Climate and Energy
"I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy.
What a source of power!
I hope we don't have to wait 'til oil and coal run out before we tackle that."
- Thomas Edison
 

Ten Ways to Cool Your Summer

1. Plant Some Trees

The floor of the Amazon rainforest, deep in the tropics, is cool and shady because the trees provide shade. Likewise, a city street that is shaded by trees will always be cooler than one that is not. Trees are amazing. They were among the first species to colonize the land, 400 million years ago, and they’re still going strong. A large tree can lift 100 gallons of water up from the ground every day and disperse it into the air – no wonder it feels so good to be around them. So talk to your friends or family, and make the commitment. Tree Canada will help you – over ten years, their planting partners have planted over 75 million trees. If you want to offset your carbon emissions, however, you’d best get busy. You’ll need 500 full-sized trees to absorb the CO2 from a typical car that’s driven 20,000 km a year.
See www.treecanada.ca

2. Plant a Garden

The more local food we grow, the less has to be shipped up from Florida or Mexico, pumping carbon emissions all the way. Our ancestors have done it for countless generations, so your skills are not far buried. You don’t even need to dig up the soil! As long as you’ve got a patch of lawn, you can turn it into a productive vegetable garden by using “Lasagna Gardening”, layering lime, manure, cardboard, leaf mulch, and soil to create a raised bed. If you’ve only got a balcony, you can still grow bush beans, tomatoes, and strawberries in baskets and pots. See www.tinyurl.com/53fx6b

3. Hold a 100 Mile Diet Potluck

The average item of food travelled 2500 km before it reached your plate. Pity the poor tomato, spending all that time in a truck, and no-one ever said “this tastes so great!” at the end of its journey. Not so the local sun-ripened organic tomato, guaranteed to make your senses burst, while cooling the climate. So try it out! Invite your friends to a 100-Mile Potluck in which all the food they bring must have been grown within 100 miles of where you live. See www.100milediet.org

4. Organize a Street Party

How many neighbours do you know on your block? If you invite them to a street party, you’ll soon know them all. It needn’t be a huge affair. If you want to do it on the street, you’ll need a city permit; you could also do it someone’s backyard. The key thing is to invite everyone in person – don’t just put a notice through the door. Knock, and introduce yourself. Once they know it’s happening, you’ll soon have help with the details. Put some thought into ice-breakers, to get everyone chatting and laughing as they meet their neighbours. See www.streetparty.net

5. Do Nothing

And I mean – nothing! That means lying on your back watching the clouds go by, or sitting watching the motes of dust in a sunbeam. Let time slow down so much that it comes to a complete halt. And yes, falling asleep is OK, but not in front of the telly, because that’s a version of something – and someone else’s something, too. True nothing, by definition, is always yours, and no-one else’s. And don’t let self-judgment, spousal judgment or parental judgment get in the way, filling your mind with little bits of nonsense. You have an absolute right to do absolutely nothing, for at least part of every day. (Once you’ve washed the dishes…) See www.nowebsite.org

6. Park your Car for a Week

Can you get where you need to go for a whole week by foot, bike, boat, bus, train, or carsharing, without using your car? For every litre of gas that you don’t burn, 0.64 kilograms of carbon, released from ancient 200 million years old fossil fuel, will not turn into 2.34 kilograms of carbon dioxide and enter the atmosphere, where it will remain for up to 200 years, trapping excess heat that will threaten both our world, and our great, great, great grandchildren’s world. See www.worldcarfree.net

7. Go on a Hiking or Cycling Tour

Quebec has some of the best cycling trails in the world, with over 4,000 km of safe, off-road trails on the Route Verte, voted “the best bicycle route in the world” by the National Geographic Society. Victoria, on the west coast, also has great long-distance cycling trails – and so does Calgary. As for hiking, if you search “hiking trails Canada” you’ll find all sorts of links. See www.routeverte.com

8. Read a Good Book

There’s nothing like an afternoon in a hammock, buried into a book that really engages you. For a better understanding into how we can cool the climate, I recommend The Weathermakers, by Tim Flannery, Fight Global Warming Now, by Bill McKibben, and Heat, by George Monbiot. If they’re not in your local bookseller, you can find them online through the world’s most amazing second hand bookshop, based in Victoria, which integrates 13,500 other such shops around the world. See www.abebooks.com

9. Become a Climate Activist

We need to cool the whole world’s summer – and rapidly. In most communities, people want to get engaged, but they waiting for someone to take the initiative – like you? An easy way to start is to invite your friends to a four-week discussion course, such as the one offered by the Canadian Earth Institute called Global Warming – Changing CO2urse. You don’t need to be “the expert” – it’s a cooperative learning approach that is simple and fun, and lends itself to action. See www.canadianearthinstitute.org

10. Savour the Local Beer

What is beer, anyway? It’s just water, instilled with very satisfying flavours. So why burn fossil fuels to ship that water across Canada or the world, when there are local breweries that make equally delicious beer, using local water? Drinking locally brewed ale has to be one of the easiest ways to cool the world. Avoid the cans; for the most climate friendly local beer, you want it on tap, or in a recyclable bottle. See www.realbeer.com


Guy Dauncey is a west coast author and public speaker who enjoys his local Victoria ales. He is author or co-author of several books, including Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change.