The Green Adventure

Friday, September 22, 2006

Challenge #5: Armchair Activism

Election Season is upon us, so today I'm asking each of you to take an active role in the future of the next generation. We must each be certain that those who we choose to lead us into the coming decade will do so with the knowledge that right now is the time to convert our energy system away from fossil fuels. This Challenge is not optional. You live in a democracy; get off of your butt.

We know from reading Socolow and Pacala's plan (Scientific American, 9/2006), many of the "wedges" that will be required to fix our planetary crisis must be done on a large scale. Thus, though all of our individual censervation behaviors are vital (unless any of you have $3 billon or so to throw into the mix as Richard Branson did this week) your best individual hope for change is to elect leaders with the power and bugetary influence to require and pay for sweeping changes in our energy and environmental policies. The following are examples of some of the large scale changes that must occur for us to halt the global climate crisis:
  • Stop ALL deforestation
  • Drive 2 billion cars on ethanol (or other biofuels)
  • Increase wind power 80-fold to make hydrogen for cars
  • Increase wind power 40-fold to displace coal
  • Increase solar power 700-fold to displace coal
  • Install carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology at 800 large coal-fired power plants
  • Increase the fuel economy of 2 billion cars to 60 mpg
  • Limit global population growth by at least 1 billion

These sweeping changes cannot be made without large commitments of funds, regulations limiting carbon emissions (making them cost-prohibitive), global poverty and women's rights initiatives, and business strategies that encourage sustainable business both in large multi-national corporations and with tiny microcapital investments in regions of both vulnerable human populations and vulnerable ecosystems (such as the Amazon forest or in biodiverse African regions.)

As individual US citizens of only moderate financial means to contribute, the only way for us to actually solve this crisis is by electing leaders who will consider global warming every time they make a policy decision and a bugetary decision.

That brings me to Challenge #5... Armchair Activism

In thinking about the best use of my time to work towards solving this problem for Little A and her generation ("Generation Green" has a nice ring to it!), I decided that the best way for all of us to act on a much larger scale than cutting our individual energy usage (though still very important, so no slacking!) was to make truly concious decisions about who we will vote for this November.

It would be nice if you could just vote for me; your work would be done knowing that I've already put in all of the research. But, sorry, it's going to be tougher than that since it's too late for me to run this year... maybe next time.

In order to become an armchair activist there are several steps you will need to take. But, I promise that with internet access and a phone they can almost all be taken from the comfort of your very own armchair.

  1. Get motivated to care about this stuff! If looking at your kids or grandkids doesn't do it, watch this video.
  2. Find out who's running for office in your district at all levels. Sometimes those in local offices can more easily promote real action since the beurocracy is often much smaller. Go to and click on your state to determine everyone who is running for office in your state this year.
  3. If you already support a specific candidate go to their website and read their policy position on Energy and the Environment. What have they done already or plan to do to stop global climate change?
  4. If the candidate you support for other reasons is weak on global climate change: call their office and talk to her/ him, write to her/him, volunteer for her/him in order to get to know them personally so that you can work to change their position, contribute to her/ his campaign but be sure to stay on top of their climate change policies (she or he may be able to hear you better while they are holding your check.)
  5. Vote for the candidate that is most supportive of conversion away from a fossil fuel based economy.
  6. During the non-election season, stay on top of your representative (whether or not you voted for her/him.) To do so, you can sign up for action alerts from leading non-profits who spend a lot of time researching both climate change and the local, national and global bills and strategies that are working to halt the effects of climate change. All you have to do is sign up to receive these alerts and then send surveys from the comfort of your own email inbox. For more effect you can call, write or visit your representative as well. Be the squeaky wheel!

Some organizations with climate change action alerts:

Sierra Club

The Nature Conservancy

Environmental Defense

Environmental Action Blog

The Action Blog

Care 2

Grist Magazine

Co-op America

OK, go for it! And, let me know what your candidates say when you call their offices.

This morning I called Kay Bailey Hutchinson's (one of my senators) office and asked her staffer what her policy is on Energy and the Environment. Sadly, her answer was "What? Oh honey, I have no idea!" SCARY!!! Fortunately on her website, I did read a recent speech that Senator Hutchinson gave to the Congress about US Energy Independence. She did highlight that the US must stop its dependence on foreign oil for the sake of our national security, but unfortunately she emphasized further fossil fuel drilling in the Gulf (damaging fragile Gulf Coast ecosystems) or the Artic National Wildlife Reserve over the 10% of Texas power that is now supplied by wind farms. I applaud her efforts towards diversifying our state and national energy portfolio, but I would strongly press her towards emphasizing renewables over new sources of US based fossil fuels. But, I guess that's tough to do with a check from Big Oil in your hand.

On the other hand, there was no direct phone number listed on Barbara Radnofsky's (Kay's Hutchinson's challenger) website. I did email her about her policy positions, and am glad to see two key things listed on her positions statement on her website: "promote energy conservation and fuel efficiency standards" and "require emissions standards for greenhouse gases." She is also against drilling in ANWR.

Either woman will have a lot of work to do to get the Senate to pass Jim Jeffords' bill S. 3698 (basically to regulate CO2 emissions.) But, I plan to do my part to encourage my Senators to get on board. (Watch out if your're answering John Cornyn's phones this week!) If they don't I may be putting my sign in your yard in 2008. I'll have no choice, Little A's future depends on it!


  • Excellent post, keep it up! These are very big issues, and many more people need to be inspired and mobilized.

    Thomas O. Gray
    American Wind Energy Association

    By Blogger Tom Gray, at 8:13 AM  

  • Great work! I'm always inspired when I read your posts. We just had our first neighborhood Green Group meeting this week and several neighbors came and brainstormed how we can use our power as a neighborhood to influence local/national policies. There are many others fired up about these issues! Let's not lose hope.

    By Blogger Ally, at 3:42 PM  

  • We just had our first neighborhood Green Group meeting this week and several neighbors came and brainstormed how we can use our power as a neighborhood to influence local/national policies.

    One simple option is to buy wind or other green power. If you don't feel that you can afford to go 100% wind, a very inexpensive option is to buy 10% or 20%. For the average household, the cost will be 5-10 cents a day . . .

    For info on green power suppliers, see "Your Electric Choices" at This site includes a clickable map of the U.S. which will show you the choices in your state.

    Tom Gray
    American Wind Energy Association

    By Blogger Tom Gray, at 11:00 AM  

  • I have seen your posts on AM and finally came to look around. Thanks for putting such a wealth of information in one place! We just had Austin Energy come out yesterday and evaluate our house for solar power. He told us about the green energy option in our area, which unfortunately is all in use now. There are 2 new wind farms and 1 new solar farm scheduled for late next year, and we plan to sign on when it becomes available.

    We're also in the middle of a home energy audit, getting rid of the deep freeze, probably getting a new refrigerator, oven, putting window film on or replacing south facing windows, etc, and turning off the computer, which is the toughest one (keeps me off my AM mail)

    Being more informed is something I have always aspired to but fallen short on. You've inspired me to find out more about all of my candidates. Thanks!

    By Blogger Alison, at 4:30 PM  

  • Thanks for your comment Alison! I'm so glad to have added to your inspiration! I can't wait to be in Austin to add my energy to all of the positive changes that are going on in Austin. Soon...

    By Blogger Jessica, at 8:20 PM  

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