Preppers and climate change
I want to raise a question about what a prepping mindset means for prevention, especially in the area of climate change, which is driving so many emergencies and disasters. I realize we have diverse folks here and I really don’t want to start a political fight. To me climate change is an issue that should actually unite all of us, but I realize that some people feel otherwise. If you’re reading this and you don’t believe in climate change or don’t believe that it’s caused by human factors, I would like to respectfully ask you to please just skip this thread.
I’m in California and my prepping has been very heavily driven by the radical increase of catastrophic wildfires in the last few years. It’s no secret that climate change is a major cause of these. In general I’ve been feeling a great deal of urgency about arresting climate change along with all the related issues like large scale species extinction. It seems like the stakes couldn’t be higher and time is very short. I don’t see that our government is moving nearly fast enough to deal with this crisis.
Lately, tired of feeling helpless and anxious, I’ve started wondering what the average citizen can do to help reverse this problem. Of course we can recycle and all that, but truly these individual actions make a very limited impact on climate change. Individuals aren’t the main drivers of the changing climate. In addition to not knowing what I can do to make a greater impact, I, personally, am not much of a conventional activist — meaning I personally get de-energized and turned off by marches, slogans, petitions and all that. (I’m not saying these aren’t necessary, it just doesn’t match my temperment.) So, I’m looking for other ways to get involved.
It suddenly occurred to me that here we have a community of folks who are more aware than the average person of the dangers we are facing and I thought I would ask if any of you are also thinking about how to arrest and reverse the problems we are facing, rather than just prepare to deal with them when they come down the pike. It all seems to be part of one holistic outlook to me. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.
RedneckContributor - February 19, 2021
There can be no argument that climate change is real. We can argue, not here, if it is caused by man, or if it is long term, but I’m sure everyone has seen a change. All of us that are rather mature can attest to how weather today is different than when we were kids. I’m 65 and when I was a kid in north Mississippi, we lived on a large lake of probably 30 acres or so. We had ice skates. That tells you how cold it got back then. I’m not saying the lake froze solid every single year but it did most years. This cold spell we are having now is the coldest it has been since I was a kid. I haven’t seen even a small pond freeze over here since I was a kid… except for this week. We have much more severe thunderstorms than normal. As opposed to long steady rains, the norm nowadays are heavy thunderstorms.
Individually there are things we can do. My wife drives a Prius which gets like 45 miles per gallon. All our lights are LED. IMO simple things like that add up. Granted, it will take acts of Congress to really make a change where we get away from using fossil fuels and switch to greener energy. This is where your individual vote matters.
matthew.Contributor - February 19, 2021
In my opinion, a prepper who denies climate change is not a very good prepper. A fundamental aspect of prepping is threat analysis, which requires deep and careful analysis of data. The data suggesting climate change is real and will continue to get worse is overwhelming. One can debate the reasons climate change is happening (though even there the data is pretty clear), but to deny climate change outright, and to disregard it as a threat, is downright foolish.
From a prepping standpoint that means we have to widen the possible scenarios we are prepping for. Perhaps you were completely dialed in with your earthquake preps, but now you have to additionally add wildfire preps. Or is the case in Texas right now, perhaps you were super prepared for a sustained draught, but now your water preps are frozen and rupturing. To me that is the biggest challenge, realizing that your preps for one potential situation have in fact opened the door to a new vulnerability. I’ve mentioned in previous posts the perplexing contradiction of relocating to acreage in the forest to avoid grid-reliance and social unrest only to find yourself in prime forest fire country.
Prepping is like that old arcade game Whack-A-Mole, just as you feel your adequately prepared for one threat, a brand new one appears.
Jonnie PekelnyContributor - February 19, 2021
Matthew (and also Redneck) I agree with much of what you say, although, I’d like to think that prepping is a balancing game not Whack-A-Mole. I’m just trying to open up a constructive space to talk about practical steps without descending into political bickering. But I will say that if climate change keeps apace, if we don’t manage to at least arrest it, I don’t think that we can prep enough to outrun the threat. So, prepping alone is not enough — prevention is essential.
matthew.Contributor - February 19, 2021
Indeed, and to your underlying point, one of the big conundrums is that many aspects of prepping are in fact bad for the environment. The manufacturing of, and the eventual disposal of, all the plastic containers and batteries and what not are in fact contributing to the big-picture problems of climate change.
A gas-powered generator or a wood-burning stove are terrible for the environment. Harvesting water means less water for the trees and plants. Building and maintaining a stockpile of food, water, fuel, and such require a significant amount of natural resources. It really is a catch-22.
Joker - July 18, 2022
I’m sorry to say that I don’t believe climate change can be halted or reversed in our current global socio-political situation. I’m not saying this to knock any particular country or political party. The human race just seems to be incapable of the necessary selflessness to change our greedy ways.
In the near term we are going to have to learn to adapt to much more volatile weather, extremes of heat and cold, flooding and drought.
Bradical - July 18, 2022
Unfortunately I have similar feelings. There will always be countries and companies that don’t care and would rather keep things running to make money. But I can do what I can and slow the process down just that little bit. I hope others will follow my example.
Bob - February 19, 2021
Jonnie, without comparing the recent opening of the Northwest Passage (and Northeast Passage) for some ships versus major societies using coal, …..
I would say a good means to address your above material is for the local prepper to give talks, eg at the 4-H club, the other clubs, in re protecting the environment concurrent preparing for perils like wildfires. Here, even our home-schooling programs can have speakers’ bureaus where someone can give an informal talk on subjects as diverse as history, ecology, and et cetra.
Believe me, the younger population, nationwide-speaking, is not familiar with matters in your post above. Only very recently did Virginia prohibit use of non-biodegradable ballons for outdoor festivities.
It’s a matter of solid education.
AT - February 19, 2021
If there is any good news in all of this, I think it’s that we are approaching a point where the low-carbon thing to do can also be a lifestyle and resiliency upgrade. All the pieces exist for me to have an EV that I could use to run my house. With a decent size solar setup, I would be able to run off grid several months out of the year. The barriers to that happening are that we lack a regulatory framework for it and that many of the components don’t talk to each other yet. And batteries are expensive, but the prices are coming down. The stories from F150 hybrid owners in Texas are a good example of how going ‘greener’ has huge advantages beyond CO2 and climate change.
We actually do a lot that decreases our carbon footprint, but most of these actions aren’t primarily to limit CO2 emissions. Riding my bike to work is 20 minutes of exercise each way and more relaxing than dealing with traffic and parking. Eating 90% vegetarian is much cheaper and far more shelf-stable than having meat with every meal. We installed a solar system because it’s a really good deal here. In CA if you do a good job managing costs (ie avoiding the big solar companies that overcharge and do some of it yourself), it pays for itself in 3-5 years and you no longer have an electricity bill (excepting ‘connection charges,’ $10/month). I think prepping tends to lead toward a minimalist lifestyle which also decreases carbon footprint.
I’m not involved in any sort of activism either, but I think having conversations like this is a very important intervention. We do need regulatory/policy change, but at this point the nation’s two most populous states are demonstrating an unreliable energy infrastructure. If that doesn’t start some wheels turning, I’m not sure if any amount of activism will. I personally think decentralized microgrids with a lot of wind/solar/hydro is the answer. I’m hopeful that we will start to see more experimentation in that direction in the next few years.
UbiqueContributor - February 19, 2021
The writer, Neil Pasricha wisely said that he did not consider his glass half full or half empty, but rather that his glass is refillable.
I am an optimist.
Jonnie, what you have done is part of the solution: to ask the questions, share ideas and invite discourse.
Mankind has walked with a very heavy foot on this Earth and ruled with a very heavy and greedy hand.
We can not bring back the species of plants, bird, animals, insects and other life forms that are extinct. We can reforest and in some cases replicate, but we cannot bring back what was.
The Earth is not a static environment. It exists with a long history of climate and environmental change. The last glacial period was not that long ago.
I understand your point about doing more than recycling. If we are going to effect positive change, then we need to fix the human ecology as much as the environmental issues.
Education is a powerful tool with which to combat the dangers we are facing. Post secondary education is expensive. Sponsor a student, create a scholarship. Support the brilliant minds who can construct the science, technology and engineering that we will require if we are to be able to co-exist with the changes in our climate or if possible, restore what is restorable.
We can support young students by supporting meal programs. A child cannot learn on an empty stomach or reach their full potential. We can volunteer as a tutor or volunteer with a literacy program..
We can lobby at local levels for simple changes that have impact. Does your community have an anti-idling law? Brandon, Manitoba does. What if more cities had anti-idling laws?
Foreign factories in congested cities choke the air, drive up CO2 emissions and then ship the goods that we once manufactured back to us. Our future was sacrificed on the altar of cheap labour.
Food is shipped great distances. We can grow food, shop local, try a 100 mile diet, teach someone to garden. We can support bringing our manufacturing back and reduce the burden on the environment.
We can volunteer or participate in eco-tourism. We can get together with friends and clean up litter. We can support businesses that are responsible and environmentally minded.
Our climate and water resources have been greatly impacted by factory farming, not to mention the decimation of rural communities as the family farms have fallen to massive holdings.
Professor John Ikerd advocated for agroecology.
We can re-think what living in a city means by creating an urban forest which cleans the air and nurtures birds and beneficial insects.
There is much we can do. It all matters. There is no “big” or “small”. Just action.
Just like the action you took to write a heartfelt and sincere question about what we can do to fix this problem. You planted a seed and got people thinking. Not everyone might comment, but you got them thinking.
Pops - February 24, 2021
Wow! John Ikerd! One of the very few mentions I’ve seen in all my years reading these type boards. I admire him greatly. Thanks for that link, Mizzou once had all of his papers in one place but they are now dead ends. He is a great advocate of a return to small family farming as a way toward sustainability as well as reintroducing morals back into economics.
On Topic, sustainability is really the goal rather than just decarbonization I think. The path to sustainability is ending our endless quest for more. As I look around me there is nothing but stuff, and I have consciously tried to consume less. Being satisfied with enough is hard.
UbiqueContributor - February 24, 2021
Hi Pops – I admire him too – He deserves a Nobel prize for his work and teaching. I wish more people would read his work.
The factory farms destroyed rural areas everywhere. The monocropping and “selectivity” of seeds bred by big suppliers puts food security at risk.
Some who have grown those crops found out that they were unable to grow anything else. A Canadian from Ontario sued because their products caused “superweeds” and his case is worth looking up. From there follow the trail for the company that was involved. They have quite the track record.
Professor Ikerd, like Rachel Carson in “Silent Spring” tried to warn us.
Right there with you on sustainability. Prepping is part of my survival and personal responsibility, however, I learned to define abundance as “having enough” and live as if this Earth needs a rest by treading lightly on her.
Jonnie PekelnyContributor - February 24, 2021
To get philosophical for a minute, I don’t think that the problem is wanting more. I actually think wanting more is part of the natural and healthy instinct of all life. Furthermore, I would say that we intuit that there’s more to be had and we want it. (Here I will stop just short of getting into spirituality and theology on this board.) I think the problem is that we pursue “more” about the wrong things. We’ve been led to believe that more stuff will make us happy. Instead we should be looking to more love, more connection, more knowledge, more depth, more experience.
The other problem I see is that we pursue the “more” in a single minded way without attunement and respect for our surroundings. Our relationship with the natural world is like any other relationship — it requires care, sensitivity to the needs of the other as well as our own and patience.
Seasons4 - February 20, 2021
Jonnie, you raise excellent points and questions. I like the approach of Citizens Climate Lobby (citizensclimatelobby.org).
I’ve also been thinking about this pandemic and the pandemics to follow in relation to leisure travel. I think it would be good to wean people (like myself) off traveling great distances for enriching life experiences. Instead of NIMBY (not in my back yard), we could have IMBY (in my back yard). We could encourage people to think of a 100-mile or 200-mile radius of their home as their back yard — care for it, learn about it, participate in decision making about it, etc.
At the start of the pandemic, I read that 1 in 10 jobs worldwide related to tourism. That’s too many jobs and livelihoods dependent on one sector. We might promote ecotourism from afar — webcams at bird feeder stations or nesting areas in low-income countries, for example. This veered into the pandemic instead of directly into climate change, but climate change encourages pandemics by changing ecosystems.
In general, I think humanity will have to bloom where we’re planted if we’re in a relatively environmentally resilient place. We might have to not live in high-risk places year round. Letting my imagination run free here . . . residents of areas high in wildfire risk might have to leave for a period of time each year, residents of tornado alley or hurricane country might have to leave for a period of time each year, and so on. We all might think of ourselves as climate migrants and create a network of short-term accommodations as part of a social safety net or as something that participants opt into.
UbiqueContributor - February 20, 2021
Thank you for the CCL info. I have added them to my education and resource list.
Your points are excellent about how we, as preppers, can respond to the challenges of climate change. IMBY is a great term! There is the 100 mile diet, why not the same for travel?
Familiarity with our environment is a big part of prepping, also. Many people have not explored the environments around them.
Before Covid-19, I drafted plans to build a simple, one level floating deck, 12′ deep off the front of my house. It will be split into zones that can cover various activities and container/deck planters. There will also be uprights with horizontal cross bars on which to hang plants and provide privacy screens if necessary.
The idea was to provide a simple, 3 season expansion for a smaller home which can provide extra space for food production in a low key way and function as a place to “staycation”.
Your points about tourism are very relevant to what is happening in rural communities. Part of preparedness is considering the socio-economic stability of the areas in which we live.
Your ideas for solution to how we can “bloom where we’re planted” are excellent examples of how we can avoid “all or nothing” thinking and adapt to the changes we face.
In crisis, adaptation and flexibility in our ability to react is important. Your post was inspiring to read.
Jonnie PekelnyContributor - February 20, 2021
Season4, travel is a tough one for me. I know that long distance air travel is a huge polluter (second only to having children!) But, as an immigrant I have people and places half way around the world whom I miss and dearly long to see. I also, at this point have quite a few long-distance close people inside the US. Most of them started out being local but have moved away. Phone and Zoom of course are extremely helpful for keeping in touch, but they’re no substitute for in-person.
I know I’m not alone in this. As for cultural enrichment, I’ve done some of that travel in my life. I’m not strongly driven to do it, but I certainly know people who are. Again, a virtual tour isn’t the same for many.
I think perhaps that the answer will come through a mixture of better virtual reality / enhanced reality tools and less polluting ways of travel. If we had a more leisurely, less rushed society we would be happier and healthier in many ways and we would have time to travel slower in a less polluting way. I remember a few years ago reading something about future transatlantic travel by derigable (blimp).
I do like your idea of IMBY, especially for us urban dwellers who are largely separated from our natural surroundings. We need to build a sense of place and responsibility for place where we live.
Also, your idea of seasonal relocation could go with the season for visiting loved ones far away. A friend of a close friend of mine worked for years on McMurdo Station, the US base on the coast of Antarctica. McMurdo is like a very isolated small town. The population varies with the season.
In the summer the population is about 1000. In the winter only about 200 people remain. As I understand this is because it’s so cold that it’s harder to go out and, maybe more importantly, there are no flights in and out of the station so the remaining population is cut off from physical contact and help from the outside world.
My friend’s friend had worked out a perfect lifestyle for herself. Nine months out of the year she lived on the base, which she loved. The other three months, which coincided with summer in the northern hemisphere, she got a long vacation, traveled back to the US to visit friends and family, etc.
Robert LarsonContributor - February 20, 2021
As a prepper, while on a hike or bugging out, would you like to just filter out bacteria from your water or also have to deal with chemicals and other pollutants? And the air we breath every second, would you rather have clean fresh air or ones with fumes and whatever? Even for those who don’t believe that human actions make large scale changes to the entire climate, I believe everyone should at least consider the impact they are having on the environment and how it still does affect you.
Besides doing what you can personally (and there is a lot), educating others is great, doing something like buying a reusable water bottle for a friend can be a good step, and helping implement change in your work place is also a large contribution.
I heard that most of the cardboard waste isn’t from individuals, but from businesses. So i’m sure there are many things you can do at work to change things up for the better. And even when you are gone, maybe that legacy of recycling or not buying one time use plastics are something that will carry on with future employees who will then take it home to their families.
UbiqueContributor - February 20, 2021
The waste from packaging is a nightmare! We functioned before without it.
Waste management is also a consideration of prepping. If gear is stored in complicated packaging, then it must be dealt with in times of crisis, which can be difficult and may signal that you have preps.
It also may be difficult to open your preps. My husband purchased an opener specifically designed to open rigid plastic packaging.
The opener was housed in plastic packaging that was incredibly difficult to open. It was so absurd!
pnwsarahContributor - February 21, 2021
Jonnie, thanks for this thread. This is the area in which I and my partner both work, so I have a ton of thoughts— a stupefying number of thoughts, actually, and I don’t really know where to start, and this is going to be way too long, but let me toss out some ideas.
First, though, I want to say that I really appreciate that you and others on the thread are differentiating between individual-scale action and collective/political action. I often hear people talking about environmental issues as though the best or most important or only thing they can do is buy different things or fewer things or take shorter showers, which is a really limited way of thinking about the nature of the problem and what it will take to address it.
Having said that— and at the risk of stating the obvious— there are a lot of ways to be an activist. Any cause (on the left or the right) is likely to fare better if there are radical and mainstream/moderate groups pushing for it in their different ways, including protesting, donating, volunteering, lobbying at the federal, state, and local levels, etc. Do the kind of action that suits your personality, time, and finances, and trust that other people will show up in the ways you can’t. I used to work in government and it was clear from that vantage point that constituent pressure comes in many forms, and electeds and agencies are responsive to it— especially at the local and state level (yes, even in a huge state like California). It’s amazing how neglected a lot of lower-level policymaking can be, and meaningful climate action does happen at the local scale. (I know this has been said, but it bears repeating.) Does your city have a climate action plan? When will it next be updated? This kind of work often happens under the rubric of “adaptation,” which may not seem as crucial as preventing climate change, but we’re already locked into a lot of climate disruption and experiencing some of it, so there is really no choice at this point but to adapt AND mitigate. Also, a good local-level climate adaptation planning process will is built on public outreach and engagement that can familiarize community members with the risks they face and motivate them to engage on the issue, and that can have huge power when these plans actually go up for a vote.
If you’re in California and concerned about/affected by wildfire, I think there are probably opportunities to advocate for land use policy change (e.g., around post-fire rebuilding) and how we manage this issue of insurers wanting out of high-risk areas and how state insurance regulators should handle that (to avoid homes suddenly losing a ton of value without incentivizing more construction in the wildland-urban interface). There are also several pieces of legislation aimed at managing sea level rise that are working their way through the process in Sacramento right now. (A bit of a personal hobbyhorse, but: You can also push back on wishful thinking about forest- and farm-based offsets. Lots of people on both sides of the political spectrum have a very noble desire to use offsets to pay the folks remaining in land-based industries a premium for stewardship, but the political attractiveness of this solution tends to send its proponents running out ahead of the science, and prompts folks to gloss over issues with the additionality and permanence of the supposedly stored carbon.) I don’t live in California anymore, so I’m not tracking this stuff as closely as I used to, but I can find more information if you’re interested.
How to actually get involved in political action: Citizens’ Climate Lobby (which someone already mentioned) is great because they do train ordinary people to lobby, but what they’re actually lobbying for is a little limited/outmoded; Climate Changemakers has a similar strategy of connecting citizens with the tools of political engagement, but they have a more comprehensive and current approach.
One of my goals is to start matching my individual-scale prepping with donations to community-and-larger-scale prevention efforts— because it’s much easier to order another #10 can of dehydrated potatoes than it is to get to know your neighbor with the weird sad lawn ornaments and convince him to stockpile water bricks in his garage, join a climate advocacy group, show up at city council meetings, or call Congress after work. You could use time or money as your “match” depending on what is more available to you. I feel like I don’t have enough of either to spare, but if I take the bite out of the time or money I already spend on prepping… well, I do have that time and that money, clearly, and volunteering with and donations to organizations that will make my city more resilient and fight climate change are a kind of prepping.
If you don’t know where to donate, Giving Green has your back. They’re basically a stable of hardcore climate science and policy nerds who make recommendations for where to donate money and volunteer, and they really know their stuff.
Lastly, I would say that it is super worthwhile to acknowledge climate grief and develop tools for managing it. Both my partner and I (as well as other people we know in the field) have struggled emotionally with being constantly bombarded with information about how bad things are getting, how quickly it is happening, how bleak the outlook is, etc. There has been media coverage and anecdotal evidence that more people are seeking therapy because of their concerns about climate change, and there are even twelve step programs now for climate grief. In our household we talk a lot about thinking like astrophysicists and geologists— fields where very long timescales and planets becoming uninhabitable and mass extinctions are all the norm— and about not making hope for victory the motivator for our actions. I really like Roy Scranton’s writing about what he calls “learning how to die”, and I’ve been meaning to read this book.
I hope some of that is useful, and I’m happy to go deeper on any of it or hunt down more information if it would be helpful.
Jonnie PekelnyContributor - February 21, 2021
Wow, pnwsarah! What a wealth of information. I wonder if I could write to you offline (email) about some of the particular things I’m looking for. Thank you for all the information!
pnwsarahContributor - February 21, 2021
Absolutely! I wish they had DMs on this platform (I bet they’re working on it!) but in the meantime have an email address that I don’t mind publishing here because I mainly use it for getting 10% off on my first order with various online stores and it doesn’t have my full name in it (the downside is I rarely have reason to check it, so if I don’t get back to you promptly just nudge me here): littlesarahbigsky[at]gmail[dot]com.
Jonnie PekelnyContributor - February 22, 2021
Thanks. I just sent you an email.
Cady - March 28, 2021
Thank you Sarah, I appreciate your bringing up climate grief. I just got finished with my biweekly Extinction Rebellion Buddhists & Meditators meeting, in which we talk a lot about climate grief. I will probably never completely come to terms with what we are losing but I seem to be at greater level of acceptance now than I have been in the past. I will check out your reading suggestions!
Sun Yeti - February 23, 2021
For most middle class Americans, the following are the three largest and most impactful ways to reduce your personal carbon footprint:
1. Get solar for your house:
This basically knocks out your carbon footprint from personal electricity use. Yes, I know there is an energy cost to solar panels ect, but switching to all-renewable power eliminates the large majority of emissions from your electricity use. Note that it’s often better to set up solar in your yard or build a solar carport etc. vs. putting the panels over your roof where they are harder to access for maintenance and have to be moved when you repair your roof. If you are in one of the very few parts of the country with insufficient insolation for practical solar power (Alaska?) consider small-scale wind or hydro. If you add a battery system to your solar, you also got a fantastic prep for grid outages.
2. Get an electric car:
Many people don’t realize how much of their energy budget (and carbon footprint) goes to moving a several thousand pound metal box 30+ miles a day. Even if you plug your car into the grid, it will still be lower emissions than a gas car. Combine it with your solar system and it’s entirely renewably powered. Again, this is a great prep since you can keep driving even if there’s no gas and/or the grid is down.
3. Don’t have kids:
Yup, I just grabbed the third rail of environmentalism. There’s no denying the math though; our civilization’s footprint is the per-capita footprint times the number of people. Fewer, people means less impact. So, in addition to reducing the per-capita footprint, we need to think about reducing the number of people. Instead of bringing more kids into an overpopulated world, consider fostering, adopting, or just helping your (harried, overloaded, trying to balance kids and a career) friends and relatives take care of theirs. If you really must have your own biological children, have one instead of two or three.
Other actions like recycling, eating less meat, re-using containers etc. are good, but they have a much smaller impact. For a typical middle-class American, solar plus an electric car can cut your carbon footprint by something like half, without effecting your lifestyle much. Do those other things if you can, but they’re not primary.
If you can’t afford home solar and an electric car, you can get almost as much impact while saving money; live in a small apartment/condo (which will use something like 1/5 as much electricity as a single family home), and use a bike/ebike/electric scooter instead of a car.
Paulino Martin - February 23, 2021
I’ve always wondered if the manufacturing process of solar panels and batteries outweighs the carbon effects of just running off the grid or have a gas powered car. Those batteries need replaced every so many years and they have chemicals in them, and metals that need to be recycled.
I’m sure you are right Sun Yeti, that going solar and EV are better than the alternative, but still a bit curious on the other impact of going through batteries and such every few years.
Sun Yeti - February 23, 2021
Your are referring to EROI; Energy Returned on (energy) Invested.
This is an important and often overlooked statistic for any energy source. One of the reasons ethanol fueled cars are not a great solution is that the EROI is close to 1; it takes about as much energy to grow and process the ethanol as you get from burning it.
Back in the bad old days, shallow well light sweet crude oil might have had an EROI of more like 100. Wind and solar are more around 10 or 20 which is often better than the last-ditch low quality resources they are scraping oil out of these days, such as tar sands, deepwater offshore drilling etc.
Considered in terms of payback period for a solar power system, it’s just a couple of years; here’s a reference for that: https://cleantechnica.com/2018/02/03/solar-power-can-pay-easily/
I don’t know what the energy payback period is on using batteries vs. burning gas. I’m not even sure how to calculate that, honestly. Nonetheless, when you consider the truly massive emissions drop from switching from a gas car to EV, there’s a lot of space there in your energy/carbon budget for batteries; I can’t imagine that the additional energy to add batteries to the car takes very long to pay off.
Paulino Martin - February 24, 2021
That does make sense and I am glad to see the price and EROI go down for solar as they become cheaper and more efficient. Thank you for the explaination Sun Yeti.
Jonnie PekelnyContributor - February 24, 2021
Sun Yeti, I haven’t done the math myself (I wouldn’t know how), but most carbon footprint calculators I’ve seen say that the most impact an individual in the first world can have on their carbon footprint is to have fewer children. The next largest factor is to reduce air travel.
I also very much doubt that the American middle class will get to keep its lifestyle if we, humans intend to have a livable planet for us and many other species. That’s okay with me, actually. There are many ways to have a good life without living like that. So, if middle class folks want to start out by going solar and getting an electric car — great. But I think it’s an illusion to think that life will go on as usual in the long run.
Sun Yeti - February 25, 2021
For some reason, it’s very difficult to find newer information on American per-capita carbon footprint than circa 2010. That being said, I think the (unfortunately stale) data backs me up:
If you take a look at the Union of Concerned Scientists article, of the 28% chunk of per-capita emissions they call ‘transportation’, it’s 92% car, 8% plane. If you add up driving and home energy use, you’re already at almost 60% of total per-capita emissions. Drastically reduce both of those things and you’ve cut your personal emissions by about half.
On the other hand, even if you stopped flying entirely, that’s a rounding error, unless you are an extreme outlier who takes hundreds of flights per year for work or something.
Of course, in practice, we should do everything we can to reduce our emissions on all fronts, but start with the low-hanging fruit. I will also admit that I’m getting pretty frustrated with people who buy recycled paper towels and shut the taps off when they brush their teeth, then dust off their hands and say ‘well, I’m doing my part’, while ignoring the elephants in the room.
I agree that in the long run our lifestyles will have to radically change, but if we can at least make a good start now, it may help us change in a more smooth and gradual way rather that the sudden sharp stops we survivalists worry about.
Sun Yeti - February 25, 2021
I should clarify I’m not saying you’re one of those people, I just encounter a lot of performative or very tiny impact environmentalism from people I know.
Pops - February 26, 2021
Good suggestions Yeti
I think on a personal level the best one can do is stop trying to get.
Work from home, don’t work much, spend less.
Don’t consume for recreation.
Put on a sweater.
Lindsey - April 12, 2021
Just a note on that third rail: Speaking as a licensed foster parent, there are some things you should keep in mind before you jump into this work.
1. Foster and adoptive kids aren’t direct replacements for biological children. You aren’t going to parent these kids the way you would parent bio kids. You just aren’t. Foster and adoptive kids come with trauma. Trauma means they are going to push your limits way more than biological kids ever will. These kids have a mental narrative that adults are not to be trusted and they are going to try and force you to fit that mental narrative. (And they are good at it. They’ve probably already done it to 3-4 “homes” before they landed at yours.) And yes, this applies even to the cute little ones. Babies who come into foster care usually come in addicted to opiates or with fetal alcohol syndrome. Helping a baby detox is not for the faint of heart. I don’t take littles but those who do are truly saints and probably have the best support networks of anyone out there.
2. If you don’t want people to know you are a prepper, fostering and adopting is not for you. Either of these routes requires lots of people from the government and other agencies to visit and tour your entire house, including basements, closets, attics, etc. to make sure you don’t have a convicted felon living with you. (I wish I was joking, but that kind of nonsense happens.) As a short list of who you can expect might show up to visit you: social worker, licensing worker, court appointed special advocate (CASA), guardian ad litem (GAL), therapist. Multiple those people by the number of cases you have in your house and add one or two for every year you have the kids until they turn 18 or 21. (Turnover in social workers is massive.)
3. At least in the United States, you will quickly become familiar with the dysfunction of the family court system, where not much has changed since the days of stealing children from “unworthy” parents to “civilize” them in wealthier households.
All that being said, I know this is getting long, so I will leave this post on a more positive note.
1. Foster and adoptive kids are wonderful kids who will do all the things that biological kids will do: make you laugh, talk you into silly antics, and tell you about their adventures.
2. Foster and adoptive parents generally form support groups to keep each other relatively sane and you should absolutely join one if you go this route for children. There’s nothing like laughing about the clever use of breaker boxes over pizza to restore your faith in your ability to parent these kids.
3. If you are still interested in fostering or adopting, get licensed to be a respite provider first. Respite providers are essentially state-sanctioned babysitters for foster children. Generally the kids are on their best behavior during respite so you’ll avoid the worst, but you’ll be giving the full-time foster parents a much needed and much appreciated break. As an added bonus, in the United States, you’ll also get a taste of the extremely poor compensation scheme devised by your state for foster parenting.
Sun Yeti - April 12, 2021
I was aware of that in generalities, but the specifics are actually quite helpful, as this is a road my wife and I may be going down in a few years. Thanks!
Lindsey - April 13, 2021
Good luck, Sun Yeti! I am very hopeful that you and your wife will join the rest of us on this path. Local support groups for foster and adoptive parents will have loads of helpful information for you, so even if you are just thinking about it, I strongly recommend getting connected into these groups now so you have the resources on hand and experts on speed dial when you need them.
Josh CentersContributor - February 24, 2021
From the research I’ve seen, there’s not a lot you can do at an individual level to change it, only adapt to it. I’ve been considering building raised beds instead of trying to garden in my native soil. I have heavy clay that you can’t work wet or it’ll turn to brick, and it rains CONSTANTLY now. The past couple of sunny days are the first dry and sunny ones we’ve had in months. My yard and much of my field is pure mud.
UbiqueContributor - February 24, 2021
Hi Josh – If you are going to try raised bed, try looking up Mel Bartholomew and his books. He started the square foot gardening technique:
His soil mix is considered expensive to make but it is the highest rated from a recent report I read. There are other raised bed mixes that would work too.
His mix was 1/3 vermiculite (not perlite – he preferred vermiculite), 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 good quality compost (using compost from at least 5 different sources). Note: I used too much Nitrogen in my compost selection and my radishes were “all hat, no horse” but the leafy vegetables loooved it.
You can get the full and proper instructions from the above link.
You probably already know this, but I include it for everyone: always build your raised beds with untreated lumber.
Clare - February 24, 2021
I realize many people don’t like “politics” or activism, but if you want to really tackle climate change that’s where you need to put your energy. It’s amazing how little input many politicians get, especially on the local level, on important issues. Your phone calls, emails, and in-person visits really do make an impact. Some areas to look into – does state allow community solar installations? Does your power company charge an exorbitant amount to plug your solar into the grid? Has your town gone to 100% renewable energy? (Georgetown, TX has I believe). You don’t have to run for office yourself (although you could and should!) to create change in your community.
Politics aside, I want to build a small/tiny net-zero prefab house on land I own. The cost is prohibitive. But if we could make pre-fab net-zero housing affordable we could improve the housing shortage, the climate crisis, and my finances. 🙂
Jessica Sanders - February 25, 2021
I set up a carpool with two other moms of my kid’s school. It saves us on gas, and two-three days a week I don’t have to drive my kids to school and can take that time to get some chores taken cared of. For the days that I do drive though, do you have some tips and tricks that I can do to get better fuel economy? I’ve been trying to break this horrid habit of my lead foot as I think that helps.
Cady - March 28, 2021
I appreciate this conversation. My fears about climate change are why I got into prepping. I still have to read through all the responses to this post but I will weigh in a bit on the activism component. I consider myself an activist. I don’t find marches or petitions compelling either – I just haven’t seen them be effective. What I find to be more effective are actions that get attention, which tend to be direct actions – e.g., attention-grabbing actions (often ones for which you might be arrested). Civil disobedience and such. Now, that’s certainly not for everyone. But it does tend to get more attention from the public, media, and policymakers. Check out Extinction Rebellion, Sunrise Movement, and the like. Not saying this is the only answer but it’s the main way I have chosen to engage (in addition to attempting to reduce my carbon footprint).
By the way, I want to recommend a book I just finished: Less Is More by Jason Hickel.
Looking forward to reading through the rest of these responses.
Paulino Martin - March 28, 2021
How are your preps formed and changed by your concern over climate change? Do they look just like every other prepper or are you specifically prepping certain things because of climate change?
Cady - March 29, 2021
Good question. I’m a relatively new prepper (less than a year in) so at this point I’m still working on the basics. Now that I’m rereading my comment I actually realize that while climate change is my biggest long-term concern, I started really learning about prepping after the Covid failures. So to answer your question, no, at this point I don’t think I’m doing anything particular to prep for climate disruption as opposed to other forms of disruption. in the near term the threats from climate chaos seem to be the same as the threats from anything else, e.g. grid disruptions, shortages, civil unrest. I guess considering the rising number of hurricanes, wildfires, etc., my number one concern is being able to get through a week or two without power, outside food, and outside water, as people had to do in Texas recently. Do you have other thoughts?
Bob - March 28, 2021
Cady, May I ask you to provide a couple of examples of your fears and climate change. The field is vast and need a focus of some sort to understand your concerns.
I started out with the worry about atmospheric testing of nuclear ordnance. Now I worry about more dangerous stuff.
Merci in advance.
Cady - March 29, 2021
As I wrote in another comment just now, I think in the near term the disruptions that we will see from climate chaos will be similar to disruptions from other causes – e.g. power disruptions, shortages, etc. so right now my focus is, do I have enough supplies to get through a week or two or three without outside intervention? For the long-term… Well, it’s possible that large regions of the planet will simply become uninhabitable, with all the unrest and disruptions that implies. And that’s a terrifying existential threat.
Essie Carroll - March 29, 2021
That is a very rational and realistic approach to prepping. I am sure we will see disruptions here and there over the next decade, and having a basis of food and water is a great way to prepare for this.
TheFuries - July 18, 2022
This is something we’ve been considering for many years now. From extensive research, here are some top things individuals can do:
1. Eat less meat. When you do, make sure it comes from a regenerative farm, which enriches soil against climate change impacts. No one is trying to replace your burger, but make better choices. No big farm meat, like Tyson or Perdue. It’s also filled with PFASs and other chemicals.
2. Eat more vegetables. It also supports your health.
3. Farm/grow food regeneratively.
4. Become a producer, not a consumer. Produce whatever you can. Reuse what you can’t.
5. Don’t have a large brood of kids, adopt if that’s your dream. Besides their carbon footprint, who wants to watch their kids die? Kids rarely follow in their parents’ line of thinking, no matter your beliefs, so they are more at risk of getting separated and being unprepared.
6. Go off-grid. Besides the added benefit of increasing your family’s resiliency, doing so uses far less energy and footprint than other approaches.
7. Go electric. Gas blowers and gas equipment may perform better now, but expect 1) skyrocketing fuel prices, 2) massive pollution. Did you know gas blowers pollute as much as several dozen cars idling? Also, if you want, drive an electric vehicle, but know that your food sources are the single most effective thing you can do to impact climate change mitigation.
8. Make your house as sustainable as possible using green materials. Retrofit rather than build new. Construction is exploding climate change impacts.
9.. Practice mental resiliency. The world is going to fall apart in ways we can only imagine. You’re going to need to find the will within yourself to keep living not only for those who depend on you, but also for the future of humanity.*** This won’t reduce your climate change impact, but it will help over all.
10. LOBBY YOUR POLITICIANS and major companies!
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