These days, gloom and doom seems to dominate my social media feeds. For example, did you know there is a Doomsday Clock? Monitored by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists for more than 60 years, this clock recently advanced to three minutes until midnight — the latest time posted since the Cold War. The scientists attribute it, in part, to unchecked climate change.
Don’t let last winter’s frigid temperatures fool you. The planet is warming. In fact, last year marked the hottest on earth since record-keeping began in 1880. And scientists predict that the extremes witnessed in different portions of the country mark a long-term and threatening trend for which we can blame humanity.
The bleak news can leave one feeling hopeless. Here I am trying to reduce my footprint; do my part to benefit the Susquehanna River, the Chesapeake Bay and maybe even the world. But do my efforts even matter?
I choose to think that they do. That is why I am stepping up efforts to make a difference in three ways I hope will turn that Doomsday Clock back a few minutes.
First I am going to continue doing the little things to reduce my impact on the planet. I will walk or ride my bike instead of driving whenever feasible. I will eschew plastic and tote my canvas shopping bags to and from the store. I will continue to be an overzealous recycler.
I will try and steer my family toward a more seasonal, plant-based diet — maybe some we grow ourselves! I will turn off the lights and power-down the electronics.
Second, I will speak louder with my dollar. That begins with divesting in companies that harm the environment.
If the Rockefellers can do it, then so can I! Back in September, this family with a fortune built on oil announced that they would sell off investments in fossil fuels represented in their $860 million charitable fund to focus on clean energy. Along a similar vein, Oslo, Norway became the first capital city in the world to sell of shares in coal companies for the same reason.
The Rockefellers and Oslo join other forward-thinking charitable foundations, cities, colleges and universities, and other organizations around the world pledging to divest in environmental degradation. These actions recently earned approval from the United Nations with hopes that swift progress can be made on this very important global issue as soon as possible.
In addition to examining my investment portfolio (which pales in comparison to the Rockefellers) I will explore the numerous websites and apps created to point consumers in the direction of climate-friendly products and businesses to guide spending choices. Little by little, product by product, my purchases will reflect the values I hold dear.
Third and finally, I plan to vote for the environment. With media already buzzing about the next presidential election, I feel the need to say this now so that elected officials seeking my vote can get their ducks in a row.
For my entire adult life I have leaned in the direction of one political party — the one I felt did a little better than the other with regard to safeguarding nature for the greater good. I don’t feel that approach is working.
This time around — and at the national, state and local levels — I will look more closely than ever at where candidates stand on the environment. I will vote for or against, accordingly.
There are organizations ready to help me accomplish this goal. The League of Conservation Voters publishes a scorecard that highlights how members of Congress vote with regard to clean air and water, land preservation, wildlife protection, energy development, climate change and other issues. Their Pennsylvania subsidiary — Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania – takes the same approach to reveal how Keystone State representatives vote on the environment.
Voting for the environment is critical to the type of planet we leave future generations. We all breathe air, eat food grown in soil and survive on life-sustaining water. A clean environment benefits human health, our quality of life and the economy. Making it a top priority should extend beyond political party lines.
So there you have it. I will act, spend and vote on behalf of nature. And though I am only one person with a writer’s paycheck and one ballot, I believe I will make a difference. In fact, that is why I have written this essay. Maybe my words can persuade you and others to join me. Acting, spending and voting…times 7 billion people…would pack quite a punch for nature.