Positive self-talk for deep decarbonization

“Deep decarbonization” is a phrase that appeared in the news a couple days ago, thanks to a report summarized by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Basically, it’s more bad news about climate change — with a little “stopping it is possible, if …”

I think we’ll be hearing the term a lot, because deep decarbonization may be the only way to save our species, not to mention others. (This article in today’s Guardian is a chilling preview of what’s to come.)

Deep decarbonization is going to take a complete rewiring of the brains of Americans and everyone else in the technological world. We need to teach ourselves that the things we’ve thought are good are not, and things we’ve given up need to be rediscovered.

It’s not just driving and flying we have to cut back on. Since much of our electricity comes to us via coal, we have to turn off our TVs more often and stop using our dryers so much. Since the myth of “clean” natural gas is just that, we need to keep the thermostat down (way down) in the winter and up (way up) in the summer.

Most of our problem stems from the fact that we’ve replaced 10,000-year-old human activities with 100-year-old ones. Instead of walking and running, we drive. Instead of talking to our families, we turn on the stereo. Instead of playing with our kids, we watch TV. Instead of experiencing the thrill of a cool and starry evening, we sit in a well-lit, climate-controlled living room, poking our various plastic rectangles. Instead of eating the abundant salad that grows naturally all around us, we buy vegetables soaked in diesel and pesticides.

Deep decarbonization means we need to cut back on those 100-year-old activities and revisit the 10,000-year-old ones. My guess is that we’ll be glad we did.

So I’m doing my part by suggesting the following positive self-talk to begin to wean myself off of fossil fuels. Obviously I’m not going to do it overnight, but if we can all convince ourselves of the truth of a few key propositions, our collective carbon footprint may begin to shrink on its own.

Repeat after me:

Walking is better than driving.

Trails are better than sidewalks.

Bicycles are better than cars.

Trains are better than airplanes and semis.

It’s nice to wear a sweater indoors in the winter.

Good conversation with family and neighbors is the best entertainment.

Live music, especially on your own porch, is better than recorded.

Books are better than TV, especially library books or used books from the thrift store.

I think I’ll take the bus to work.

There’s such a thing as light pollution.

Food from the backyard is better than food from the grocery store.

It’s better to be outside than inside.

Local microbrews are the only beers we need.

Canoes, kayaks and sailboats are better than boats with motors.

It feels good to be cool in the winter and warm in the summer.

Homegrown is better than store bought.

Maybe we should take the train south this winter instead of a plane.

Gravel roads are better than paved ones.

Silence is golden.

It’s nice to spend the summer in your skivvies … or less.

Maybe we don’t need such a big house.

Food from close by is better than food from far off.

This is Minnesota — Who needs air conditioning?

A dip in a lake or a river is the best way to cool off.

Sun-dried clothes are the best.

Sun-dried clothes that aren’t made on the other side of the world are even better.

I think I’ll stay home tonight.

(Type your suggestions into the comment field below, and I’ll add them to the list.)

(It should be noted that the Deep Decarbonization report focuses on what societies as a whole need to do, not what individuals need to do. My thoughts are premised on the belief that societies won’t do what they need to, and individual changes won’t do much good either, but will eventually become necessary as energy becomes more scarce and expensive, so we might as well start now doing what we can, and hope for the best.)


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