What on EARTH?!
Society will have to become carbon neutral by mid-century to ensure our safety, health, and livelihoods. This rapid transformation to sustainability will change everything.
The question is: How quickly can we do it?
Climate change doesn’t mean game over. It means game on.
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Explore content from all previous newsletters here, organized by the 5 sections:
- Project Drawdown: A plan to save the world?
- Renewable Energy Outshining the Competition: 2017 Global Investment Trends
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- China’s Trash and Recycling Ban Causes Global Chaos
- Putting Cape Town’s Water Crisis Into Perspective
- See all
- Any fool can know. The point is to understand. – Albert Einstein
- Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. – Mahatma Gandhi
- See all
- Use That Bike! Enormous Health and Sustainability Benefits
- Hypermiling: Quick Tips to Drive More Sustainably
- See all
- Devi Lockwood: Telling the Climate Stories of People Around the World
- Peterson Toscano: Climate Comedian & Theatrical Performance Activist
- See all
See an example of a full What on EARTH?! email below.
Example What on EARTH?! email:
I hope you’ve had an awesome week so far.
Here’s what’s happening on our one and only Earth.
Renewables are starting to dominate. They are increasingly becoming the cheapest form of new power capacity in many parts of the world as is reflected in the chart below where they claimed nearly 70% of 2017 global investments in new power capacity.
Solar led the way with $160 billion in investments – head and shoulders above coal and natural gas which attracted $103 billion combined. The major player here was China as they were responsible for over half of the global investments in solar, thanks to a 58% year over year increase. China also accounted for 40% of clean energy investments overall.
Other countries with sharp increases in renewable investments included Australia, Mexico, and Sweden which were up 147%, 810%, and 127% respectively.
This trend will continue until new power brought online is almost always renewable. The next, and much needed, major landmark will be when it becomes cheaper to replace existing fossil fuel plants with renewables than to continue paying for their operating costs.
According to the UN and Bloomberg, the world has invested $2.9 trillion in renewable energy since 2004. See below for the breakdown over time.
China, which typically processes half of the world’s exported waste paper, plastic, and metals is done being the “world’s garbage dump”.
As of January 2018, China no longer accepts over 30 types of recyclable materials that are too contaminated by materials improperly recycled. They said it “seriously endangered people’s physical health and the safety of our countries ecological environment.” This shocked the global recycling industry and has many in high-income countries scrambling to figure out what to do with all of their trash.
Alternative solutions are not in place. With China not buying it, municipalities are left with few options. Many that were selling what they collected just last year are now forced to pay steep prices for its removal. Some have been stockpiling it, but quickly run out of space. Others see the only remaining options as incineration or burying it in a landfill. Neither of which are sustainable solutions. The costs are only going up with some saying towns will have to cut other services such as education if this continues.
Although alarming in the short term, I actually see this as very beneficial in the long run. This will force us to re-design waste management and take steps towards a more circular economy rather than a linear one. If the system were set up properly, it’d mimic nature in that nothing would be wasted and everything would maintain value throughout its life cycle…instead of the present linear system where we get stuck with junk that is not only useless, but harmful.
This is a huge opportunity! Businesses and governments will be forced to innovate and design a system that makes sense and accounts for the real cost of our waste.
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurmon
Take sustainable action
Buy less (new) stuff.
The products we buy often consist of materials sourced from various parts of the world which are transported to a manufacturing facility, processed, and then transported to get to you. A lot of emissions can go into that. Plus, there’s a lot of packaging material used throughout the supply chain and on the end product which could easily be waste as outlined above.
Now, I’m not saying anyone should deprive themselves or live a less fulfilling life in any way. I’m simply suggesting that we think carefully about what we buy because of the impacts it has. If you don’t actually need something or if you’re uncertain that it will bring you joy, is it really worth getting? Next time you’re thinking about buying something consider these ideas:
1. Sleep on it for a day or two and ask yourself if you truly need or want it. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, especially if we think we’re getting a good deal on something.
2. When you decide to get something, rather than buying it, see if anyone you know has one they are willing to part with.
3. Go to a thrift shop! There’s plenty of high quality stuff to be found there.
Again, nobody is saying to stop buying stuff, or that you shouldn’t ever buy new stuff. You know what makes sense for you based on the situation. Just try to be mindful when you shop!
Highlighting someone awesome
Kathryn is a professional actor who also happens to be helping to lead the zero waste movement on the side. Zero waste means sending nothing to a landfill. But don’t let that trip you up! It’s more of a direction than a realistic goal (at the moment). Nobody is really zero waste today, which Kathryn readily acknowledges. Her motto is “It’s not about perfection; it’s about making better choices.”
She has written over 300 blog posts and has reached over a million people through her work! She adds a nice personal touch blending in the changes of eating real food, living simply, and avoiding the use of harmful chemicals. Kathryn lives and shares a lifestyle that’s healthier for people and the planet. In doing so she helps and empowers others to start taking the little steps that ultimately add up to a massive impact. This is what drives her.
When asked what she’d put on a billboard she replied, “I’d rather put a sign on every trash can that asked ‘How long did you use it?’ ”
The image below is an extension of the typical “reduce, reuse, recycle” from her website, which I thought I’d point out in light of the “A” and “T” sections today.
If you’re interested, I recommend you check out this blog post to get a better idea of what zero waste is really all about (it’s bigger than just trash). I’d also recommend Kathryn’s post on “The Big Four” if you’re looking for specific steps to get started. To get a better feel for Going Zero Waste and Kathryn’s work, definitely check out her website, Youtube channel, or Instagram.
Is there anything in particular you have questions on or would like me to cover?
Do you have an idea that may be good for a future email?! a
Any and all feedback is welcome – so is dropping a line just to say hello. I’d love to hear from you so feel free to reach out!
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