as long as we insist on breeding like rabbits we need to find ways to accommodate the numbers without paving over all the farmland. Cities are sprawling in all the wrong places I agree but that does not take away from the fact that in a city people can easily live car-free whereas in a rural setting that gets really arduous. As far as your comparison between the Ford 350 and the Priuses I don;t get it. If you drive one Prius on a country road instead of your F-350 you are still reducing GHG emissions. What makes you think that if you transplant 1800 people into the country they will not drive cars anymore?
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    Mar 9 2014: Thomas,
    You have noted three things to personally cut your carbon footprint. Further you have noted not many people are interested in doing anything to acknowledge climate.
    However, as a counter point on the global scale, I will maintain that urbanization is the biggest contributor to climate variance. It is all about scale. A big Ford 350 going down a lonely Texas FM road is no where near as harmful as the 1800 Priuses in a traffic jam on the 5 in downtown LA.
    The impact of urbanization on the climate, the economy, society, environment... in fact, one could be hard pressed to find one positive impact by urbanization.
    So instead of a few trying to go to a net zero,... let's really effect a number of civilization's ills, you want ot live an urban life, pay a big tax.... nations can balance budgets, pay down debts, address climate issues, clean up the environment, just to name a few.
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    Mar 3 2014: There are also a lot of food forest sprouting up. All this is good. But one of the startling facts that we tuned into last summer as we prepared for a local food presentation. The biggest chunk of the carbon footprint of our food is the fuel we burn in our cars getting it from the store to our fridge. Since food is transported in containers and consolidated in huge shipments, the math shows that the co2 imbedded in the transport of food through the distribution system only makes up about 5% of our food's carbon footprint.

    How much the food is processed, how its packaged, how its grown and raised, and finally how we get it home and how we store it make up much bigger chunks of the co2 footprint. Riding your bike to the store can often half the carbon footprint of your food and driving a gas powered car to your local farmers market can result in that locally grown organic lettuce dripping in oil.

    None of this is what people want to hear but that does not alter the fact. We have huge potential to reduce our carbon footprint by taking small but well placed steps in the alterations of our lifestyle.
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    Mar 3 2014: Yes Fritzie sharing resources, goods and services in the local community is a huge component of the new economy. We sponsor a 2 buck market neighborhood produce swap at our urban farm where everyone comes together to share and swap the bounty of their garden. It is a natural extension of living car free and vegetarian since both make you more aware of where things come from, how things are made and what impact our consumption has on the world around us. It also reconnects us with our community in a huge way. For us it has become a routine part of the elevated quality of life we enjoy and this very morning on CBC's "The Current" this very topic is being discussed.
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    Mar 3 2014: This article, I think, has some pertinence to your question, being about the share economy, who participates in it and how:
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    Mar 1 2014: Climate is a running average of world wide weather. Doing the math would imply that making changes will be difficult. As individuals, some people, use bikes for transportation, curb their use of climate altering products and services and sometimes assume a superior attitude about their lifestyle.
    However, the one influence on weather is the one most ignored. Large clusters of people, expending all kinds of energy in small spaces. Consider, a high rise building, the amount of energy expended in maintaining a comforting environment. We have large cities that are roofed and paved over creating hot zones changing local weather. When data from these artificial heated sites have data included in global climate calculations, the swing of global climate is upward.
    So, what can we do to effect climate...
    Stop clustering in large cities... A city of about 100,000 is about the largest cluster of people that can be accommodated by the environment in any area and a surrounding green strip of farm, field or forest is essential to moderate the harmful effects of the enclosed city.
    So instead of being snobbish about your planter of lettuce greens on the roof of your highrise....move out to a small town. If you were smart enough to get a highrise in New York City, you should do well in Falconer, NY.
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      Mar 1 2014: moving into small villages is a great thing to do as long as you live in AND work in these villages. If you commute to the city using a co2 generating device that only achieves 20% efficiency (a car) your carbon footprint just skyrocketed.
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        Mar 1 2014: You don't commute to the big city, that's the whole point. Cities are constantly doing things to attract business in order to gain more tax revenues to attract more business to gain more tax revenues. And of course, people fall for the siren call and flock to the cities to work in the businesses and pay the taxes, etc. etc. and you have a tens of millions of people living like sardines, paying the highest rates to do so for the privilege of living in metropolitan New York City
        No company can survive without highly skilled employees. If the highly skilled employees would tell the front office we want to move to a better place.... maybe they will get lucky,
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    Feb 28 2014: Thomas, as this is the area of your work, would you share some of the ideas you have for people in different situations?

    You might offer ideas for various groups of people. Take perhaps someone who works in the city but commutes from outside it where housing is less expensive and people can have more space for kids or better schools. Or perhaps someone who lives in the city and has small children in school with backpacks and so on who get out at 3 and would have a long bus ride home (but the neighborhood school does not provide nearly as good an education). Or maybe someone whose savings are tied up in a home he cannot now sell without loss?

    I think asking what is holding people back is a good question. Where I live I am pretty sure affluent people are more likely to bicycle to work than those less affluent. The choices available to us- transportation, employment, food, exercise... may be related to where we live, the resources available to us and near us, the safety of neighborhoods, and so forth.

    I think a big reason working people with small children tend to drive is that it is faster and time spent in transit is time away from children. Parents choose a larger carbon footprint in order to increase another thing that is also good- time nurturing children. Also, if school calls to say Suzie has a fever, mother or father wants to be able to get there fast to collect Suzie.
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      Mar 1 2014: There are many solutions. Twitter #carfree and you will see lots of families organizing their lives so they can live without a car. It takes some time, planning and dedication but lots of folks are moving to communities that support a carfree lifestyle like Portland, New York and many other cities around the globe. Many of them are doing it for their children, to try and give them a healthier future. No question that the infrastructure needs to be improved but there are many rideshare and carshare services as well as taxi cabs and rental cars.

      There are times we need a car too, or a pickup or a van when family comes to visit. We either rent one or swap a neighbor for some produce or take an elderly person to a doctors appointment in exchange for the occasional use of a car. There are hundreds of strategies.

      My question here was "What are your personal strategies to curb climate change?" I was hoping to hear from folks who have found some strategies they are willing to share with the community. I never for a minute expected that there was still this hostility to the science of climate change. Instead of constructive suggestions I get responses as if I accused everyone of being evil somehow.

      I find that curious. Guess I hit a raw nerve somehow.
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        Mar 1 2014: Yes, had you posed the question with reference to efficient rather than wasteful use of resources rather than climate change, you might have had different response.

        Here is a recently closed and active conversation (almost 150 posts) on the transportation part of your topic hosted by researcher at Michelin:
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          Mar 1 2014: Of course I would have had a different response because it would have been a different question. Not a bad question just a different one that we have address ourselves to constantly in workshops and public forums. We have posted a transportation video collage on our website that explores these issues and shows examples of cities all over the world addressing them.

          But it is a different question.

          This question, what stops people from taking personal responsibility for the global climate crisis, is clearly a contentious one but it reaches down to the core of why nothing much has been accomplished since Reagan pulled the solar panels off the Carter White House.
  • Feb 28 2014: I personally agree with Lauren, Nadav and Don that there has never been convincing research resulted for the "global warming" theory. Now that it evolved to be hiding behind the vague terms of climate change which is pretty much the entire history of Mother Earth. We, the human race, are still thriving; better than as never before. And as these discussants said, it's doubtful whether the "climate change" (CC) has been made by man, whether we can change the earth climate by the limited "life style change" would make any dent to the CC on earth anyway.
    However, personally I do follow the principle of conservation on most material and natural resources , and also tried to throw out as little garbage into the environment as possible, not because of the CC or "global warming" but for the limited total resources on earth. I also eat animal meat sparingly and exercise more and driving cars less for my health reasons. We have only two children, so that we don't contribute more to the earth population.
    Finally, let me state my observation or logical scientific reasoning. The ocean acidification is more likely due to the water pollution of man-made waste to increase the acidity of the ocean, it kills not only the fish population, but also the other living organisms (e.g. the corral reef) in the ocean. IMO, you should worry about the survival of the human civilization because of the unsustainable human population growth and the depletion of the earth resources of all kinds, not just the energy and/or the "climate deterioration."
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      Mar 1 2014: Bart, you raise an important point- that many people actively conserve material and natural resources, do not litter, and reuse and recycle out of a dislike for wastefulness.
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    Feb 28 2014: Yes we are a fan of Finley and urban farming in all its forms including the balcony variety. They are wonderful examples of strategies that people employ within the constraints of their circumstances. We ourselves are heavy into urban food production too.

    To be clear I don't think that the personal choices people make about their lifestyle are driven because they are threatened by other choices. What suggest to me that some are threatened by those of us who choose to live more sustainably is their aggressive stance that our understanding of climate change is somehow delusional or that we have fallen victim to propaganda or a conspiracy. To resort to that kind of Tea Party trolling suggests that they are frightened by the prospects of living lighter on the planet because it would somehow implicate them in the global consequences of climate change.

    I would like to connect with those out there that already know and accept that we are responsible and who have made attempts, even in a small way, to correct our behavior.
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    Feb 28 2014: I am amazed at how much of the conversation below is still in denial of climate change and our contribution to it. I posed my question in the, now admittedly naive, context that the TED community would understand enough about the scientific process to have moved beyond the "climate change is a hoax" rhetoric long ago.

    Are there any folks out there who are not threatened by sustainable lifestyle choices and who are willing to share their personal experiences and successes?
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      Feb 28 2014: One cannot assume that a person's making one choice means he is threatened by other choices. A person doesn't choose to live, say, in Virginia because he feels threatened by living elsewhere. A person doesn't become a programmer because he feels threatened by being a nurse or visa versa . A person doesn't live in a little shared apartment typically because he feels threatened about living in his own little cottage with a garden. People who are not vegan don't make their choice because they find it threatening to be vegan.

      I feel grateful to live in a place and to be physically healthy enough to walk almost everywhere I need to go and otherwise to take public transportation. In many places living close to things, including good transit systems is costly, so people with fewer resources cannot afford to live there. Examples might be San Francisco or New York City, but many cities are like that. Poorer people are pushed out to less convenient locations. Many people must effectively live in quarters that do not allow them to grow their own food, other than maybe something on a windowsill, and there are at best long lines for 'allotments," as they call them in Europe, where people without land can grow on a public patch. A single mom with lots of kids faces different options than a single guy with none, or none still under his roof, and money saved for a little homestead.

      You may enjoy this talk:

      And this one:
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      Feb 28 2014: I agree with Fritzie.....just because people are not agreeing with you Thomas, it doesn't mean that we are "threatened by sustainable lifestyle choices", and in fact, some of us have been living a sustainable lifestyle most or all of our lives. I simply do not choose to feel threatened by, or participate in your ideas as presented. You seem to want people to feel threatened and afraid, and as I said in a previous comment, that doesn't make any sense to me.

      As Fritzie insightfully points out, people have different lives, and many people are good stewards to our environment in many different ways.

      You presented your 3 steps..."Live car-free/care-free, Eat Vegetarian or Vegan, Build or buy a net-zero house" as if everyone has to take those particular steps, or we'll all die.....which is not true.

      There are about 59 discussions on this topic if you are interested in previous TED discussions....
      On the left of this page, you will see "Popular Topics"...."see all topics"......"global warming".....check things out before you start chastising people for not blindly following what you advocate:>)
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    Feb 27 2014: As we know, forty thousand years ago there were glaciers as far south as Kentucky. Several million years ago there were tropical jungles all the way north to the Arctic Circle. This tells us three things:

    1) the Earth's climate has, can, and will change to either extreme without any help or interference from modern civilization,

    2) the climate mankind has experienced these past tens of millennia cannot be taken as a normal baseline, or that something is going 'wrong' if it begins to change,

    3) and the might of this planet's climate is many orders of magnitude stronger than mankind's ability to alter, whether purposefully or no.

    So you go ahead and eat your tofu burgers if it makes you feel better, but it's not having any effect on Earth's natural climatological cycle.
  • Feb 27 2014: Thomas my last post was meant to be a reply to you, not a seperate post. Sorry for clicking the wrong button.

    To move into a more non-confrontational tone, the real method of protecting our civilization is to develop a better energy source than Oil. Unfortunately petroleum is quite efficient in storing energy. There are a few technologies that might save us if we can just get them to work. Fusion is a possibility but has proven to be quite difficult. In any event you're not going to have a Mr. Fusion mounted on your DeLorian anytime soon.

    Cold Fusion, or LENR, might just surprise us very quickly. While the physics to explain what is happening does not exist, there does seem to be SOMETHING happening. I refer you to Andrea Rossi's E-Cat for more information. We just might get very lucky very soon.

    Zero-point energy has come out of Sci-Fi into the real world. One more Einstien and we might crack that shell.

    So I'll conceed the debate to this level: We DO need a better, long term solution. We DO only have a small window of time to do it or else other factors will overwhelm civilization. We DO have to make lifestyle choices, some painful, to buy us time to develop a real solution. We HAVE been lucky and should not waste the opportunity that luck has afforded.

    I'm just not sure that the best use of our time/resources/lives is to maintain the current artificial status quo.
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      Feb 28 2014: Martin, when I suggest that we have the good fortune of living in a climactic sweet spot and should do our best not to mess with its stability I am not suggesting that we maintain the status quo. Our human practices, as you so appropriately point out, have been short sighted and often destructive. On no front to do I think our technological status quo is sustainable.

      I do still think that we are intelligent creatures who have the ability to act on our growing knowledge. There is no going back. As Ronald Wright pointed out as we climbed the ladder of civilization we knocked out the rungs beneath us. We need to find technological solutions, I agree.

      But in the meantime why would we insist on continuing to do the same old stupid stuff that jeopardizes our existence? Are we so frightened of change that we fight tooth and nail to cling to our old attitudes? It always amazes me when I demonstrate a simple, efficient, enjoyable, healthy, loving, caring and extremely satisfying way of life how much hostility it invokes from people that are somehow threatened by me not eating meat or driving a car.
  • Feb 27 2014: The data I've heard is that the last 500 years have been a particularily mild period, but since that is pretty much all of recorded history we humans think its normal. 10,000 is the ending of the last Ice Age, which would certainly be a big positive change from the frozen world before it. But there have been other Ice Ages. The ages of the dinosaurs lasted hundreds of millions of years and were quite bountiful. I think you are looking at the problem too narrowly. Change does happen, with or without human interference, and sometimes it is better that what went before.

    Now when looked at from the 'human civilization' point of view, I can see that we should strive to maintain the current status quo because we have done really, really stupid things that we were lucky enough to get away with until now. For example, we built cities on the coastlines, assuming that the coast would always stay the same. Then we were lucky enough for long enough to think that it was normal. But taken in the long run, we have learned that even mountain ranges were once under water, continents merge and split apart, temperatures and oxygen content change drastically, etc.

    So instead of fighting to maintain a lucky streak, I believe we should strive for true long-term stabililty. On Earth that means reducing population, pollution, better practices, etc. In space that means finding other worlds to spread out to, resources to exploit and generally stop putting all of our eggs in one basket. Spreading humanity beyond this planet will require considerable resources and could easily leave this planet in far worse condition, but it would be better for Mankind. Then you have to have a debate on whether Man's interest is paramount, or if the animals or Earth itself should take precidence.

    Civilization will collapse due to Energy wars, Food Wars, Overpopulation and Overpollution, Religion, income inequality/globalization or an asteroid hit long before climate change does.
  • Feb 27 2014: Thomas, I can see by your statements, choice of words and choice of employment that you truly believe that 'climate change is the biggest threat facing our modern civilization' and well... good for you for committing to something you believe in. I, however, can think of many, many other things that are a bigger threat. I just wanted to point out that your premise of 'Climate change is bad and must be stopped' is not objectively True. I wonder: how did you decide that the current conditions of Earth are 'perfect' as compared to the past? Why is today's conditions better than say the Snowball Earth time? Why is it better than when the Dinosaurs lived? The last Ice Age? Because the main issue I have with the climate change proponents is that we have somehow achieved perfection, therefore any deviation from this point is Bad. I would really like to know why you think the current conditions need to be maintained.

    That being said, my personal strategy is simple: I chose NOT to have children. The sheer volume of disposible diapers alone that do not exist because of that decision should counter whatever carbon footprint I create.
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      Feb 27 2014: Martin, thanks for posting the question. I am glad to offer my answer again for consideration. The earth's climate has gone through many gyrations throughout the billions of years this planet has revolved around our sun. But only for the last 10,000 has the climate been stable enough for us to be able to invent and practice agriculture. That stability requires a delicate balance of the carbon cycle and we are digging ancient carbon out of the ground where it is safely sequestered and placing it into the atmosphere where it increases our temperatures. Our entire civilization is based on our ability to grow food reliably. And that is now being threatened globally.

      We too have chosen not to have children because 7 billion people are not sustainable. But if we are happy to live in the wild climactic conditions of the ancient past we need to be prepared for a civilization collapse and I for one love our civilized life enough to do my best to prevent that.
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    Feb 27 2014: Hi Thomas,
    I think one thing that influences people, is when this topic is presented as either/or....either you do what I am doing, or you are not a good caring human! We know that some folks do not believe in climate change. We know that some folks do not believe that our behaviors impact the climate or our environment. This might account for the percentages of people who do one thing or the other.

    I know that my "strategies" alone are not going to curb climate change, or protect our environment, and I learned my "strategies" as a child when climate change/global warming was not even considered an issue.

    I simply learned to be a good steward in the place I occupy on this earth. I live conservatively, frugally, have always had gardens, grown my own food, recycled, renovated, restored, and reused rather than wasting our precious resources and/or filling landfills with "stuff". I have lived that way, and modeled that behavior since I was a kid living in a sustainable home.

    The three steps you propose, (live car-free, eat vegetarian or vegan, and build or buy a net-zero house), are not simple changes for a lot of people. You apparently made some beneficial changes for yourself, and now you want everyone to make those same changes?

    You seem to approach your proposition with threat and fear, which generally doesn't work very well when trying to contribute to changing a this my way or else!!! Pressure to change may have some benefit, and I've observed that encouraging people to change behaviors because they want to truly care about their own health and the health of our environment is often more successful:>)
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      Feb 27 2014: Yes Coleen, I get your point. Threat and fear don't work. I understand that and I truly don't want to come across as if my way is the only right way. I believe there are a lot of roads that lead to Rome. It's just that I also have learned how close we are to loosing it all and that time is running short. Just this week a scallop operation in our area lost all its stock to ocean acidification. It is really happening and its not a matter of "believing" it any more than its a matter of believing whether 2+2=4.

      The thing is that to mitigate climate change we need to reduce our carbon footprint by 80%. Everyone tells us that this is impossible and will result in huge hardships. All we want to share is that we have found a way to do it that is fun, exciting, affordable, and has improved our quality of life immensely. For some reason that seems to threaten a lot of people.

      I posed this question assuming that most people in the TED community understand the urgency of the situation fall into the category of "getting it but not quite knowing what they can do themselves to address it." I am somewhat disheartened to find that the discussion here is till around whether we choose to "believe" the mounting scientific evidence about climate change.
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        Feb 28 2014: Thomas,
        I honestly don't feel like you "get" my point at all!

        You seem to agree that "threat and fear don't work", then you proceed to say we are "close to losing it all"...."time is running short". You say "WE need to reduce our carbon footprint by 80%".
        If I reduced my carbon footprint by 80%, I would be in the minus column!!! Do you not understand that many of us folks have been living sustainably for many years?

        It feels a little arrogant for you to be preaching to me Thomas, because I learned ways to live sustainably as a child and have found it to be a wonderful choice that was passed on to me by my parents. It is fun, exciting, affordable, sustainable and has contributed to the quality of my life for 60-70 years. I live the way I do because I CARE about our environment....I don't need to be threatened or frightened into caring.

        Your ideas do not threaten me. Your presentation, however seems a bit arrogant. I'm a little "disheartened" that you believe you have all the answers, and are not listening to anyone else!
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    Feb 27 2014: My personal strategy is to move efficiently, to not be concerned with how others are attempting to fix climate because I am not involved in their decision making.
    Even though statement is unclear, I disagree with your claim of 55% engagement could reach tipping point. Many nations were forced to
  • Feb 26 2014: Ninety three percent of the worlds carbon dioxide is locked up in the ocean. When the ocean warms it releases carbon dioxide. Note that warming comes first then the release of carbon dioxide, The warming comes first! But if you want to help lower the carbon dioxide readings a tiny bit, mow your lawn by hand and don`t drink carbonated beverages.
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      Feb 26 2014: You might want to explore the evil twin of climate change: ocean acidification.
      As I said before its about maintaining the unusual stability in our climate that has allowed us to invent agriculture and develop our civilization. Messing with that stability by taking sequestered carbon out of the earth and spewing it into our atmosphere voluntarily is just plain silly when our very existence depends on it.
  • Feb 25 2014: For a start I have my doubts global warming is man made at all, but lets for the sake of the discussion assume that it is.

    The reason I don't have a personal plan is because it would be a drop in an ocean. Why should I sacrifice my quality of life for a miniscule drop in carbon emissions when the rest of the world obviously won't do the same?
    This way, we still have global warming, only I've been stuck with no car, poor housing, and bad food. No thank you.

    Nations have a similar problem on a grader scale. Why should they shoot their own economy in the foot when the rest of the world will just screw them over by refusing to fulfill their joint foot-shooting pact?
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      Feb 26 2014: Well Nadav, by that logic we should all not give a damn and just let civilization crumble around us while we drink our beer and eat our chips. That works for some, but I'm afraid as much as i would like it to sometimes, it doesn't work for me. Civilization has given me the most fantastic opportunity of life and I think its worth saving even if others don't.

      By the way, my small footprint house is fantastic and my car-free lifestyle makes me fit instead of fat. And the food I grow in my garden delicious and nutritious. So I'm not sacrificing one bit. In fact my quality of life has skyrocketed since I old my BMW and evolved beyond steak and potatoes.
      • Feb 27 2014: I don't know about you, but I won't sacrifice that much for nothing. You might have tricked yourself to enjoy a minimalist lifestyle, but I'm not very good at lying to myself.

        Again, assuming for the sake of debate that global warming is real and man made, it makes much more sense to make preparations for the inevitable.
        Building dams, fortifying food and water supplies, getting ready to hold off marauding neighboring nations should it come to it, that sort of thing. Much more productive then reducing your carbon foot print when the rest of the world doesn't do the same and screws you over.

        It's frankly self delusional to think your own personal plan can put a dent in global warming, even if you're a head of state of something that's smaller then a couple of dozen million people. Its a feel good measure that doesn't actually solve anything, and even then, you need to be a specific type of person to feel good about it.
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          Feb 27 2014: Yes preparing for a mass extinction where 90% of all species will not survive is an option. I feel its the last option though and there is much we can do before then. I am not prepared to accept that humanity is so self serving and closed minded that this destruction is inevitable. Call me naive but I still think we care about each other and about our children and grand children. I still think we wish a beautiful life for those yet unborn. And even if my personal actions don't solve the problem I still feel that I have a responsibility to act as long as I still can.
      • Feb 27 2014: 90% of species going extinct? Where exactly did that estimate come from? The meteor that killed the dinosaurs didn't hit that bench mark, and it was a lot more destructive then climate change ever will be.

        Global warming, human derived or otherwise, isn't quite as apocalyptic as some of the scaremongers make it out to be. Its something that can be endured, if you're properly prepared.
        At least disaster preparations aren't as self delusional as feeble attempts to stop it. These "feel good" measures are more destructive then taking no action at all.
  • Feb 25 2014: I have been eating mostly vegetarian for many years, I have no car, I have no driver's license, I live close to everything I need so I can walk most of the time and take a bus if necessary, I have a water filtration system so no water bottles, I plugged all the holes so heat and air are used efficiently, I used a 110 volt oil heater, I unplugged everything that used 220 Volts (Oven & A/C- Heater) I used energy efficient computer systems and have NO TV. Electric bill this month $30
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      Feb 25 2014: Congratulations Keith, it sounds like you are pretty committed to living responsibly and treading lightly on our planet. We have found that our sustainable lifestyle has actually improved our quality of life. We connect more with our neighbors and get more exercise and fresh air. We are also more appreciative of our food and our shelter. It's all good. Thank you for doing what you do.
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    Feb 24 2014: “If the 55% who know but don't act got engaged we could reach the tipping point.”

    There the problem, those who believe the man-made global warming propaganda are stuck in the ether you believe just like me, or you hate the earth!!!

    For those like that the only answer is carbon tax credits, anything like will never be accepted.

    I have more to say, but I have stuff do to right now.
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      Feb 25 2014: Hi Don, sounds like you are not part of the 55% that know but don't act. I respect that. But since you launched into a diatribe right off the bat I feel compelled to expand on my understanding.

      Some of us actually understand the process of climate change and the consequences of our actions. Some of us have spent a lifetime studying our impact on this earth and in the process have come to love it.

      I for one have learned that the earth does not need saving. It can survive climate change as it has throughout its three billion year history. In fact we have had a few mass extinctions already and each time new species evolve and repopulate this magnificent blue dot in space.

      Problem is that ten thousand years ago something amazing happened. The earth's climate suddenly ended its wild gyrations and stabilized. And that's when we had the opportunity to invent agriculture. In at least three separate places on the planet.

      We were just as intelligent 20 and 30 thousand years ago but until this time of unusual stability agriculture and the civilization and exploding population we built on its bounty was impossible. Now we are messing with this stability on a global and accelerating scale.

      So it's not about saving the earth but about taking responsibility for our actions and saving our own ruddy little necks. Yours included.
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      Feb 25 2014: Hey Don, I looked at the video you posted. Indeed that technology does work. Joel Salatin has been doing it for years and Michael Pollen talks about it all the time...
      but while this method is the proper way to take care of pasture land it in no way negates the consequences of rising levels of greenhouse gasses.
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        Feb 25 2014: Actually I don’t act on the man-made global warming hoax, nor to the unsustainability claims do to over population. All they do is to put people on the defensive, and get money from the naive for the hoaxers.

        Yes I believe in healthy soil, for healthy soil equals healthy animals, plants, (AKA:food), less floods and draughts. So I do act, but that is in spite of the fear mongering. I have a hard time feel sorry for California right now, because they killed the soil and it is their own fault.
        I could give other examples but I’ll just get to my point.

        Remember goal is not to prove your option is right, instead it is to promote change. So instead saying your ways is killing us all, say you like better tasting and healthier food, how about growing a garden, compost tea will give you a greener healthier lawn and you don’t need to water as much, humming bird are fun to watch and eat mosquito so how about planting butterfly bushes to attract them, or “I love the money I save drive a hybrid, plus the engine tech is way cool, variable transmission and 0-4 variable cylinders, no crank even in sub-zero temperatures, etc.”

        Thomas:“but while this method is the proper way to take care of pasture land it in no way negates the consequences of rising levels of greenhouse gasses.”

        Wrong, you need to view the TED talk again and look up other holistic management reports, videos , and web pages if you’re still stuck believing that.