Letter to the editor: Personal responsibility for global warming matters

Consensus regarding what to do about climate change is hobbled by widespread disbelief that individual actions matter. We are stymied, believing that nothing is worth doing because the problem is too big. Action seems futile absent an improbable act of international and social cooperation.
Here in Vermont, with a declining population, we are challenged to appreciate the enormity of the problem. To the point, we live in a nation with 28 cities having populations greater than Vermont’s in 2019. More to the point, the population of our planet doubled between 1960 and 2000. We went from approximately 3 billion people to 6.1 billion in 40 years. Think about that. There are a lot of us. It is myopic to base an opinion about climate change solely on Vermont’s situation.
We need to do something real. Each of us needs to manifest resistance to climate change and there are significant actions we can take.
Project Drawdown was founded in 2014 by environmentalist Paul Hawken to measure and model the most substantive solutions to stop global warming and to communicate those findings to the world. Its focus is on existing solutions that will actually move us toward drawing down the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Visit their website, tinyurl.com/ProjectDrawdown-top10, where you will find a top ten ranking of things to do. You can also explore the links to supporting research and documents. It’s a surprising and thought-provoking list.
Investigate the carbon footprint associated with the industrial production of animals for food. Such production accounts for between 14% and 51% of greenhouse gas emissions. The lower figure (amended, at the time of the report it was 18%) is from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations report “Livestock’s Long Shadow” at tinyurl.com/Lilvestock-long-shadow. The higher figure is from a report by Worldwatch Institute, “Livestock and Climate Change” at tinyurl.com/Livestock-climate-change.
It is interesting to consider what data are included in either report. For perspective, air travel accounts for 2% of greenhouse gas emissions. Consider changing your diet. The impact of eating animals is surprisingly large. You needn’t stop eating meat and dairy to make a difference. Find some acceptable reduction that you can sustain. Jonathan Safran Foer, in his book “We Are the Weather,” suggests eating no animal products for breakfast or lunch. What could you manage to curb climate change?
This doesn’t require legislation or international agreements. If all of us who are disheartened by the intractability of the problem make this change the impact will be significant. Waiting for some grand solution is self-defeating. We tend to look to others to take the first step. Demonstrate to yourself that you can make a difference. The sense of agency you achieve will be inspiring.
Kindle the fire.
J. Paul Sokal

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