Tackling the low-hanging fruit of transformative change is like eating leftovers (often it’s actually just eating actual leftovers, like over-ripe bananas or cold pizza, and eliminating food waste right in your own kitchen, done and done).
Leftovers aren’t necessarily the sexiest choice, but eating them can be 1) goddamn delicious; 2) the most efficient choice; and 3) in the short term, the most impactful -- because it’s the most immediately doable.
The pizza is right there in your fridge in a half-closed Zip-lock you’ve earnestly tried to reuse to do...something. Anything.
I’m here to tell you, the little things add up. Action begets action. Start small.
Take methane, for example.
Some 80+ times more potent than carbon dioxide when measured in something called “global warming potentials” (we don’t need to get into the math here. It’s bad).
Yes, yes, in many cases methane is a natural by-product of some ecosystems and has been for billions of years. Sure.
But when we talk about tackling methane, it means using planes and some super fucking cool new satellites to identify -- in real-time -- massive, frequent leaks from wells and pipelines; to cancel any new fossil gas infrastructure; to provide incentives and rebates, combined with regulation, to get gas cooktops and furnaces right the hell out of homes everywhere; and to stop raising a trillion cows for slaughter for smashed burgers, because increased big ag land use means fewer rainforests, which means it’s getting even warmer, which means all those marshes and also the melting/burning Arctic will spit out more methane and CO2 than we can even imagine.
Here’s the good news.
The half-life of methane is so short compared to CO2 that eliminating as many sources as possible will buy us a substantial amount of time as we decarbonize the power sector, and transportation, etc -- in fact, it could slow the rate of warming by something like 30%. That’s nuts.
And it’s all doable with current tech.
Thanks to hard-working folks across America, we’ve shed most of our dependency on coal. But we made it up with all this unprofitable fossil gas. For context, here’s a map of how much of your power is coming from gas right this second.
The science is undisputed, btw -- here’s 45 peer-reviewed papers describing how the methane issue is way worse than anticipated, which helps illustrate why CARBON reductions have been offset by methane leaks.
What are some similar low-hanging fruit across the INI spectrum? Thanks for asking.
COVID vaccines, which are free, and safe, should be mandated everywhere, for everything, and because they’re more difficult to access for some, we should both pay people to get them and give them paid time off to get them, because the costs to do so are absolutely dwarfed by what the pandemic has done to the economy, but more specifically, to frontlines workers own physical and mental health, and to low-income households, many of which are food insecure for the first time.
If aliens had shown up and killed -- at bare minimum -- four and a half million humans in just a year and a half, simply by making us breathe on one another in close contact, we would probably mandate vaccines to, say, attend an NFL game with 70,000 of our closest friends.
Just to stick it to the aliens, you know?
But we haven’t quite done that yet, because #freedom.
Looking ahead, we know our overuse of antibiotics in animals (see cattle, above) and at urgent cares, handed out for viruses “just in case”, is going to catch up to us and make COVID look like those same sore throats that don’t really react to antibiotics anymore.
We should ban fast food advertising, and sugar advertising to kids, and make healthy foods more affordable, and provide farmers incentives to grow and sell lentils.
We should spend whatever it takes to electrify school buses and USPS trucks, because you’d make a huge dent in street-level air pollution in every neighborhood in America.
We should make public transportation free, and build a million universally-accessible EV charging stations over the next five years, starting in low-income neighborhoods.
We should outlaw smoking and e-cigarettes, full stop.
It’s all connected.
Do all of just these things and the next cardiorespiratory pandemic won’t be nearly as fatal, oh, and our health care system won’t be as crushed by pre-existing conditions in non-pandemic years, and maybe we could pivot to wellness.
Most of these changes require political and/or corporate will, and yes, that’s a toss-up these days, but I’m not really sure what other signals we need to start just going down the list and improving society and lives.
There’s a very powerful compound interest in making the easiest improvements to connected systems (for instance, I no longer stock cookies in the office), but it requires at least acknowledging a deep generalism across the systems -- the kind I try to provide here.
Do Better Better: Look at your home, your businesses, your investments, your activism, and find the easiest wins today, and this weekend.
Action begets action, and then we’re on our way.