Guest Columnist Joe Silverman: It's not easy to be green

For years, the Daily Hampshire Gazette has done a great job reporting climate change news, which has included publishing numerous columns...



For years, the Daily Hampshire Gazette has done a great job reporting climate change news, which has included publishing numerous columns and letters on this important topic. I have traveled to other parts of the country and noted the absence of such news in their local newspapers. I am also delighted to read that the Gazette wishes to expand its coverage of climate news.

Solutions to the climate crisis typically focus on the systemic changes needed to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions; however, an overlooked X factor is the importance of personal and community action. Changing the energy source from fossil fuels to renewables is absolutely necessary but probably not sufficient, as choices made by the public are necessary to reduce the demand for this energy. A recent report from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) cited two studies that found household consumption and lifestyle choices account for about two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions. The International Energy Agency has agreed that behavioral changes are needed to meet the IPCC’s goal of keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius.

While many are doing what they can to reduce their personal carbon footprint, to a large extent the “average” lifestyle has remained the status quo. For example, while it is well known that trees are good at sequestering carbon, less than 2% of toilet paper sold in America comes from recycled paper. Although the climate crisis is a highly partisan issue, carbon emissions from heavy traffic are more prevalent in urban and traditionally democratic areas. Sadly, even among those who understand the urgency of the climate crisis, too many expect others – politicians, the business community and entrepreneurs – to “solve” the problem and the importance of personal decisions is downplayed.

The other factor hampering the efforts of individuals and communities is that, to use a phrase from Kermit the Frog, “it’s not easy to be green”.

In many cases this can be more expensive, what Bill Gates calls the “green premium”. If it costs more to buy green products, they will have competition problems in the market. However, the UNEP report also found that the emissions of the richest 10% are much higher than those of the lower 50%. As a result, the green premium would – and should – be paid primarily by those who can well afford it.

In addition, it is often difficult to know what is the “right” thing to do. The products do not come with labels indicating their carbon impact and consumers cannot take this into account in their purchasing decisions. Even when you’re motivated to make sustainability a factor in lifestyle decisions, it’s not always easy to know which choices will have the most impact.

A positive trend is that many “green” products are being made by new, small companies. There are household and personal care products that are made without chemicals and do not come packaged in large plastic containers. There are more and more alternatives to meat which are acceptable substitutes for the industrial beef industry. However, the companies that create these climate-friendly products have problems competing with multinationals because they do not have the established brand or the funds for traditional advertising.

In addition to the crisis in our climate, there is also a crisis in American democracy, and one factor is the decline of local newspapers. A Pew Research study found that between 2000 and 2018, weekday newspaper circulation increased from 55.8 million households to around 28.6 million. Between 2008 and 2019, newsroom employment fell 51%, and since 2004 more than 1,800 local newspapers have closed.

The decline in local news reporting has been correlated with increased corruption, lack of accountability of politicians, less competitive elections and weaker municipal finances. And, at a time when our former president constantly accused major and reputable news sources of “bogus,” the trust people have in local news becomes even more important.

But there might be a way both to educate the public on ways to reduce their carbon footprint while supporting our local newspapers. There could be, for example, an article detailing the environmental impacts of laundry detergents in large plastic containers coupled with advertising for sustainable alternatives or the impacts of cutting trees to make paper products with advertisements for toilet paper or towels made from 100% recycled paper. The climate impact of traditional lawns, including emissions from gasoline-powered lawn equipment, could be described with advertisements for battery-powered alternatives and advice on home and pollinator gardens as options for grass lawns. . A report on the environmental damage caused by corporate beef farming could be described with advertisements promoting plant-based alternatives and promotions for cookbooks, meal delivery services or websites. offering vegetarian or vegan options.

I think the regular addition of climate information to newspapers could generate a new source of income for newspapers while providing a public service that could attract a younger population of new subscribers who would appreciate this information.

This proposal would be more effective if the functionality was adopted by more than one newspaper. There is obviously a precedent for syndicating content, such as comics, daily horoscopes, and even news from The Associated Press and Reuters. The success of this concept, as well as the future of our planet, could be expressed in the adage according to which there is strength. If one person takes action to deal with the climate crisis, there is little impact, but if millions of people do the same, it makes a big difference.

Joe Silverman lives in Florence.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Guest Columnist Joe Silverman: It's not easy to be green
Guest Columnist Joe Silverman: It's not easy to be green
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