Sally Barber: Becoming earth heroes with solutions at home – Traverse City Record Eagle

Clear to partly cloudy. Low 47F. Winds SW at 10 to 15 mph..
Clear to partly cloudy. Low 47F. Winds SW at 10 to 15 mph.
Updated: November 6, 2021 @ 7:10 pm
Traverse City, MI
Sally Barber

Sally Barber
Last week I overheard a haunting conversation between two 70-something gentlemen. We three sat in the lobby of an auto repair shop waiting on our cars.
I’m not sure how it started, but the men began lamenting the shrinking of area forests, how development stole the land and how slack timber harvesting practices continue to spoil the resource. In one breath they shared treasured memories of youthful explorations of their favorite woods, in the next, grief for what has vanished. Their sadness hung in the air overtaking the stench of oil, rubber and fuel.
It became clear that one of the elders volunteers in a forest fire patrol. When his confidant stood to leave, he turned and said, “Take care of the forest.”
Then paused. “No one else will.”
Can we continue to deny our personal responsibility for Earth’s survival? Governments, institutions, corporations and science fail to protect our world from destruction, and environmental activists seem to be endlessly engaged in fighting windmills. As the gentleman pointed out, if we don’t step up our individual efforts, who will?
When California wildfires threatened the world’s largest tree last September, firefighters shrouded the 2,000-year-old sequoia in fire-resistant blankets to protect it. The Swiss, Italians, Swedes and Chinese cover glaciers with reflective blankets in summer to slow melting. These swaddling efforts seem heart-breakingly desperate. But what they have in common is a low-tech approach to protection that shines attention on the value of exploring simple, hands-on action.
The climate crisis demands we give up pretending that protecting the future doesn’t require sacrifice on our part. We need to let go of the idea that solutions must be in someone else’s wheelhouse. Here’s where technology can help us. Several internet sites, such as the Nature Conservancy’s, provide calculators to determine an individual or household carbon footprint. It’s a start.
But to truly understand an environmental footprint demands an honest and deep dive. Take a simple cotton T-shirt for example — studies show it requires 590 gallons of water to grow the cotton (enough to sustain one person for two years).
Add into the footprint pesticides, dyes, unfair labor practices, transportation, distribution, laundering and disposal and one must face the fact that shirt is responsible for a long, dark eco-shadow.
We might relax thinking digital is footprint freebie. Not so. A BBC News report stated that if every Brit sent one fewer email a day it would save 16,433 tons of carbon from being released in a single year due to energy from your computer, servers, wi-fi, and entities supporting the technology.
The message to eat a plant-based diet has been sounded loud and clear. The BBC Food Calculator shows eating chicken twice a week for a year equates to a carbon impact of driving a car 272 miles. Check it out to evaluate the impact of your entire diet.
In calculating the environmental cost of our choices, we can’t deny our personal contribution to the planet’s distress. But we can trim our impact by shifting our lifestyle through consuming less, reducing driving, eating a plant-based diet, avoiding airplane travel, using green energy and having one fewer child.
If we don’t save the future, who will?
Sally Barber is a newspaper reporter and travel writer who has written for more than 25 of the state’s visitor bureaus and chamber of commerce organizations. She is author of “The Michigan Eco-Traveler: A Guide to Sustainable Adventures in the Great Lakes State” available through University of Michigan Press.
Protect water. Conserve water. Clean and restore water. We understand the messages. We may personally do our bit to comply. But this summer my…
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