Climate change is threatening to push a crowded capital toward a breaking point.

Mexico City is not unlike Chicagoland. It is a city of neighborhoods and suburbs and houses roughly 21 million people (Chicagoland is actually roughly 10 million). They have a democratic government, elect officials to take care of their constituents, which includes providing schooling, police, and municipal amenities like: clean drinking water. In the Chicagoland region we are lucky to have the Great Lakes and we are not facing serious water issues. However, with climate change the Lakes are threatened.

This interesting article about the issues Mexico City is facing with drought and lack of water paints a picture of what could be a potential future for our region. It is the first of a series of articles that are examining how cities are tackling climate change threats or not, and what are the consequences of not acting.

“A Columbia University report found that where rainfall declines, “the risk of a low-level conflict escalating to a full-scale civil war approximately doubles the following year.” The Pentagon’s term for climate change is “threat multiplier.” “

Many organizations are studying climate change as it relates to the Great Lakes. The EPA has a summary of how lake levels have changed over time and what that means for water supply as well as industry.

“In recent years, warmer surface water temperatures in the Great Lakes have contributed to lower water levels by increasing rates of evaporation and causing lake ice to form later than usual (see the Lake Ice indicator), which extends the season for evaporation. Lower water levels in the Great Lakes forced ships to reduce their cargo tonnage by 5 to 8 percent between 1997 and 2000, which increased shipping costs. Lower water levels can also affect water supplies, the usability of infrastructure such as docks and piers, and shoreline ecosystems. These types of disruptions from low water levels are expected to continue as the climate changes.”

Back in Mexico City water shortages have already reached crisis level.

“…the government acknowledges that nearly 20 percent of Mexico City residents — critics put the number even higher — still can’t count on getting water from their taps each day. For some residents, water comes only once a week, or once every several weeks, and that may mean just an hour of yellow muck dripping from the faucet.”

As more and more are without municipal water, they are forced to buy it from private providers. This cost is often too much for the poor to bear.

“People in rich neighborhoods on the other side of town, “they don’t have to think about water,” she added. “But for us it is something we think about all day, every day.” “

The issues the world faces due to climate change are vast and sometimes too much to comprehend. However, it is important that we try. There are other organizations fighting for climate action. They have great solutions like taxing carbon at its source and then distributing that money back to the people. The idea is that initially the increased costs of using fossil fuels will be put back on the consumer. So the dividend is to help consumers bear the initial increased costs. However, over time it will become too expensive to use fossil fuels and companies will be forced to innovate and use clean energy.

The Citizens’ Climate Lobby is one of those groups pushing this idea. They are a non-partisan organization seeking Carbon Fee & Dividend Legislation. So far, they have 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans in the Senate that have agreed to join the Climate Caucus that is trying to pass this legislation… so there’s hope.

Simple Tips (& Why) to Green Your Holidays!

Stores staying open all day on Thanksgiving, Black Friday hype, Christmas ads already blaring… enough! It’s STRESSING me out! And that is not healthy.

I want to relax and enjoy quality time with my family and friends. And I want the experiences to be healthy for me, them and light on environmental impact.

Two things I like to consider to help me be less stressed & promote health for my peeps and my (our) planet: 1. Greening Gifts
2. Greening the Menu

1. On Gifts (and avoiding the crazy, stressful shopping wars!) I’m steering clear of all that hub bub and instead will be home, warm and cozy, preparing my craft room to make my gifts. I love making things! It helps me unwind, plus I know I’m pouring love into the gift and so does the recipient. Win-win!

Not everyone is crafty or inclined to make gifts. But if you are! Here’s a blog with a few ideas I really like and maybe you will, too. 38 DIY Gifts People Actually Want

If you’re not crafty, no problem. You can of course still pour love into bought items, too. And there are plenty of resources out there to help you find the perfect gift for that special someone. It’s perfect because not only do they need the item, it is helpful to them, won’t make them sick and is also created in a way that doesn’t harm the environment. Perfect!

I realize some of us will still want to get out and shop for some great deals… have you heard of Small Business Saturday? A lot of Chicagoland businesses are participating and shopping local is really a great way to encourage local economic recovery!

2. On the Menu: Eating lower on the food chain is a great way to make a difference for your health and the planet. It’s easier than you think, too. Do you have to give up the Turkey? No!! But treating it more like a condiment and enjoying more of your favorite vegetable based sides is a great start. Also, everything doesn’t have to be organic, but I do look out for certain food additives to avoid as well as where and how the veggies or fruit are grown for health concerns.

[On meat: If I did eat meat I would want to buy it from a local farmer where I know the animal was cared for, ate the right foods and slaughtered in a manner that was ethical.]

What’s on my menu? Well, I’m not hosting….but this is what I am bringing
Roasted Brussels Sprouts in a Balsamic Reduction
Kale, Pumpkin Seed, Cranberry Salad
Apple, Turnip, Sweet Potato Saute

Final Greening Holidays tip from me to you… When making your list to give people this holiday season, it helps to consider the following:

  • WHAT will be the impact on the person I’m giving this gift to? Will it improve their live in a meaningful way?
  • WHERE does this gift come from? Is it locally crafted and supporting local economies?
  • WHO made it? Are they paid a living wage and have safe working conditions? WHO profits from me buying this gift? Does it enrich some corporation whose values I do/don’t support?
  • HOW was it made? How does the resource and manufacturing impact on the environment?
  • WHY? Why should I give this gift? What NEED does it fill?

It’s important to consider these questions so that not just at a personal level, but at a global level you are fully aware of the impacts of your gift-giving decisions.

Happy Holidays!

2 World Leaders #ActOnClimate

Woke up to hopeful news this morning!

U.S. President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping coming to agreement to #ActOnClimate Change. Under this new deal, the U.S. would cut its 2005 CO2 emissions by 26-28% before 2025 and China will aim to get 20% of its energy from clean (zero-emission) sources by 2030.

The U.S. and China are two of the world’s top CO2 emissions polluters so this deal is quite significant; it sets a precedent and calls for other countries to also address their emissions in a global commitment to mitigate the most severe impacts of climate change. Perhaps there is hope for the Climate Summit in Paris next year!!

Still have questions about climate change? The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions has a series of podcasts and simple to understand articles that help explain what is climate change; what changes can we expect regionally and globally; what is being done to address these changes (policy and innovations); what else can be done and how can we, individually, act?

Or, Check out Bill Nye the Science Guy explain climate change in less than 5 minutes…

then dig deeper to get wise on the topic. The more we know, the more we can do to make positive change for today and tomorrow.

Sustainability Tips for Teachers

Being a teacher myself, I know that none of us have the summer off. We spend the summers planning for the next year. If you have been toying with bringing more sustainability into your classroom, check out these helpful tips http://www.treehugger.com/htgg/how-to-go-green-school-teachers.html. I might also suggest thinking about a service learning project as well. That will bring in the social justice/equity pillar of sustainability. Don’t forget that sustainability is the intersection of social equity/justice, ecological stability/green, and economic vitality. Happy planning!

Love Honey Maid

As I am sure a lot of people have seen the “controversy” over the advertisement from Honey Maid on the wholesomeness of love of a variety of families: a family with two fathers, a rocker family, a single father family, an interracial family, and a military family. I am bewildered as to why in the current time that this is “controversial”. Love is love. When a person shows love for another it should not be questioned, just observed in awe. We often forget that there are three converging pillars of sustainability and one is social justice of which I feel this falls under. Honey Maid presented an even more moving response to the negative as well as the positive responses to their advertisement campaign. I got choked up viewing it. Please enjoy it here and pass it on to your loved ones: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBC-pRFt9OM.