Personal actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

The July 12, 2017, article in Environmental Research Letters, The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions, by Seth Wynes and Kimberly A Nicholas, estimates the annual amount of greenhouse gas emissions that would be saved by various personal actions.

“We recommend four widely applicable high-impact (i.e. low emissions) actions with the potential to contribute to systemic change and substantially reduce annual personal emissions: having one fewer child (an average for developed countries of 58.6 tonnes CO2-equivalent (tCO2e) emission reductions per year), living car-free (2.4 tCO2e saved per year), avoiding airplane travel (1.6 tCO2e saved per roundtrip transatlantic flight) and eating a plant-based diet (0.8 tCO2e saved per year). These actions have much greater potential to reduce emissions than commonly promoted strategies like comprehensive recycling

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The following minute was approved by Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) this summer.

Radically reducing fossil fuel use has long been a concern of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative).  A previously approved Minute urged us to reduce our use of personal automobiles.  We have continued to be challenged by the design of our communities that makes this difficult.  This is even more challenging in rural areas.  But our environmental crisis means we must find ways to address this issue quickly.

Friends are encouraged to challenge themselves and to simplify their lives in ways that can enhance their spiritual environmental integrity. One of our meetings uses the term “ethical transportation,” which is a helpful way to be mindful of this.

Long term, we need to encourage ways to make our communities “walkable”, and to expand public transportation systems.  These will require major changes in infrastructure and urban planning.

Carpooling and community shared vehicles would help.  We can develop ways to coordinate neighbors needing to travel to shop for food, attend meetings, visit doctors, etc.  We could explore using existing school buses or shared vehicles to provide intercity transportation. 

One immediately available step would be to promote the use of bicycles as a visible witness for non-fossil fuel transportation.  Friends may forget how easy and fun it can be to travel miles on bicycles.  Neighbors seeing families riding their bicycles to Quaker meetings would have an impact on community awareness.  This is a way for our children to be involved in this shared witness.  We should encourage the expansion of bicycle lanes and paths.  We can repair and recycle unused bicycles, and make them available to those who have the need.

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