“…work the problem…” - Gene Kranz, former NASA flight director

First, here’s how our planet retains heat: There are gases in our atmosphere referred to as greenhouse gases because they trap in much of the sun’s radiation - keeping our planet warmer than space outside of it. These gases include but not limited to carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). Without this, our planet would be extremely cold and unable to support life, similar to Mars. Too much of this and our planet could be similar to Venus which has a surface temperature of 864 degrees Fahrenheit. CO2 occurs naturally and is manmade. With respiration of all living organisms, CO2 is released. And when we burn carbon, like fossil fuels, CO2 is released.

The extraordinary circumstances that allow our planet to support life are heavily monitored. Scientists measure greenhouse gases a few ways. To learn how, check out the source list for a link. Evidence shows that a great deal of the CO2 emissions are manmade. To make matters worse, some activities exacerbate the problem even if they don’t exactly cause C02 emissions. Deforestation is one of those major problems. Trees absorb CO2, a few other gases, and release oxygen. They are one of the easiest ways to combat the extra CO2 and we are cutting down about 15 billion trees each year. Since the beginning of human civilization, we have cut down 46% of trees.

Research shows that 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions. They are all oil, coal, and gas companies. The silver lining is that investors are not as content with these companies as the general public might assume. And there are several things we can do to affect change. In taking direction from former NASA flight director, Gene Kranz, we can “work the problem”.

Exxon-Mobil s one of those 100 companies. As a shareholder meeting in 2017, investors unexpectedly voted against Exxon management. Investors voted to know how the efforts of governments and companies striving to move away from fossil fuels affect their profit, especially long term. Is it a worthwhile investment… “The future of the oil industry has already been written: the choice is will its decline be managed, returning capital to shareholders to be reinvested in the genuine industries of the future, or will they hold on, hoping not to be the last one standing when the music stops?” - Charlie Kronick, senior program advisor at Greenpeace UK

Humanity’s greatest innovators changed their minds upon the presence of new, reliable information. Fossil fuels absolutely advanced human civilization! But we know and have for some time that the use of fossil fuels is not viable or sustainable. Just like those who came before us, who moved to using cars instead of horses, or electricity instead of candlelight, we must move to this next advancement. It is because of what’s at stake that must do this with the utmost urgency.

The major hold up in switching to renewable energy is a fear of little to no profit. But this assumption is incorrect. In 2017, the U.S.’s renewable energy industry earned over $40 billion. There is money to be made and jobs to fill. Exxon-Mobil investors voted for transparency for the sake of their portfolios. The overwhelming evidence of climate change, the obvious ethical dilemmas of continued use of fossil fuels, and legislation limiting fossil fuels isn’t deterring them soon enough. We have to show them where the money is…

Here are a few simple things we can do:
-It is no secret that free social media platforms collect our personal data to use as marketing information. We should use that to our advantage. For example, “like” articles, posts, or pages that favor renewable energy or environmentally-friendly products, businesses, legislation, etc.

-We can say a lot with where we spend our money. Let’s aim to support companies that favor an environmentally-friendly approach. And boycott those that don’t until they change their business practices.

-Learn about a company’s practices and industry terms. The best way to advocate for something better is to know exactly what’s currently being done.

Sources & Suggested Further Reading
-Deforestation - Nature.com
-Financial Firms Lead Shareholder Rebellion Against ExxonMobil Climate Change Policies - The Washington Post
-Global Emissions by Gas - EPA.gov
-Global Emissions - The Guardian
-Greenhouse Gases - ACS.org
-Measuring Greenhouse Gases - Climatica.org.uk
-Not In the Black - Quartz
-Top Renewable Energy Financiers Reveal Pathway to $1 Trillion in US Investment - Forbes

Thanks for reading!

Watcher Blossoms

All of the work in this series focuses on issues under the umbrella of human impact on the environment. These ‘Watcher Blossoms’ are representative of nature as a witness to our choices and actions. The first three works in this series came about because of two bouquets of flowers. After I bought them, I started to think about all of the steps and resources involved in being able to have those exact flowers. 

What I found was surprising…

As expected, this industry has a marked impact on the environment. For example, of the average 100 million roses that are shipped to the U.S. for Valentine’s Day, they produce 9,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions. This is the equivalent of average CO2 emissions from one year of 1,956 cars on the road. In Ecuador, growing 12,000 roses released 13,200 pounds of C02. This is drastically different than Holland’s results of 77,150 pounds of CO2 even having produced the same number of roses. Unlike Ecuador, Holland doesn’t have the same natural, ideal growing conditions. As a result, their flower farms require additional resources like artificial light and heat.

When calculating an activity’s impact on the environment, every detail is considered. In this case, shipping and how employees get to and from flower farms. Ecuador and a few others maintain a lower carbon footprint because the majority of their employees ride a bike to work. As for shipping, this industry remains a scourge. Planes and ships are gas hogs. The good news is those industries are working on becoming eco-friendly. In the meantime try something to offset your carbon footprint if you buy flowers. You could skip a burger which would be the equivalent of taking a car off of the road 320 miles.

Now you know the bad. Here’s the good: There are MANY flower farms that do not require a greenhouse - benefiting the surrounding wildlife. And by implementing energy-saving techniques like drip irrigation and rain water collection systems, this industry is quickly improving.(only two techniques of many). This 8.5 billion dollar industry also provides numerous jobs all over the world. For some countries, it’s their primary source of income. Brands like Florverde (found in major retailers) even provide child care, health care, and education to employees because of the success of flower farms. The total loss of this industry would be devastating.

I chose to focus on this industry because it’s small enough to see its impact, both positive and negative. You can see how innovative farming techniques and a stewardship for the planet have improved the industry and not disrupted cash flow. And it’s an industry with a sense of social responsibility to its workers. What I hope you take away from this is that there are issues in this industry that need to be addressed. But there are a hell of a lot of positives. As we face other issues relating to climate change, do so with a sense of urgency rather than paralyzing fear. And approach each issue with a sense of curiosity and a chance for creative problem solving. The correct solution isn’t necessarily black and white.

My homework for anyone reading this is to begin thinking about what goes into you having the life that you have. Maybe there’s room to make some edits.

Sources & Suggested Further Reading
EarthDay.org - Meatless Monday
Nature Conservancy - Calculate Your Carbon Footprint
Scientific American - Blooms Away

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