With spring lurking around the corner, this time of year is often a time for rejuvenation whether it be spring cleaning, gardening, or dusting off the running shoes to start running in the nice weather. As March 22nd, is World Water day, this is a day where I like to dedicate some time for reflection on my impacts on the earth. Being the Change – Live well and spark a climate revolution is a story and recipe about how an astrophysicist turned into a climate scientist and altered his lifestyle to emit as few carbon emissions as possible.
Peter Kalmus lives in California and while some of his suggestions may not work quite as well in Thunder Bay’s cool climate. For example, I would love to be able to pick an avocado from a tree in my backyard, but our climate simply isn’t suitable for growing avocados. Kalmus also suggests trying cycling as a main form of transportation and the cold winters are not very conductive to cycling in and around Thunder Bay. I tried cycled throughout the winter for my first two years living in Thunder Bay, and it was no walk in the park. It is doable if you’re really dedicated, but you will need to dress appropriately and be willing to ride close to traffic as the roads shrink due to the snowbanks, and bike lanes are not typically cleared in the winter. I would also suggest giving your bike a regular cleaning as the winter can be quite harsh on a bike (a lesson I learned the hard way). Bike commuting can be incredibly rewarding and I encourage anyone to try a bike commute whether it be to work, to meet a friend, or to pick up a few things from the grocery store, it’s a great way to get your physical activity in while also crossing something off your to-do list.
This book offers the scientific background on what is happening to the climate and the major role humans play. The book goes beyond telling readers to stop flying and to start composting. Kalmus addresses some of the deeper reasons for why we behave the way we do. Our addiction to growth in a finite world has led us to crave novelty and comfort and resulted in a projected grim future. There are lots of great actions presented throughout the book that people can take to lower their footprint. From quitting flying to composting, to growing your own food, to cycling as your main form of transportation, to humanure, to creating a community passionate about leaving as little as a footprint as possible.
Being the change questions the sustainability of the way privileged people live. The ideas and actions presented throughout this book are not applicable to every human on Earth. The book is addressed to people who can afford to fly, own cars, own a house with a yard, and are fixated on accumulating more “stuff” that is not essential to their survival. One stat from the book that stood out was “globally, only about 5% of humans have ever flown” (p 151). This sounded shocking to me at first, because the majority of the people I know to fly on a yearly basis. In 2015, Oxfam came out with a study which found that the richest 10% of people globally emit 49% of global emissions. This book may not be applicable to everyone on Earth, but I don’t think that was the author’s purpose. He wanted to write a book addressed to the world’s top emitters. COVID-19 has offered many people a forced break from their typical travel patterns, which has had short-term benefits on air and water quality. Many people are itching to get their travel fix again, but maybe instead of hopping on the next flight, you can embrace continue to explore closer to home and reduce your carbon footprint. This book is a must-read and addresses some of the ignorance in society that has led us to global climate change and inequality. Next time you want to buy something question whether you really need it.