“Time to walk the talk on climate change”
by Christine Aquilino
Arlington — In my last column I wrote that the U.S. has one-fifth of the Earth’s population and is responsible for one-third of the greenhouse gas emissions. It’s much worse than that: The U.S. has one-twentieth of the Earth’s population and is responsible for one-third of the greenhouse gas emissions. That makes my point even stronger. We must act to reduce our dependence on fossil fuel.
In 2006, Rob Hopkins and Naresh Giangrande started a grass roots movement in England called the Transition Network (www.transitionnetwork.org) to address climate change, the shrinking supplies of cheap energy and the implications of these on our current way of life. At Transition Town meetings, individuals gather to explore and plan how they envision responding on the local level to the pressures these changes will demand of us. It’s a movement based on the optimistic belief that humanity can rise to the occasion and come to embrace these challenges with creativity.
Right now, there are thousands of initiatives around the world and several in Massachusetts exploring the question: “How can we make our community stronger and happier as we deal with the impacts of peak oil and economic contraction while at the same time urgently reducing CO2 emissions?” The movement looks at solutions available to ordinary people, like walking more, driving less, conserving water, taking advantage of alternative energy opportunities, buying locally produced goods and growing or buying locally grown food.
Arlington resident Karen Steiner, a fiber artist and organic gardener, is part of the local Transition Town initiative. She and other local residents are envisioning how to address climate change right here in Arlington. Recently they met to discuss the book “The Great Disruption,” by Paul Gilding. Gilding’s message is an urgent one: we can no longer have an economy that depends upon continued consumption and waste. It is not sustainable.
Steiner already walks her talk. She has seven large garden beds on her property where she grows vegetables plus raspberries and grapes and she buys shares in local Community Supported Agriculture programs: Busa Farm for summer produce and Shared Harvest for winter. This year she’s added a grain CSA from Pioneer Valley. For fruit, she buys from local orchards.
“In grocery stores, everything you find on the shelves is from far away,” Steiner says.
That means, she explains, that the carbon footprint for so much of our goods is huge. Indeed, just take a look around any Whole Foods Market and you will notice that even at this store — one that claims to be ecologically conscious — most of what is sold comes from across the country or another part of the world.
“Anyone can grow some of their own vegetables,” said Steiner. “All you need is a little bit of ground and sunshine.”
And many people are doing just that. According to the National Gardening Association, 43 million households were growing their own in 2009, a 19 percent increase over the previous year. Nearly half said they were concerned about food safety, which is understandable. Large farms rely heavily on chemical pesticides and fertilizers and people are worried about the impact on health. That’s also why participation in CSAs is on the rise. But quality food isn’t cheap, and nearly one of three people said the reason they were growing their own was the recession. The end result, though, is a win-win. Locally grown is better for us and better for the environment.
Steiner cans, dries, and freezes for consumption during the winter, another practice that is becoming very popular. Classes on canning and preserving food are in high demand. And it’s no wonder. The cost savings are tremendous. And the result is quality produce year round.
Finally, in order to reduce her own energy consumption, she is installing solar panels on her house. When the crunch comes, and oil or gas prices go through the roof, she thinks she will recoup her investment. Sunlight Solar, located in Newton, offers a free site evaluation and there are various government incentives and rebates to help homeowners go green.
Global climate change is a hot topic in Washington. Some politicians insist it’s just a hoax. Politics has always been part of scientific debate. Galileo stirred controversy in the 1500s for saying the Earth revolved around the sun. But the stakes are higher now. The Earth’s weather is changing more rapidly than even climate scientists had anticipated. Profit-driven oil and gas companies, their lobbyists and the politicians they court keep our government from taking bold action. Local action is needed. We can’t wait for our politicians to wake up.
Christine Aquilino is a habitat gardener who (usually) writes about sustainable gardening practices using native plants. Email Christine: [email protected]
Read more: Time to walk the talk on climate change – – The Arlington Advocate