On this day of Climate Action, and in light of the fact that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s “pages relating to climate change, climate science, the impacts of climate change and what readers can do about climate change are all gone from the live site” to “reflect the agency’s new direction under President Donald Trump and Administrator Scott Pruitt” (read: Koch brothers)…
[A direction, I would argue, that can only be described as dragging our collective heads into the proverbial sand – but actually literally Middle East sand, Canadian tar sands, sand at the bottom of the ocean – until we decide to bang our heads against the proverbial wall – that wall of oil shale rock that blankets the United States – anywhere where that black gold can be found and extracted at whatever cost (and let’s not forget to manipulate markets to make it profitable to extract no matter where it lies)…But, I’m getting sidetracked…]
I thought I’d post a list of quickly brainstormed ideas around climate-related actions I can take in line with Life’s Principles so I have less of, and in some cases a regenerative impact on the planet (because remember, it’s not about just doing less bad, it’s about finding ways to be a regenerative participant in life’s systems!). We will change our story through our actions, so paying specific attention to how we live our lives (walk the talk) makes a difference. Perhaps my ideas will inspire you to do something you hadn’t thought of, and I’m sure there are umpteen more things I could be doing – I’d love to know what actions you are taking!
So let me dive right in. (btw, this is the Biomimicry 3.8 Life’s Principles list and definitions, used with permission)
Be Locally Attuned and Responsive
Fit into and integrate with the surrounding environment.
- Pay attention to the wildlife around me and do not get complacent about the changes I see.
- Respond with actions to mitigate the climate change that is precipitating the changes I see.
- Find ways to take action here at home and in my community.
- Collect, pay attention and respond to feedback when community climate action proposals don’t pass, and adjust proposals accordingly.
- Notice if plants in my yard aren’t attracting and supporting a diversity of animals throughout the year and insects and adjust plantings accordingly.
- Identify challenges I have with material goods and see if these are opportunities for neighborhood community-scale responses (like finding second-hand sports equipment, sharing power and garden tools, etc.). (to reduce the amount of material goods needed and all the climate implications of those goods). Love the idea of a community tool library! And we have some email & online platforms for second-hand goods, but some things are more challenging than others to find.
Leverage Cyclic Processes
Take Advantage of phenomena that repeat themselves
- Leverage my own cycles of purchasing and actions so that I can make myself successful in trying to change my behaviors (like remembering to take bags to the grocery store, remembering to think first about using materials around the house before going to buy new materials, etc.).
Use Readily Available Materials and Energy
Build with abundant, accessible materials while harnessing freely available energy.
- Don’t simply buy things when a need arises – think about it first and use what’s available before heading to a store!
- Reuse unused materials in our house for new project when possible.
- Investigate the possibility of a solar water heater system, or even solar panels.
- Use materials from our garden (like sticks) to built a trellis for our vegetables.
- When we have to head to the store, find local second-hand goods where possible.
- Bike or walk whenever possible. (I need to do better at this, but I try!)
- Use scrap paper for grocery lists, kids drawings, etc.
- Use reusable bags.
Use Feedback Loops
Engage in cyclic information flows to modify a reaction appropriately.
- Participate in local community climate action discussions.
- Understand and “speak the language” when trying to bring on board potential partners who aren’t necessarily thinking about these issues. What makes them tick, and how can that make a solution even better?
- Learn more about how to most effectively participate in and use social media to effectively achieve goals.
- A clear feedback loop is that the old guard is worried about losing its power as we transition to a non-fossil fuel based economy. NOW is the time to step up our actions exponentially.
- And in line with that, clear indications of the crazy future we will face are everywhere along the coasts as cities are being inundated with sea water, and evidence points to climate chaos nearing at an alarming rate according to scientists. NOW is the time to act.
Cultivate Cooperative Relationships
Find value through win-win interactions.
- Identify synergies between friends, businesses and communities for opportunities to work together on any of these ideas!
- Join the Oak Park Environment & Energy Commission.
Use Life-Friendly Chemistry
Use chemistry that supports life processes.
- Use non-toxic cleaning chemicals in my house.
- Use methods in my garden that boost resilience against pests, and where needed don’t use chemicals to solve pest problems (use elbow grease!)
- Buy goods that are responsibly sourced and manufactured (we try our best).
- Buy organic everything.
- Never buy anything with a chrome finish.
- Drive my gasoline car as little as possible.
- Reduce use of fossil fuel-based plastics (which are so insidious…sigh).
Break Down Materials into Benign Constituents
Use chemistry in which decomposition results in no harmful by-products.
- See above. I’m not manufacturing anything, so my hope is that by adhering to keeping the use of toxic chemicals to a minimum in what I buy, when they break down they are benign in the environment. This is a hard one to control on an individual level with the exception of controlling what I purchase and use on a daily basis.
Build Selectively with a Small Subset of Elements
Assemble relatively few elements in elegant ways.
- Hmmm…being creative with what I have and using my stuff in different configurations to achieve different results depending on needs (functions) without buying new stuff.
Do Chemistry in Water
Use water as a solvent.
- Again, for me this is probably limited to my purchasing power and buying water-based products, such as the oil wax finish I just purchased to stain my reclaimed wood.
Use Low Energy Processes
Minimize energy consumption by reducing requisite temperatures, pressures and/or time for reactions.
- All those energy efficiency things we are told to do – daylighting, LED light bulbs, turning off and unplugging electronics when not in use, energy efficient appliances, etc.
- Buy renewable energy from the utility (we don’t have on-site renewables).
- Walk and bike whenever possible.
- Combine many errands into one trip to minimize mileage in car.
Use Multi-Functional Design
Meet Multiple Needs with one elegant solution.
- Learn permaculture.
- Use furniture that serves multiple purposes.
- Buy kitchen appliances or furniture that do multiple things, not just one (the number of single-function kitchen appliances is astounding, and you pretty much don’t need 90% of them)
- Design spaces for multiple functions (like our playroom that is also a guest bedroom that is also a music studio that is also a…)
Recycle All Materials
Keep all materials in a closed loop.
- Recycle all the materials I can – first in my home through reuse, and if we have no use for them, through our community recycling program.
- Buy products with recycled content wherever possible.
- Keep garden clippings in the yard, compost.
- Incorporate circular economy thinking into any action I try to get done in my community!
Fit Form to Function
Select for shape or pattern based on need.
- I think the key to this is “based on need.” Hardly anything in our consumer society is based on “need”, but rather “want.” I’ll continue to make sure whatever I buy is based on need and that it effectively and efficiently performs the function, and preferably more than one function.
Integrate Development with Growth
Invest optimally in strategies that promote both development and growth.
- Keep my actions and learning opportunities aligned. Don’t go off in multiple directions! Make sure everything I do is rooted in my core goals.
- Teach my kids age-appropriate lessons about climate change (and other related topics) to inform their actions and opinions, and continually add more complex information as they get older to further develop their understanding and actions.
Create conditions to allow components to interact in concert to move toward an enriched system.
- I wish I could do this better personally. Haha!
- Find groups that are interested in climate action and find common ground between them, so they can leverage each other to create better solutions.
Build from the Bottom Up
Assemble components one unit at a time.
- Choose my battles/opportunities one at a time, and pick the next one to build momentum from the previous.
Combine Modular and Nested Components
Fit multiple units within each other progressively from simple to complex.
- Hmm…I’m stumped.
Evolve to Survive
Continually incorporate and embody information to ensure enduring performance.
- Make sure to keep up-to-date on the latest science and actions to learn from others and incorporate their lessons learned in my own actions.
Replicate Strategies that Work
Repeat successful approaches.
- Try to get community to use Project Drawdown strategies!
- Learn from others and repeat successful approaches.
- Take better stock of what does and doesn’t work for me and try to repeat those that do (like
- how to trick myself into bringing reusable bags to the grocery store)
Integrate the Unexpected
- Incorporate mistakes in ways that lead to new forms and functions.
Take the time to see my failures as opportunities for positive change.
Exchange and alter information to create new options.
- Always think about the information I have through different lenses, and exchange ideas with others, to identify new opportunities for action and change.
Adapt to Changing Conditions
Appropriately respond to dynamic contexts.
- Don’t bury my head in the sand! Grr.
- Change my approach/actions with respect to climate change when the context demands it. Which means that because it is clear that the Trump administration is waging a war on science and actions to mitigate climate change, and because evidence of the acceleration of climate change is increasingly alarming, we need to step up our response NOW.
Include multiple forms, processes or systems to meet a functional need.
- Try to engage people and organizations at all different scales (whether that’s at the individual, community, regional, national, global scales), taking different actions, responding to the problem differently, as it makes sense with respect to local actions.
Maintain Integrity Through Self-Renewal
Persist by constantly adding energy and matter to heal and improve the system.
- I also need to work on this personally! Find ways to self-renew (through getting outside, exercise, hobbies, etc.)
- Find out what makes people tick about this challenge – their energy will improve the effort
- Always reach out to new people to bring into the effort
Embody Resilience Through Variation, Redundancy and Decentralization
Maintain function following disturbance by incorporating a variety of duplicate forms, processes or systems that are not located exclusively together.
- The fight against climate change will take local actions across the globe. Help to make the local response more robust by creating programs that are diverse, redundant and decentralized, while finding ways to leverage our successes in the global movement (to share and help make other efforts also resilient).