November’s National Geographic Magazine is entirely dedicated to climate change, which the Society timed to coincide with the global climate conference in Paris (as per the editor – I wasn’t aware of said conference, but I barely read the news). The issue has some interesting in-depth stories, but I found its practical advice on dealing with climate change–termed “survival guides”–to be most interesting.
The issue has two sections: “how to fix it” and “how to live with it,” both, of course, referencing climate change. I’m going to give my highlights under each section.
How to Fix It:
- Survival Guide 1: This, I think, is my favorite part of the issue in terms of how thought-provoking it is. It breaks down what people can do to combat climate change on a personal, business, city, country, and global level.
- On a personal level, it was interesting read the impacts that specific actions can have and to assess how my own way of life stacks up. For instance, “an American household can save 1,600 pounds of CO2 emissions a year by washing laundry in cold water” (24). Can I just say I had a very unholy moment of self-satisfied pride, even though the environment has not been my motivation for washing only with cold water (but rather, most of my clothes labels suggest it)? Alas, the next tip talks about how removing meat from the global diet would hugely beneficial for reducing emissions–and I laughed to myself about how I will NEVER give up my meat.
- The section on “world” efforts was just frustrating for me. There are three pages on geoengineering, “a catchall term for deliberate large-scale interventions in the planetary environment that are designed to counteract climate change” (26). Here it introduces all kinds of fancy idea that will reduce emissions but doesn’t really discuss what the unintended and potentially problematic effects of these efforts may be. For instance — the article touts more contraception as a way to lower the birthrate and reduce emissions, without addressing any of the well-known environmental issues that stem from hormonal birth control. Soooo… more birth control=less people=less emissions…. and more fish born all of one gender and unable to reproduce? polluted waterways and who knows what else? I guess, without being a climate scientist, I just sort of feel like humans should stop trying to intervene our way out of the climate crisis through creating new things.
- The Will to Change: This is an in-depth story about Germany’s efforts to replace fossil fuels and nuclear energy entirely with renewable sources. It’s an ambitious idea, and the article explores the motivation and energy behind it, including the political forces shaping the clean-energy movement. Undoubtedly, Germany has a long way to go and is unlikely to meet its own goals within its stated time-frame. The article does, however, portray the country as a leader in the worldwide effort, setting a path for the rest of us to follow. One idea stuck with me — rather than telling people to “Do less. Tighten your belts. Consume less,” the better message to convince people to engage in the movement is to say, “Do things differently (51).”
How to Live With It:
- Survival Guide 2: I found this a little more scientific, which meant there was more new info and it was more educational – which I liked. Some of the predictions of how water, crop cultivation, and weather will change were frightening and attention-grabbing. There was the occasional “duh” moment, though, like when it says, “Experts predict we’ll adjust our outdoor activities to reduce heat stress” as the world warms (88). I’m not sure we needed “experts” to tell us that.
- Two in-depth stories in this section focus on places severely affected by climate change but on opposite ends of the spectrum: Greenland, where ice is disappearing, and Kiribati, an island country in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, where sea level rise threatens the country’s very existence. These were both interesting, though I found the writing in the Kiribati story a little over the top (ex: “The tide was full and taut like the skin of a pregnant woman” (126)).
SO, that’s it. Except to say that I did NOT lose miserably in the geo quiz – Adam and I tied 🙂 Now I need to start studying some maps so I can win next month!