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Environmental Blog Post 3 - Personal Responsibility, Priority Setting and Persistent Action

What’s The Difference Between “Climate Change” and “the Environment”?

First, let’s delineate the difference between two terms we hear quite often in every form of media today. When we talk about ‘Climate Change’ and ‘the Environment’, the terms are often used interchangeably. But these are very different concepts. They intersect often, but they are not the same.

Climate Change is now the term of preference, taking the place of Global Warming as the go-to term for what is happening geophysically. After 20+ years in the renewable energy industry, I have come to use the term Climate Volatility as my favored descriptor when discussing the condition of the earth and its atmosphere today.

Just how we understand and talk about these situations conceptually-and more so, literally- is critical to any successful resolutions we might search for and discover.


“Global Warming” sounds like it could be a good idea on the Evanston Lakeshore in February. Maybe, with just the right amount of global warming, winters would become even milder than they have in recent years. Maybe we could enjoy the beaches a little longer. Maybe our heating bills would be a little more manageable

“Climate Change” sounds almost gradual, natural, and something we might be able to adjust to successfully without compromising our daily efforts in pursuit of ever greater prosperity. Considering the recent history of human technology, big Tech might just win this battle or slow the pace to where it can be dealt with logically and predictably. New technology also presents new financial opportunities for those well-positioned to make the most of technologies designed to manage Climate Change.

These ideas seem to directly conflict with what we like to call environmental responsibility. Many like to say,

“ Just follow the Science !!”

And as a relatively well-educated segment of the general population, we know that consideration for both sides of an argument is important. We know that the ability to hold contradictory concepts under simultaneous consideration is critical to logical argument as we understand it. We know that just following the science is not the simple solution we would like to see. Following the Science is not a formula that will solve climate problems here, now and in the near future, because Science is often more Art than Science and more Hype than either.

This is why I believe Climate Volatility is a more realistic term. Science and technology may find ways to dampen the acceleration of climate change, but that time is, in terms of the human lifespan, far in the future. Climate Volatility speaks directly to the headlines we are now seeing every single day. Monster storms, floods, droughts, fires and famine, species extinctions, financial catastrophe, resource wars, and mass migrations.

Chaos, not CO2, is by far our most serious and immediate Environmental threat.

Climate Chaos, in the worst sense of the word, generated by Climate Volatility with its social and economic side effects, is a primary threat to the human race and to the civilized environment humans have created. If we are looking at other sources to define the most immediate threats, we are looking in the wrong places, trying to solve the wrong problems. Look at the chaos first.

For example, while droughts and floods present serious short-term volatility problems in distinct locations, climate chaos, specifically, never predictable growing cycles, food availability and food prices, form the greatest longer-term threat to the Environment.

Short-term Chaos produces long-term uncertainty that is likely to accelerate, if left unresolved, and will be lethal to Civilization, if not to the human race per se.

How do we, as Evanston Indivisibles, address climate-induced chaos? By addressing information overload and ambiguity on a daily basis through Personal Responsibility, Priority Setting, and Persistent Action.

In order to meet our responsibility to our children and our local environment, we must be willing to give up some time or money. No free lunch. You must make the investment on a very personal level. Better have another double-shot Espresso and get started.

Personal Responsibility

“I’m just too busy taking care of my family, my house and everything else to worry about ‘the Environment’.” People rarely say this in public, but over the last twenty+ years as an environmental activist, I have learned to see these words in the eyes of my audience or discussion partners, whether on the Evanston Lake Shore or on a farm in rural Ohio.

Priority Setting

One environmental priority can and should be added to my priority list every day. Every sincerely concerned parent should do this, and everyone around you should know you do this, especially the kids. Here, we must overcome our instinct to do the ‘smartest’ thing, and instead do the ‘right’ thing. Often a very difficult choice.

Persistent Action

Take an action on your priority, and keep track of the actions you take. Don’t just read and talk. Invest some small amount in carbon capture or lithium recycling companies; buy and start using a small induction cooktop; reduce the size of your lawn by planting something more natural and less resource intensive; engage with organic food providers, renewable energy providers, or the recycling of clothes and electronics.

Set aside a few minutes each day for small actions. Favor persistence over dramatic efforts.

We can take on more ambitious efforts, like acquiring solar power, switching to an electric car, or investing in a heat pump-ground source or air source-once we have developed the personal disciplines described above. These are all affordable and practical strategies, but far less effective until we own the disciplines of personal responsibility, environmental priority setting, and persistent action.

Taken together, these disciplines, practiced by tens or hundreds of thousands, will make us ready to deal with the short-term Climate Volatility events that are already upon us.

The good news is that Science and Tech, while not yet advanced enough to control climate volatility, climate change, or global warming, will continue to work toward solutions to problems that can only be solved at the macro-economic national and international levels.

Here is some most basic actions we can take, once we have established the three disciplines discussed above, to create and maintain an overarching Environment that will support life and civilization for our kids.

-Move toward all-electric living, reducing atmospheric heat and carbon dioxide

-Contribute time or money to clean up local physical systems, including rivers, lakes, and parks, and add local structures and organizations to the effort.

-Rebuild the educational, social and financial world, starting here and starting today, so that industries based on scarcity and violence will be one day eliminated for lack of interest, not for lack of legislation.

Let’s get started with our new discipline.

Next Time: An in-depth look at climate generated Chaos

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