Dirty Dishes and Climate Change: Taking a Small First Step Toward a Safer Future
Reposted from the Huffington Post:
I hate cleaning the kitchen. I put it off until it becomes a growling, reeking monster. Dishes piled high in the sink; the ancient garbage evolving into a cranky sentient creature. Of course, at that point there's no way I could even imagine starting the job. It's too overwhelming, too big. Usually, the only way out of this mental standoff is a catastrophic event, like friends or family visiting on short notice. Then I whirl into emergency mode working frantically to clean everything up.
As I've been told many times, it doesn't have to be this way. Even when the job seems too big, take it in chunks, something easy first, build your momentum. The science of behavior change supports our common sense instincts on this. Shrink the problem, shrink the change. It turns out, this approach works for big problems beyond my kitchen -- from eating healthy to getting more exercise to moving away from dangerous fossil fuels and tackling climate change.
Sometimes the first step can be the hardest ("the dishes or the trash?"). Other times it's as easy as flipping off a light switch. No, not permanently; just for an hour, Earth Hour.
On Saturday, March 23, the world will celebrate the 7th annual Earth Hour. Earth Hour began in 2007 in one city, Sydney, Australia, which had seen the extremes of a climate future first hand, including devastating droughts and wildfires. Local activists felt that regular folks in their hometown needed a way to show that people like them cared about the growing risks of climate change.
So Earth Hour was born. In an unprecedented event, big buildings, little restaurants and homes all over Australia switched off their lights for one hour to show support for climate action. A total of two million people and 2,000 businesses joined in. By last year, Earth Hour had become the largest voluntary action for the environment in human history -- people celebrated on all seven continents, in nearly 7,000 cities and 152 countries. And it started with those first small steps in Australia.
Small first steps -- tackling the dishes or flipping a light switch -- create momentum for next steps. And getting ahead of a big problem like climate change before those catastrophic events start becoming commonplace is critical. So last year, the Earth Hour City Challenge was born, allowing people all over America and in six other countries to take action in their hometowns to stand up to extreme weather and climate change. Over the past 12 months, Americans in 2,000 U.S. cities have challenged their mayors and city councils to switch to renewable energy and prepare for climate change. Many of those cities have responded to the challenge and created plans to prepare for climate change and switch from fossil fuels.
I wrote about a few of those cities here, including the amazing story of Cincinnati, Ohio switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy for 100 percent of its electricity needs by 2014. Now, that even makes cleaning up my kitchen look like small potatoes! Or San Francisco which was just chosen by an independent jury of experts as the first "Earth Hour City Capital" in the United States. Surrounded on three sides by the ocean, San Francisco takes climate change and sea level rise very seriously. Its inspiring plan to power the city with green energy, produce zero waste and bring all parts of city government, the private sector and the public together to prepare for climate change makes it an example for communities around the world.
This kind of change is possible, it's happening and it's because of small steps by normal folks like us. On Saturday at 8:30 p.m., you can take your next step during Earth Hour. Urge your community to participate and send a small ripple of change out into the world. Then switch off for an hour -- have a candlelit dinner, host a dance party in the dark. Who says change has to be hard?
Now about that kitchen...
Vancouver crowned Earth Hour Capital 2013. Press release from Earth Hour City Challenge, 19 March 2013.
World cities take the lead on essential climate action. Press release from Earth Hour City Challenge, 17 January 2013.
Earth Hour City Challenge: Edmonton, AB and Richmond, BC. Press release from WWF Canada, 17 January 2013.
World Cities compete for Earth Hour Capitals. Press release from ICLEI Global, 17 January 2013.
ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability USA. See ICLEI's In Hottest Year on Record, a Wake Up Call for Cities and Counties, a fact sheet on how 20 leading cities and counties experienced extreme weather and climate impacts in 2012, and how they are responding through climate adaptation.
- City of Atlanta to Participate in Earth Hour 2013. 22 March 2013
- Dirty Dishes and Climate Change: Taking a Small First Step Toward a Safer Future. 20 March 2013.
- San Francisco Named Earth Hour Capital. 20 March 2013.
- Landmarks across the world go dark to celebrate major environmental outcomes for Earth Hour. 20 March 2013.
- Millions Across the Globe to “Go Dark” for Earth Hour on March 23; San Francisco named 2013 U.S. Earth Hour City Capital. 19 March 2013.
- Vancouver Crowned Global Earth Hour Capital 2013 "for Its Innovative Actions on Climate Change. 19 March 2013.
- The Greatest American (Climate) Heroes . 5 March 2013.
- Chicago, Cincinnati, San Francisco Recognized for Citywide Efforts to Address Climate Change. 17 January 2013.
- Video introduction to WWF's Earth Hour City Challenge, 13 Sep 2012.
- Earth Hour 2012 Kicks-Off WWF City Challenge, 1 April 2012.
- Video: Arizona Public Media Interview with two Leaders of Tucson's Efforts to Address Climate Change , 30 March 2012,
- "Power to Prepare Tucson" Summit: Faced with more Extreme Weather, Citizens Engage in City's Climate Preparedness Efforts, 28 March 2012.
- International Panel Highlights “Climate Resilient Cities,” as Communities Mobilize for Changing Weather Patterns , 28 March 2012.
- Former EPA Administrator William K. Reilly: On Climate Change, Cities May "Save Us From the Ideological Gridlock in Washington,” 11 November 2011