There’s a lot that keeps me up at night – parenting stress, relationship stress, pandemic stress, work stress, house stress. I often wake up and my brain gets fixated on a problem and I can’t fall back asleep. Most of the problems I have the power to fix (they’re not easy but at least I have some control), but when it comes to climate change the problems are huge and I often feel overwhelmed.
We need to decarbonize our electricity, electrify transportation, change how we heat our homes, and eat more sustainably. It’s a daunting list. Some jobs will disappear and a lot of new ones need to be created. We need politicians and business leaders committed to bold changes.
We know what is coming if we don’t act. This summer’s heat wave, droughts, and forest fires were a preview of what’s to come if we don’t act. It’s not a world I feel good about raising a child in.
Alone I cannot make a difference. But my actions might encourage others, they might send a signal to companies, they might embolden politicians to enact the big systematic changes we need. I’m going to share what I’m doing in the hope that it might inspire you to take on some actions and advocate for bigger changes.
I’m also curious what others are doing. So if you have any ideas, please leave a comment below.
What I’m Doing
My family continues to try and limit our plastic waste by shopping at stores like Nada (get $10 off your first order), we live car-free and ride our bikes for most trips, and we eat only plant-based foods. These are things we’ve done for years, but there are also some new things we’re doing this year.
I have a new job. I realize the biggest contribution I can have on addressing climate change is with the work I do, so I left my old job at Thrive Health and found a new one in clean technology, a field I’ve spent most of my career in. I’m now a Senior Software Engineer at Uplight, a company dedicated to helping energy utilities decarbonize.
Wind and solar energy have gotten very cheap over the past decade, but they still face intermittency problems – it isn’t always sunny or windy when people want to use energy (batteries help but we need other ideas too). Uplight is doing really cool work partnering with energy utilities and device manufactures to help households use energy when clean energy is abundant. So your air conditioning (like Nest Renew) and fridge might pre-cool if there is abundant solar energy and your electric vehicle might wait to charge overnight when its the windiest. It’s a really interesting solution and Uplight is making it happen (along with a ton of other work in energy efficiency).
While renewables are gaining momentum there are still billions being invested in new fossil fuel infrastructure. I don’t support that and now my money doesn’t either. These companies are unethical and a bad long term investment. So I went through my investment portfolio and divested from oil and gas companies, selling a number of mutual funds and replacing them with 4 ETFs:
- ESGA – BMO MSCI Canada ESG Leaders Index ETF (Canadian)
- EFAX – SPDR MSCI EAFE Fossil Fuel Reserves Free ETF (World)
- SPYX – SPDR S&P 500 Fossil Fuel Reserves Free ETF (American)
- ZCLN – BMO Clean Energy Index ETF (Clean Tech)
I’m trying to promote policy change at a local government level by volunteering with OneCity, Vancouver’s municipal political party most committed to bringing about meaningful climate action (changing zoning rules to increase density, making public transit more convenient, and adding cycling infrastructure). I’ll be doing more to promote them as we approach next September’s Vancouver election.
We are replacing our natural gas stove with an electric induction one. It’s not an easy or cheap switch (an electrician will be installing a 240 V plug in our kitchen soon and then we need to buy a new stove). But our old gas oven is dying and we haven’t been able to fix it. In my opinion, there is no point in buying a new natural gas stove using an energy source we need to transition away from. I wish there was more incentives in place to help make this happen but most of them are focused on helping people replace their heating systems (arguably a bigger problem). If you have an aging natural gas furnace you should definitely replace it with a heat pump and there are a lot of rebates out there that make it a financial no-brainer.
I highly recommend these resources if you want to learn more about climate change, the COP 26 conference going on right now, and the actions that humanity needs to do to prevent a catastrophe.
- How to Save a Planet
Great podcast exploring climate change solutions from every angle. Some episodes are broad and some are delightfully quirky. I recommend listening to this episode first – Is Your Climate Footprint BS?
- Race Against Climate Change
New podcast with a Canadian focus. The first episode is about How We Eat.
- Climate change could bring near-unliveable conditions for 3bn people, say scientists – Financial Times
Scary article but it really highlights the existential crisis we’re dealing with.
- Politics of Climate Change – CanadianVeggie
- The National Observer and CBC News have a ton of climate change and COP26 coverage.
- Charts and graphs breaking down worldwide climate emissions, their sources, and ideas for reducing them – Our World in Data