Environmental models exist. Feldheim, a small town in Germany, generates renewable energy with a wind turbine and solar panels, and a biogas factory converts pig manure into heat, saving on heating oil and producing fertilizer as a byproduct. Germany installed more solar power for individuals than any other country, with over half of the installations owned by individuals, cooperatives and communities. Wind and solar and other renewable energy sources supply 27% of German’s electricity production, compared to 13% in the US.[i] The cost is paid for by a small surcharge on electricity bills. The German word for energy transition, energiewende, is used globally. The European Union set a goal to cut greenhouse emission by 40% from 1990 levels and achieve 27% energy from renewable sources by 2030. The countries with the best environmental records are in Europe, with the exception of Costa Rica, in third place after Sweden and Norway, with Germany and Denmark in fourth and fifth place (the US is #28).[ii] Oslo, Norway, is devoted to green energy and recyling, a is Malmo, Sweden. Burlington, Vermont, is the first 100 percent sustainable energy city in the U.S. Norwhich, also in Vermont, is moving in that direction. Aruba aims to implement it’s 100 percent plan in five years.
Ghana is building the largest solar plant in Africa. Hip-hop artist Akon, who is from Senegal, promotes affordable solar energy kits for villagers that are cheaper than kerosene, as used by Kenyan women.[iii] A model Smart Home was built by the University of California, Davis, with geothermal healing, a solar system, and efficient appliances to reduce fuel and water consumption. Evergreen helps communities set up cooperative ecological programs, including school gardens and other programs for children.[iv] Among the greenist cities to study as models of green energy, farmers’ markets, and bike paths are Vancouver (British Columbia), Portland, San Francisco, New York, Curitiba (Brazil), Bogota, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Stockholm and Malmo, Berlin, Frieburg (Germany), Feykjavik, Singapore, Adelaide, and Cape Town.[v] Other solutions are collected on this wordpress site.[vi]
We’ve had 50 years of warning about threats to the environment and failed to respond during 30 years of international climate talks. A documentary A Fierce Green Fire (2012) explores 50 years of the environmental movement. The Flame Tree Project sets out a strategy to save life on earth and various sites post recent climate change data.[vii] The environmental organization 350.org is viewed as one of the most influential grassroots environmental organizations. It refers to the maximum safe concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, currently at 400 and rising. Students at Middlebury College and McKibben are conducting a campaign to divest from fossil fuel companies, with a list of the 200 biggest fossil fuel corporations.[viii] “Benefit Corporations” commit to sustainable practices. Hundreds of youth organized protests against the Keystone XL pipeline; 500 acted in civil disobedience at the White House in March 2014 and others joined in regionally “to buy back our future” in an eco-revolution, as shown in a video of the San Francisco demonstration.[ix] One teen speaker there said, “My generation has been labeled as complacent and I refuse to accept that.” They chanted “no pipeline for the 1%.
In order to solve the climate crisis, various grassroots movements need to work together: anti-GMO, anti-natural gas extraction, traditional farming activists who oppose Confined Animal Feeding Operations responsible for up to half the greenhouse gas emissions, conservationists, natural health advocates, and the climate movement. If we remain passive, farming land will turn to dust bowls in parts of the world, the oceans will rise and continue becoming more acidic destroying food sources, more species will go extinct, and extreme weather increases.[x] Clearly some young people are environmental activists and some are ignorant about problems like global warming or feel helpless to change it while the planet warms and pollution and toxic waste increase. Poor countries will suffer most from climate change and rising sea levels, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (More on climate change on the book website.) What can an individual do? Vote for environmentalists, don’t invest in fossil fuel companies, recycle, compost food, use cloth instead of plastic bags, bicycle and carpool, plant a vegetable garden, insulate homes, reduce beef consumption, and boycott junk food restaurants.
[i] Kiley Kroh, “Germany Sets New Record,” Climate Progress, May 14, 2014.
[ii] Anastasia Pantsios, “Top 10 Greenest Countries in the World,” EcoWatch, October 23, 2014.
[iii] Denis Gathanju, “Kenyan Women light Up Villages with Solar Power,” Renewable Energy World.com, July 13, 2010.
[x] Zack Kaldveer and Ronnie Cummins, “Food, Farms, Forests and Fracking: Connecting the Dots,” Organic Consumers Association, May 9, 2013.