This is part of a regular series on Planet Change called “Your Climate Stories,” where we share reader stories about changes that they’re seeing and actions that they’re taking in their daily lives to help reduce carbon pollution and respond to the impacts of our changing planet.
If you have a climate story, please send it, along with any of your photos and videos, to us here.
Name: Rick Chamberlin
Location: Sauk City, WI USA
After hearing Bill McKibben speak at an event near my home in 2008, I began to keep a “global cooling journal” in which I recorded actions I was taking to fight climate change. But Jim Hansen’s recent book Storms of My Grandchildren, and McKibben’s Eaarth, helped me understand that our world is likely to continue to warm for hundreds of years even if all human greenhouse gas emissions ceased immediately. So now I call my log a “climate crisis” journal.
Those books, along with McKibben’s article “Multiplication Saves the Day” in Orion Magazine convinced me that political action (multiplication) is far more important than any actions I can take in my personal life (addition) to reduce my individual carbon footprint, as important as these things are. Concerted political action is in fact the only thing that can prevent climate catastrophe. The math just doesn’t work without it.
Therefore, a greater proportion of the actions recorded in my journal since 2008 have been political ones: letters and emails written to legislators and editors, meetings with business leaders, rallies and Citizens Climate Lobby meetings, and the launch of a blog to document the personal and local consequences of climate change.
Rick Chamberlin at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC.
Recently, as part of a weeks-long, nonviolent civil disobedience action last August, I was arrested in front of the White House along with hundreds of other activists. Our goal? To send President Obama a message that we wanted him to deny approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline – to live up to his words on the night he was elected, a night, he said, that he hoped future generations would look back on “as the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”
Proving the power of “multiplication,” President Obama announced in November of 2011 that he was delaying a decision on the pipeline until 2013 to allow time for a more thorough environmental review.
Nevertheless, I have also reduced my household’s carbon footprint significantly in the last 3 years by driving less, avoiding gasoline made with ethanol, replacing inefficient light bulbs, buying a battery-powered lawnmower, composting kitchen and yard waste (aerobic decomposition produces far less methane than the anaerobic decomposition occurring in landfills), buying more local and organic food, etc. And since I can’t afford a hybrid or electric vehicle, I’ve also purchased carbon offsets. I found that I could offset my remaining measurable carbon emissions for one year for less than $200 – less than the cost of one monthly payment on a new car.
Doing all these things, and recording my actions, has helped me remain engaged and hopeful despite the evidence. And remaining engaged has helped me to begin to atone for some of the damage I’ve done to the climate in my 45 years as a relatively wealthy, fossil fuel-consuming American. Finally, I can think of no better legacy to give my daughter and son than the record of the actions I took to try to ensure that they don’t inherit a world of hell and high water.
Photo courtesy of Rick Chamberlin.
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