The Climate and Ecological Emergencies – What Can We Do?


By Guy Dauncey

There are massive forest fires in Siberia. Greenland’s melting is accelerating. Record heatwaves are roasting Europe. The world’s insects are dying off. The scary news keeps accumulating.

We are living on the edge of an emergency that is just getting started, and climate is only the half of it. There’s also an ecological emergency. How are we to respond? It’s easy to slip into complacency, or to be overcome by fear, followed by a sense of impotence. You know the crises are real, but the children are coming to visit, there’s a holiday to plan, and don’t get me started on the problems we’re having at work.

The first step to end complacency and neutralize fear is to put the crisis on your weekly to-do list:

  • Weed the garden
  • Visit your friend in hospital
  • Sign the kids up for karate/soccer/piano/dancing lessons
  • Do something to tackle the climate and ecological crises

If you can organize a household meeting, so much the better. The possibilities for action then fall into three simple categories: political action, household action and community action. All are needed. Choosing any one of the three is good.

1. Political Climate and Ecological Action

Political action is so much easier if you do it with others, either by joining a local climate action group, or if one doesn’t exist by forming one with friends, putting the word out among your friends on on social media. Once your group is are sitting around a table, the question becomes “What shall we do?” The possibilities are many, and they can easily feel overwhelming. So here’s a list to help you choose a goal you can agree on:

  • Petition your council – school board – chamber of commerce – labour union – provincial government to declare a climate and ecological emergency, and to draw up urgent action plans.
  • Spend a month doing some serious reading, to get yourselves up to speed (see box), then come back and share your insights.
  • Choose a candidate to support in the next local, provincial, state or federal election, and join their campaign.
  • Choose one dimension of either crisis and find a focus within it : transportation – energy – buildings –deforestation – the ocean – wildlife – green economy – A Green New Deal – a new civilizational story – climate education – opposing a fossil fuel development project – food and farming – local neighbourhood action.
  • Write to local organizations offering yourselves as speakers.
  • Give yourselves a name.

2. Household Climate and Ecological Action

One person eating less meat and buying an electric car might not make much difference, but if we use this as an excuse for doing nothing we will be personally responsible for the dark future our children will have to suffer.

I have written a Household Action List  with the intention that over five years, every of us should make the transition to becoming 100% climate and ecologically-friendly. So when you come to ‘tackle the climate crisis’ on your weekly to-do list, you can consult the list and choose a priority for the week, knowing that you have five years to get everything done. See below and here in a one-sided printable form: Household Action List

Over the next five years the price of electric vehicles will fall, support for home retrofits will improve, and most of the actions on the list will become normal. Here’s an incentive to go ahead and buy an EV. In a KIA Soul EV, it costs just $15 drive 1,000 kilometres, and the annual servicing charge is $59.95.

3. Community Climate and Ecological Action

To tackle the emergencies with the urgency that’s required we are going to need massive citizen engagement, street by street, block by block. In Britain, during World War II, victory would not have been possible without the millions of people who volunteered to join the Red Cross, the YMCA, the Women’s Voluntary Service, the St John Ambulance Brigade, Oxfam, and the Home Guard, which by June 1940 had 1.5 million volunteers.

We need to imagine local climate and ecological emergency organizations whose volunteers are trained to visit every home on their block and to invite people to kitchen-table meetings. The goal of the meetings would be to people get to know each other, show them the Friendly Footprint list, help them decide what to do, and call on them every so often to ask how its going. With organization, each volunteer could have shared access to a thermal imaging camera that neighbors could use to show them where their homes are losing heat, and a Kill-a-Watt meter to understand how much power each appliance uses.

A few of your neighbours (6% of Canadians, 2018 Angus Reid poll) may think that the climate crisis is a hoax, but the neat thing about this approach is that it really doesn’t matter. It’s a five-year transition, and during that time a lot can happen. If we just start with the 38% of Canadians who believe that “our survival depends on addressing climate change”, who we’ll be making a great start.

Guy Dauncey is author of The Climate Challenge: 101 Solutions to Global Warming (2009) and Journey to the Future: A Better World is Possible (2015).

Climate Emergency Reading

The Climate Challenge: 101 Solutions to Global Warming , by Guy Dauncey (2009)

The Climate Mobilization Victory Plan, by Ezra Silk (2016)

Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, by Paul Hawken (2017)

Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low-Carbon Energy, by Hal Harvey (2018)

This is Not a Drill: The Extinction Rebellion Handbook (2019)

No-one is Too Small to Make a Difference, by Greta Thunberg (2019)

Ecological Emergency Reading

Eradicating Ecocide: Exposing the corporate and political practices destroying the world and proposing the laws needed to eradicate ecocide, by Polly Higgins (2010)

The World is Blue: How Our Fate and the Oceans Are One, by Sylvia Earle (2010)

Enough is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources, by Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill (2013)

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert (2014)

Prosperity without Growth: Foundations for the Economy of Tomorrow, by Tim Jackson (2010, 2017)

Eating Tomorrow: Agribusiness, Family Farmers, and the Battle for the Future of Food, by Timothy A. Wise (2019)

A Climate and Ecological Emergency

Household Action List

Household Planning

2020 2021 2022 2023 2024
Talk to the neighbours about helping each other with this list          
Talk to friends to discuss forming a climate action group          
Shift to cycling and/or transit
Buy an electric vehicle
Flights: Don’t fly/buy carbon offsets
Switch to LED lightbulbs
Upgrade to the most efficient appliances
Do a home energy retrofit: insulate, reduce heat-leaks, reduce costs
Install a heat-pump 
Install solar PV. 4kw system = $8,000. Only needed where power comes from fossil fuels, or new grid power is needed.
If you have market choice, switch to a renewable electricity provider
Assemble a household emergency preparedness kit
Switch to an electric mower, weed-eater, chainsaw
Grow food 100% organically, without pesticides
Practice home composting
Harvest rainwater in tanks, swales and ponds
Create habitat for birds, bats, bees, native plants and wildlife
Plant ten trees
Save seeds for next year
Switch to a climate-friendly bank
Switch to climate-friendly investments
Become a certified green business
Become a certified B Corporation
Buy organic food
Switch to sustainable seafood    
Reduce red meat to once a week
Eliminate non-sustainable conflict palm oil products
Buy sustainable harm-free snack food
Buy tree-free or 100% recycled paper, tissues, toilet-paper
Buy safe cosmetics
Buy Fair-Trade, slave-free chocolate
Buy green household cleaning products
Buy nature-friendly clothing, sustainable fashion
Embrace zero-waste shopping
Use re-useable water bottles, mugs, bags, take-away containers
Aim at sending zero waste to the landfill
The End
Leave a legacy for climate and nature in your will
Plan a beautiful green burial

Guy Dauncey 2019


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