Day 50 of 50: Nebulous Thoughts


It’s a funny thing. A dangerous thing. A human thing.

I’m not above it myself. For example, I’m slightly in denial that we are nearing the end of 2015, and that in a month we’ll be ringing in 2016, an election year, the year I turn 25, a quarter-century old. It was a serious point of contention around the office today, when the co-worker across the hall asked, “is it too early to end an e-mail with Happy New Year?” Me and another office mate simultaneously/somewhat aggressively responded “YES.” (He went with “Happy holidays”.)

I can understand climate change denial.

Denial is rooted in resistance to change. We’ve all experienced it at some point or another. It’s inherent to being human. Necessary even. (Let’s talk about mortality salience, and the ultimate denial: right now as you read this, your getting a little bit older. Once you emerge at the other end of this sentence, you’ll be that much closer to ~~dEaTh~~. But you can’t think about that all the time. It’ll drive you crazy.)

Also, denial is also a sort of living in the past, an extreme form of nostalgia. Maybe hoping for a time when we knew less, and things were innocent and happy-go-lucky. A psychological rejection of all the responsibility of adulthood, and the need to make bold decisions and actions. A refusal to grow up (which, as a twenty something year old, I can definitely relate to.)

But the world is changing, regardless of whether or not we accept those changes. It’s changing all the time, it grows, and we get older, whether we like it or not. We can’t stay the same forever.

And besides, resisting change, staying the same, is no way to live.

What we need, as a species, is the opposite of denial—we’ve got to accept change, bite down, lean in. We need to act boldly. That takes grit, and above all, it takes courage. But I think we have what it takes.

You guys give me hope for that.

Thanks so much for reading, and for staying with me, and for sharing your thoughts and ideas. It gives me such warm fuzzies. Thank you, thank you.

Enjoy COP21!

Song of the Day:

(Sponsored ad was for Exxon. Lolz.)

Day 50 of 50: Nebulous Thoughts

Day 49 of 50: What Can I Do About Any of This?

I’ve learned a lot about politics and the environment over the past two months. And I’ve done my best to keep you in the know about the issues leading up to COP21. But something’s missing. An elephant-sized hole in the room.

What the hell are we, as individuals, supposed to do about any of this?

I hoped that as I wrote, some solution would present itself. Something aside from the staid advice we’re used to hearing—write a letter to your senator (that you never hear about again), take shorter showers (while energy companies continue to drain reservoirs of billions of gallons annually, with impunity.)

I wanted to share with you something that would empower regular, caring Americans to make a real difference in steering/accelerating the course of action taken by our government.

But after scouring the internet and poring over research, I’m left here sitting at my desk, with nothing.

This quote by Naomi Klein offers some honest insight into the situation:

The hard truth is that the answer to the question “What can I, as an individual, do to stop climate change?” is: nothing. You can’t do anything. In fact, the very idea that we—as atomized individuals, even lots of atomized individuals—could play a significant part in stabilizing the planet’s climate system, or changing the global economy, is objectively nuts. We can only meet this tremendous challenge together. As part of a massive and organized global movement.

The irony is that people with relatively little power tend to understand this far better than those with a great deal more power. The workers I met in Indonesia and the Philippines knew all too well that governments and corporations did not value their voice or even their lives as individuals. And because of this, they were driven to act not only together, but to act on a rather large political canvas. To try to change the policies in factories that employ thousands of workers, or in export zones that employ tens of thousands. Or the labor laws in an entire country of millions. Their sense of individual powerlessness pushed them to be politically ambitious, to demand structural changes.
In contrast, here in wealthy countries, we are told how powerful we are as individuals all the time. As consumers. Even individual activists. And the result is that, despite our power and privilege, we often end up acting on canvases that are unnecessarily small—the canvas of our own lifestyle, or maybe our neighborhood or town. Meanwhile, we abandon the structural changes—the policy and legal work— to others.
—Naomi Klein in a commencement speech at the College of the Atlantic (Thanks for the share, Tim!)

So I can’t think of what to tell you. I don’t know how you can help.

The way I see it, us concerned denizens of wealthy nations are caught up in bit of a catch-22:

Our government is designed to respond to political will, and political will is stirred up by malcontent on a personal level. (Think Indonesians working in deplorable conditions, or people of color subject to immobilizing racism.) But in countries like the United States, people are generally content.

And while most of us are vaguely concerned about issues like the environment, it’s not perceived as urgent when compared to the day-to-day demands on individuals (work, family, chores, etc.) So as it is, it’s really difficult to drum up the political will necessary to influence those in charge, those who are meant to serve the will of the people.

To complicate things, any swaying force by regular people would have to overcome the immense political will imposed by special interest groups and lobbies. So to make any leeway on issues like climate change, activists have to contend with those who have much louder voices and deeper pockets just to be heard. That requires a massive effort and collaboration.

I think a lot of concerned Americans sense this about our political system. The result is a frustrated and disengaged body of constituents.

What does it matter that scientists are predicting catastrophic shifts in the climate? If we can’t make a real difference as individuals, why make the effort at all? Why not leave the meaningful structural/political changes to others, those in charge even if those in charge are slow, and hindered by conflicts of interest/special interest groups? Why waste our time?

A democracy is not supposed to be like this. The power should be with the people. But I don’t think the people feel empowered. There’s a distinct lack of avenues for regular people to become engaged with politics aside from a glut of information on the internet provided by a myriad of both credible and untrustworthy news sources. Comments sections. Online petitions that are seemingly signed and sent into a virtual abyss.

And while it’s true that work is being done to confront climate change and environmental problems, progress is sooo slow, incongruous to the ultra-fast pace at which the world is developing and changing, further impeded by lobbies and conflicts of interest.

Work needs to be done to help constituents re-engage with congressmen and women, who are obliged to serve the people. And our Congress needs to be held accountable for their service (or lacktherof) of the common people. I think that need is being recognized, and as we speak, the work needed is being undertaken, in small, undetectable ways.

Until then, I’m here at my desk, with tiny solutions and an elephant-sized hole in the room.

I hope you’ll keep tabs on the goings-on at COP21 in the coming weeks. The outcome could be change the status quo, or affirm it, and it’ll be interesting to find out one way or another.

Day 49 of 50: What Can I Do About Any of This?

Day 48 of 50: Mining the Comments Section

They get a bad rap. But I have to admit, I love perusing the comments section. It’s so great. So much drama. Check out some of these gems:


So much colorful language, i.e., boondoggle, and so many good comebacks, i.e “you should get a room in the fact hotel.” I’m totally going to use that one next time I’m in an argument.

Anyhow. I also like to look at the comments section so I can get a hand on the pulse of what the common man thinks about any given issue. And trust me, in the comments section, the common man will make his opinion clear.

There’s a common theme among the commenters against climate action and climate change skeptics—a mistrust of authority. A mistrust of either the science, or the government’s methods and motives for addressing the issue. Some even believe that the issue was manufactured as an excuse to levy taxes on the American people.

The last thing these guys want is more power to the government. They’re about individual freedom.

Ironically, a climate change scenario would force us to cede more authority to the government.

Think about it.

When is the government is given near-absolute authority? A: Disasters. During bad hurricanes, they can tell us to evacuate our homes, they’re in charge of rationing (for the most part), they rally aid from response organizations and hospitals. Total control. And in a future with increased frequency and intensity of storms, our reliance on the government and emergency response (FEMA, the National Gaurd, etc.) is likely to increase as well.

If we could take a few precautions right now, (yes, probably some taxes here and there) we could actually be protecting our individual freedom and curtailing our dependence on the government in the long run.

Meet you at the fact hotel, suckaz.

Day 48 of 50: Mining the Comments Section

Day 47 of 50: Why the Don Should Care About the Climate


A couple statements by Donald Trump on climate change according to

  • Climate change is a hoax. (Jun 2015)
  • No Cap-and-Tax: oil is this country’s lifeblood. (Dec 2011)
  • Jobs will slump until our lifeblood–oil–is cheap again. (Dec 2011)
  • It’s incredible how slowly we’re drilling for oil. (Mar 2011)
  • Oil is the lifeblood of all economies. (Apr 2010)

Not super surprising. But let me tell you why it would be in Donald Trump’s best interest to change his tune on fossil fuels.

The Don is notorious for his aggressive policies/ideas surrounding immigration:

  • This is a country where we speak English, not Spanish. (Sep 2015)
  • We need wall on Mexican border, but OK to have a door in it. (Aug 2015)
  • Mexico & Latin America send us drugs, crime, and rapists. (Jun 2015)
  • Triple-layered fence & Predator drones on Mexican border. (Dec 2011)
  • Control borders; even legal immigration should be difficult. (Jul 2000)

However, if we continue to burn fossil fuels and ignore the warnings of scientists, you know what will happen? Lots of natural disasters and drought. You know what displaces a ton of people from their homes? Natural disasters and drought. You know what happens to people when they’re displaced from their homes? They become refugees and emigrate to the nearest land of the free/home of the brave.

Something to think about if you’re in the “we speak English here” camp.

Day 47 of 50: Why the Don Should Care About the Climate

Day 46 of 50: Get Educated

Want to get educated? Broaden your mind? Check out these resources. They got me hooked on politics and the environment and humans and the Earth, and will make a great start if you want to become more informed.

Documentaries (All available on Netflix or Youtube)

1.) Mission Blue – great documentary about the oceanographer, marine biologist, and environmentalist Sylvia Earle. Can’t recommend this one enough. Totally inspiring and eye-opening. (Available on Netflix and Youtube!)

2.) Gasland – learn about the dangers of fracking. Watch a vigilante play the banjo beside one of Exxon’s private drilling sites. (Also available on Netflix and Youtube.)

3.) Food, Inc. – I regret that I haven’t talked more about food in the past 50 days. But, man, once you start reading up on it, you won’t be able to stop, because the way we produce our food is insane. Agriculture really can’t be ignored when discussing the environment. This documentary subscribes to the “vote with your dollar” mantra that I’m not totally sold on, but still worth the watch.

4.) Fed Up – This one’s also about food production, but focuses more on the public health side of things. I think it’s worth listing here because it demonstrates what industries are capable of, even at the expense of public well-being, when profitability is threatened. Super enlightening, and it’ll give you a whole new prospective on the obesity epidemic/fat shame.

5.) Cowspiracy – One last food documentary. This ones got a slant toward veganism. And it’s a little dramatic. But I don’t think that should totally discredit the message. A challenging watch, subversive, but interesting.

6.) This Changes Everything – I haven’t watched this one yet because it JUST came out, but it’s on my list. It’s based on a book by Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate (see below). From what I read, it’s not as good as the book, but if you ain’t got time to read 400+ pages of non-fiction, this will probably be your next-best bet. *Not yet available on Netflix or Youtube.


1.) Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals – this book changed my life. CHANGED MY LIFE. Turned me vegetarian. I dare you to read it.

2.) Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate – a critique of Capitalism. Klein argues that our economic system is at the root of our environmental crisis along with other problems, like poverty and income inequality. Again, a subversive, challenging read. But compelling and definitely eye-opening.

3.) John Wargo, Green Intelligence – John Wargo is a professor at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Science. He’s super smart, and mild-mannered. The book is a little academic for leisure reading, but I super trust his research as a non-biased analysis. If you’re feeling inspired, you can check out his course on environmental policy and law on Yale Open Courses. He’ll teach you a lot about nuclear bombs. [Another book on his reading list is A Question of Intent by David Kesler, which is supposed to be really good.]

4.) Naomi Oreskes, The Collapse of Western Civilization – This one is pretty cool and very short. It’s a work of speculative fiction backed up by current scientific research about a Chinese historian looking back at how we Westerners screwed up handling the environment. It’s all conjecture of course but it’s super haunting. Hear her talk about the book in this NPR interview.

5.) Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma – I’ve started and stopped this book a few times, but I ALWAYS see it referenced. Michael Pollan is the go-to authority on food politics, and this is his magnum opus. Good to have on your radar.

Other Resources:

1.) David Christian, “The History of our World in 18 Minutes” – Super fascinating TED talk. It’ll really get you thinking.

2.) I have a Google Alert set for the terms “COP 21” and “Climate Change”. Those usually yield some pretty interesting articles, and will help you keep your finger on the pulse of common thought/public opinion about the environment.

3.) This Junkee Article by Jessie O’Callaghan highlights three really good podcasts about climate change. Check em out here:

4.) Decode DC Voter Guide, Season 1 Episode 4 – Listen to it! It’s really good.



Day 46 of 50: Get Educated

Day 45 of 50: The Realest First World Problem

I feel grateful this Thanksgiving. As always. I’m a very lucky person.

A little bit too lucky, actually. Do you know what I mean? Like, I don’t know how I ended up with everything I’ve got. And I don’t know why.

I’m not even trying to be dramatic or inspiring or anything. It’s just a true fact. It’s like empirically true. Somehow, by completely random chance and circumstance, I was born into this particular family in this particular country, and as a result, I am educated, comfortable, supported, safe.

It’s great to reflect on that. But, man, when you’re a healthy, white, able-bodied American millennial from an upper-middle class family with a well-paying job and a virtually adversity-free life, that reflection gets slightly uncomfortable. This feeling creeps in. It’s hard to describe. Not quite guilt, but an uneasiness that rests right at the edge of your conscious thought.

And if you hold that feeling to the light, all sorts of ugly things become clear.

The other day I passed a man with no teeth, who asked me for money. I couldn’t understand what he was saying at first, as I scraped out whatever was in my change purse—an amount that was probably less than a dollar. After he repeated himself, I understood: “I haven’t eaten all day.”

I don’t think I’ve ever been unsure of where my next meal is coming from. And I don’t know if I could ever really understand what that’s like. But if I try really hard, I can imagine. Even on good days, when a passing stranger buys you a meal, it must be all-consuming, wondering where and when the next meal will be. It must be all you can think about.

No time for blogging, then.

Millions of people, right here in the United States, are “food-insecure”. Scores of people. Enough that a margin of error of ten thousand here and there is negligible. Another couple million Syrian refugees aren’t sure where they’ll sleep tonight. Aren’t sure where their children will sleep.

These are facts. Uncomfortable truths. Of course, they won’t stop me from sitting down for dinner with my family tomorrow, and snuggling into my bed, under linen sheets, like I always do.

I think this is the realest first-world problem there is. Because most of us know that we are better off than most people for no reason other than we got born into the right families, in the right countries, during the right times. We know other people suffer for no reason other than they got born into the wrong families, in the wrong countries, during the wrong times.

And we didn’t ask for any of that—if it were something we had control over, I don’t think we would ask for it.

(Aside: You and a friend are at a diner, awaiting a meal provided by an anonymous benefactor. The waitress brings you a heaping plate of pancakes and eggs, a tall glass of juice, a pot of tea, some home fries. She brings your friend nothing but a tiny side of oatmeal. You don’t let that stand, right? You share what you have with your friend, don’t you?)

Climate change exacerbates that divide between the fortunate and the underserved. Take a look at this map:


It shows the countries that are most vulnerable to climate change. Notice that wealthy nations, those who thrived on petroleum economies who have emitted the most greenhouse gasses, are best poised to handle the effects of climate change, while poorer nations are most likely to suffer. (Read in: drought, famine, disasters, disease, unrest.)

This map brings on that uncomfortable feeling—that not-quite-guilt—like a punch in the stomach. It’s overwhelming to think about, and honestly, I don’t really know what to do with all of it. I’m just as stymied as everyone else.

But I want to do better.

Above all, I want to be the kind of person that deserves the life I got. As always, it’s a work in progress. But it’s Thanksgiving, and I think it’s a pretty good time to renew that vow.

Enjoy your holidays!

Here’s Louis C.K. for a laugh:

5 days until COP21!

Day 45 of 50: The Realest First World Problem

Day 44 of 50: “What Could Possibly Go Wrong?” or Famous Last Words

Chart To Act or Not To Act

Check out this grid that I usurped from Kevin Surace’s Ted Talk about climate change that he usurpef from a Youtube video that I couldn’t find.

It highlights something I have always thought about the issue. That is, let’s say we do act, and it turns out that climate change was nothing to worry about after all—sure we may have wasted some money, but in the meantime we would have invested in some clean tech and reduced our dependence on fossil fuels (of which supplies are dwindling even as you read this sentence right now.)

Consider the alternative—we don’t act, and climate change causes more damage than we imagined.

There’s a lot at stake. And 100 years from now, I’d rather my great grand children remember my generation as an alarmist group of dumb paranoid hippies than a negligent, irresponsible, greedy, shortsighted, and stupid.

What do you think?