What Cities can do Right Now to be More Sustainable

bus

People can make changes in their everyday lives to help the environment, like reusing items or simply by buying fewer things. If a bunch of people make positive changes together the impact is bigger. This is what you can do in your city today.

Cities the world over are changing tiny aspects of how they do things to make a big impact. Many of these changes are inexpensive and relatively easy to implement. If you have a moment today you ought to send your local politician a quick email asking for one of these changes.

Local governments are also consumers, and the day-to-day tasks of running a city require supplies and services. Purchasing policies can be written to ensure city purchasing is less harmful for the environment. For example, the city of Boulder, Colorado, has an Environmental Purchasing Policy that guides the city’s procurement towards environmentally friendly products, even requiring certain items like stationery and toilet paper to be made of recycled material.

Though on a larger scale, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts found that its Environmentally Preferable Products Procurement Policy saved more than US$18 million in fiscal year 2017 and more than US$12 million in fiscal year 2018. “Organizations are already having a huge impact through purchasing. If they can leverage that influence to support other goals of the government or organization, that’s a win-win,” says Sarah O’Brien, acting CEO of the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council.

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This Knowledge Tree Cold Help us Avert Climate Catastrophe

tree with climate knowledge

The ongoing global climate crisis is still denied by some people (like the Australian Prime Minister) despite all the evidence. The predictions made by climate scientists decades ago are coming true: from crop failures to massive wildfires. Why then are we ignoring their predictions about what’s going to happen next? This question is tough since it can get people thinking about things they find uncomfortable. To help us talk with people who don’t understand the threat of ignoring the climate crisis Summer Praetorius created this helpful knowledge tree. The tree helps us find what people are thinking and how they reached their conclusion.

The thing about alarms is that they turn out to be useful. The canary in the coalmine, smoke detectors, tornado sirens, cell phone alerts; we generally agree that instruments to detect and convey impending threats are a step in the right direction. In fact, we require them in most buildings. The inconvenience of an occasional false alarm is far outweighed by the benefit of not dying in your sleep by a raging fire.

So while catastrophists may get the eye-roll of hyperbole, gradualists warrant an occasional head-slap of naivete. Their apparent inability to conceive a fundamentally different world leads them into a default mode of complacency, one that ironically makes it much more likely to provoke the thing they aren’t expecting. On the flip side, catastrophists are more prone to expect disaster, and might be more motivated to prevent the potential threats. So each will unwittingly prove the other one right, if they have their way of things.

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Closing Coal Plants Saves Lives

industry

Everyone already knows that burning coal for energy is absolutely horrible for the planet and were still learning just how bad coal power plants really are. The positive news is that once the plants are closed positive changes are quick to be found. A recent study found that shutting down coal power plants can be connected to the saving of 26,610 lives in the USA alone. There are other benefits too like cleaner air for plants, which in turns increases crop yields. This is yet more evidence that we need to do everything in our power to shutdown the use of coal.

An estimated 26,610 lives were saved in the US by the shift away from coal between 2005 and 2016, according to the University of California study published in Nature Sustainability.

“When you turn coal units off you see deaths go down. It’s something we can see in a tangible way,” said Jennifer Burney, a University of California academic who authored the study. “There is a cost to coal beyond the economics. We have to think carefully about where plants are sited, as well as how to reduce their pollutants.”

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Thoughtful Reforestation

Forest

Forests make for naturally wonderful carbon sinks and thanks to a myriad of efforts we should see reforestation efforts grow over the next few years. This is all good to witness and we can all help by planting a tree. There are ways to tend to a forest for maximum carbon capture which scientists are hoping to perfect. It’s one thing to have a forest and it’s an even better thing to have a resilient high-quality forest which attracts a diversity of animals.

There are a number of ways that we can ensure new forests are resilient to these impacts. First, having a diversity of species with a wide variety of traits in the forest landscape reduces the risk that a single event will wipe out large parts of the ecosystem. This is because tree species have different resistances and vulnerabilities.

For example, pests and diseases are likely to migrate as the climate changes. In a single-species plantation, that could wipe out the whole forest. But with many different species in the area, parts of the forest will be resilient.

We should also plant and introduce species that are adapted to the future climatic conditions projected for the area. For example, if climate models project a drier climate with increased droughts, then including native species with tolerance to drought would increase the chances of that forest staying resilient, and therefore maintaining its carbon store for longer.

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Lawsuit Launched Against Conservative Government for not Conserving

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In Canada, the Conservative party seems to hate actually conserving anything that isn’t their own party. In Ontario, the party has loosened laws around how much damage companies can do to nature, cut emission targets, heck they’ve basically got rid of any piece of policy that actually works (including road safety issues). One thing the Conservative party is actually good at (since good governance isn’t their strength) is getting sued. This week a bunch of kids have sued the government because of the removal of the carbon tax and other anti-environmental policies. The suit is backed by EcoJustice and has a good chance of making a difference to make the world better (unlike the Conservatives).

“I just want to live a normal life in the future; I shouldn’t have to be doing this, but adults aren’t doing a good job,” she told CBC News.

“I’m afraid that so many species that I love will go extinct,” added Zoe Keary-Matzner, 13, from Toronto. “And that children in the future won’t be able to enjoy nature the same way I do.”

The applicants, ranging from age 12 to 24, are represented by Stockwoods LLP and Ecojustice, a group that specializes in public interest lawsuits in the name of environmental protection.

Their challenge is part of a growing trend in which young people across the globe are suing governments over perceived inaction on climate change.

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