Climate Change is Everything

Happy Earth Day!

Last night I went to hear New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman speak about climate change and its ties to income inequality, and how there needs to be a united progressive movement to combat the selfish and devastating actions of the fossil fuel industry.  AG Schneiderman is leading the charge to investigate fossil fuel companies, most notably Exxon Mobil, to see what they knew about the effects of burning fossil fuels versus what they told the public and investors.

Now that he is getting attorney generals from other states involved, he has become the target of a smear campaign, which questions what he is doing and suggests that he is violating the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. His quote from the New York Times article, that he repeated last night:

“The First Amendment, ladies and gentlemen, does not give you the right to commit fraud.”

I am so grateful that I live in a state that is taking action against the fossil fuel industry, but I did feel removed from the Attorney General’s fight. I tried to be an environmental litigator for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, but I only lasted 10 months. Litigation just isn’t for me. Still, I support his actions and am so grateful for his courage.

The thing that really stuck out for me last night was Attorney General Schneiderman’s plea for the progressive movement to form a cohesive, united front against the selfish fossil fuel industry.

Climate change is not an environmental issue; it’s an issue that captures everything about our failing economic system, unsustainable lifestyle, and disconnected values. Climate change is connected to poverty and race because the poorest people and communities of color suffer the most. Climate change is connected to the economy because it destroys human structures and closes businesses (I just received an email from a dog boarding facility in Austin that is closing because they couldn’t recover from last year’s Memorial Day floods). Climate change is connected to mental health because it’s scary to live in a world where future safety is uncertain.

So happy Earth Day! Now get outside 🙂


Climate Change in Fahrenheit

Climate change has been an important issue to me since I learned about it in college over a decade ago, but I have to admit that I didn’t give the average rise in global temperatures much thought until about a year ago.

There has been much talk about reaching the “2 degree” rise in average global temperature, when the world reaches a climate change tipping point of no return, and then the “4 degree” rise in average global temperature, when all hell breaks loose.

These numbers just didn’t feel big and scary to me. And then one random day I realized… they’re in Celsius!

So in case I am not the only one, here are some average global temperature conversions to help out my fellow Americans:

  • 1 degree Celsius = 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit
  • 2 degrees Celsius = 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit
  • 3 degrees Celsius = 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit
  • 4 degrees Celsius = 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit

When the numbers are translated into the temperatures I grew up with, I feel the climate change issue on a deeper level. And I am a little embarrassed that it took me so long to figure it out.



There are certain things in life that I discover I really want, and when that passion hits me in the gut, I go to enormous lengths to reach my goal. This all-consuming, tireless effort is what I call ferret-bindering.

The following is an explanation of ferret-bindering:

When I was in middle school, I wanted to have a ferret for a pet, but my parents said no, absolutely not. I did not give up. Instead, I embarked on an elaborate campaign to receive the right to own a ferret.

For over a year, I wrote my parents letters explaining why I wanted a ferret, which I placed under their pillows. I used ferrets as the subject for all of my school reports. I read every book written about ferrets. I poured through my subscription to Modern Ferret Magazine. I surfed ferret websites on the 90’s Internet.

My final feat was a binder about ferrets. I sacrificed a few pages of Modern Ferret and cut out ferret pictures to glue to the front cover (see below). I used divider tabs to create binder sections: a collection of my school reports; Internet printouts; more cute pictures; and then my favorite, “My Ferret Life,” which was a handwritten plan for me to own a ferret (and still keep up with my other responsibilities!). I included a budget, daily schedule, pro and con list, and contracts for me and my parents to sign.

Ferret Binder
My ferret binder in all its glory.

The ferret binder cracked my parents’ resolve after a year-long campaign. For my 14th birthday, they gave me permission to own a ferret (best gift ever!). I was ecstatic.

Ferret-bindering: the process of going all-out to reach your goal, no matter how embarrassing, no matter how many times other people say no, and no matter how much work is involved when you could be having fun with your friends instead.

So why is this relevant? I am ferret-bindering Keeping Things Alive.


Grocery Shopping

Today I went grocery shopping, and I have a lot of thoughts about this activity, so it seems like a good place to start writing. I’ll be writing about food a lot because it’s a big part of my life – I’ve learned from good and bad experiences that what I eat has an effect on my entire life.

I’ve been going grocery shopping on my own for over ten years, but it’s only been over the past year or two that I’ve been implementing a strategy. This strategy has helped me buy only what I need (way less wasted food) and buy ingredients that I later combine and cook into a meal, as opposed to buying ready-made and/or processed foods.

So here are my grocery shopping steps:

  1. Before I leave the house, I find a small piece of paper. On the top half of the paper, I write out the next five or so days of the week and what I plan on eating for dinner on those days.
  2. On the bottom half of the paper on the left side, I write out all of the ingredients from the produce department that are needed to make the above dinners. I also add bananas and maybe another fruit or two for breakfast and snacks.
  3. On the bottom half of the paper on the right side, I write out all of the ingredients from the rest of the store (non-produce) that are needed to make the above dinners. I also add in cereal, almond milk, eggs, cheese, bread, chocolate, coffee, crackers, and any household items I need.

    wegmans list
    Today’s grocery shopping list.
  4. When I’m at the store, I keep the pen and list in my hand as I hunt down the items on my list and cross off each item as I put them in my cart. I get all of the produce items from the left side of my list first, and then I go around the rest of the store and grab the items listed on the right side.

That’s it.

I tend to cook similar things over and over again (soup, vegetable fried rice, lasagna), and once I learn the layout of the grocery store really well, I know where all the ingredients are and the trip goes by quickly. I also make large meals for dinner so I can eat them as leftovers for lunch, and I have no problem eating the same thing multiple days in a row. For breakfast, it’s almost always Ezekiel 4:9 cereal with a sliced banana, and a fried egg with salsa on the side.

One more thought: the incredibly huge grocery stores I’ve grown up with have conditioned me to expect access to countless varieties of fruits and vegetables regardless of the season or climate. Today I was looking for organic carrots, and received a reminder that the produce I buy really does depend on real-world weather conditions:

CA carrots are struggling

This is an example of severe weather affecting food production on a large scale. Although severe weather has been happening throughout world history, one of the effects of climate change is more frequent severe weather events. As time marches on, consumers are going to see these types of food production disruptions on a more frequent basis. Being flexible, adaptable, and more self-sufficient is important in this time of increasingly frequent and disruptive change.


“I Like Listening to You Talk About It”

It’s been about four months since I’ve worked on Keeping Things Alive, but I haven’t lost my drive to create it. I’ve just been attending to family stuff, moving, and learning a new job.

So hello again! It’s good to be back.

I recently had dinner with a friend who is smart and enjoys being outdoors, but we had never talked about environmental issues before. So after talking about other topics for a while, I randomly asked, “what do you think about climate change?”

He got quiet and I could feel his brain turning to come up with an answer. After a substantial pause, all he could say was, “I like listening to you talk about it.”

So I’m taking that as my cue to talk about it. My hope is that others will follow my lead and I’ll have longer climate change conversations in the future.

A lot has changed in the world since I last posted. On December 12, 2015, 195 countries signed the Paris Climate Agreement, which over 130 countries are expected to ratify on April 22 (Earth Day!). Honestly, I haven’t read the Paris Climate Agreement. As a trained lawyer that cares about climate change, I should (I struggle with that word) read it, but I haven’t and I probably won’t. I believe it’s more important for me to be writing, cooking, hiking, and spending time with loved ones.

I’m also much more interested in what happened outside of the negotiation room walls – in Paris and around the world. Last December, hundreds of thousands of people came together all over the globe to support the climate agreement, vocalize their concerns, and connect with others.

I believe that the citizen actions surrounding the Paris climate conference significantly contributed to the agreement, and that this type of work and love is what is needed to build a better future. I have hope that it can continue.

But I recognize that it’s hard to maintain climate action momentum in the face of violence, fear, and hate. The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election has taken over public discourse (at least in the U.S.), and it feels like the entire nation is stuck in a hamster-wheel of chaos until a decision is made, which won’t happen until November! Ugh.

I understand that who is President is important, but this election is sucking up the time, energy, and brainpower of people (not just politicians – all citizens) who could be making the world a better place instead.

So I’m doing my best to focus on what I have control over. I can:

  • work hard at my new job;
  • build relationships with family and friends;
  • connect with people that are building a better community in Buffalo and contribute my skills;
  • cook food using healthy ingredients;
  • tutor a Vietnamese woman who wants to pass her high school equivalency exam; and
  • create a website to share the environmental knowledge I’ve acquired over the past decade.

None of these actions are big, but I have control over them all, they push the ball forward, and they have a positive impact on myself and others. It’s the best I can do.