“As a President, as a father, and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act,” President Obama said in his recent speech at Georgetown University about his plans to reign in climate change. “I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing.”
He rattled off stunning statistics: The 12 warmest years in recorded history have all come in the last 15 years. The cost of weather-related disasters in the U.S. exceeded $110 billion last year. Sea levels in Manhattan are already a foot higher than they were a century ago, which is why Hurricane Sandy left “large parts of our mightiest city dark and underwater.”
This came just days after the Pentagon officials said they are rethinking their entire strategy as they face a world in which climate change poses a greater threat to national security than terrorism.
Knowing that Washington is now kicking into high gear on climate change is cold comfort, given how severe the costs have already become. As parents, we’re horrified to imagine our children living in a world dramatically less stable than it is today. But the overwhelming majority of global scientists tell us that’s exactly what we should expect.
Many of us feel powerless to take on a problem this colossal and complex. What, you may wonder, is the most important thing I can do in my own life to help stabilize the climate? And can I really make a difference?
We’re optimists. We believe that personal and political transformation go hand in hand. Gandhi said: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.” In other words, when we live the change we want to see in the world, our positive choices inspire others around us to do the same. It’s true that, ultimately, we cannot solve the climate crisis without good political leadership — we all have an obligation to vote for that reason. But the positive momentum that we, personally, and millions of others generate can build into a global sea change.
Of the three main factors that determine your climate impact —food, home energy use, and transportation (mostly car and air travel) — food alone accounts for about 20 percent of your carbon footprint. That’s a higher percentage, for many city-dwellers, than the cars we drive.
Unless you’re in a position to swap out your 18 MPG minivan for a 70 MPG hybrid or an all-electric Nissan Leaf, changing your eating habits is the easiest, fastest, most gratifying way to reduce your carbon impact and to inspire your community. Here’s a quick breakdown of how your current diet could actually be contributing to global warming, and how eating local, organic foods is the ultimate solution (remember: nothing is more local and organic than the stuff you grow for yourself):