If We Could Move Like Centipedes

Many of us look at climate change goals – 70% reductions in carbon worldwide, even as population and per capita consumption increase, more in the US and other industrialized countries. And stop. And say, “too hard.”

It might be useful to consider the centipede. The centipede has anywhere from 30 to 146 legs, but our example centipede has 100 legs, one brain/leg.

Suppose it’s obvious to a centipede that death by shoe squishing is imminent. The various legs could just sit there, after all, one leg can’t do much. Or the most motivated legs could start to move away, first in different directions, then in the direction that makes the most sense. At some critical point, perhaps 20 legs working together, the other legs will be pulled along.

So what kind of motion could we start today that will make a difference?

In our own behavior, most of us would find it easy to reduce energy use nominally, say 10%. For this exercise, we’ll give free credit to anyone using buses or trains. So reduce your car plus plane plus boat use by 10%. One passenger mile on a plane is about equal to one person in a 30 mpg car. (This is still being evaluated, as planes dump water vapor at high altitudes, so the GHG effect is much higher than the carbon contribution alone indicates). Boats are worse (water presents more of an impediment than does air).

Check your electric and natural gas bill. You should see big changes if you replace energy inefficient air conditioners or refrigerators with energy efficient ones and frequently used incandescent bulbs with fluorescent or compact fluorescent bulbs, turn off lights if you won’t be using them for a while (10 minutes or more for fluorescent and compact fluorescent, a couple of minutes for incandescent bulbs). Hang up your clothes, especially if your dryer is electric, especially if it’s summer and you air condition. Longer term, add insulation and if you air condition, replace your dark roof with a light one. Don’t heat or cool unused rooms. Use an electric blanket rather than a room heater. Don’t heat or cool quite as much. Many of us already do several of these or more, but most of us can use one or more of these methods to make a quick 10% decrease in our home use of energy.

Second, talk to others about what you are doing and what your concerns are. Reading, and personal discernment of what motivates us, can help us find effective ways to communicate our concerns.

Third, and this works better with a group, express your concerns about climate change to legislators. Many legislators know climate change is also important. Also means that they will get to it later.

What do we want legislators to do? Add carbon cap and trade, which will increase energy prices for all of us and make less-GHG intensive alternatives more attractive. Double fuel economy of cars and light trucks over the next few years (even better would be making fuel taxes a substantial portion of our tax base, then mandated fuel economy might not be needed). Invest heavily in research and development of energy efficiency and lower carbon energy sources. Look seriously at how the US, which has contributed 30% of the increase in atmospheric carbon since the beginning of the industrial revolution, can pay 30% of the cost of shifting other countries to post-fossil fuel energy sources.

These are fairly easy changes that most of us can make over the next year. Future changes may not be as easy, but the first steps are to make ourselves, other people, and our legislators conscious of the importance of climate change, both in terms of reduced quality of life and the economic consequences that will accompany failure to act. Your job, should you accept it, is to find 19 other legs and work more or less together.

2 Responses to “If We Could Move Like Centipedes”

  1. Gail Eastwood says:

    It’s interesting to me that the topic that has (finally!) galvanized environmental activism in this town is not climate change but “peak oil.” The kinds of individual conservation moves you’re writing about here are of course relevant to “peak oil” as well. I also notice that conservation moves are never the first solutions to enter the discussion, not glamorous enough, I guess. I’ve been thinking a lot about personal responsibility for greenhouse gases, but my somewhat dim mind is just getting the connection to “write your legislator”–in this case, California legislators, since California has been much more proactive in energy use reduction than federal level, and has a great potential to do good in this area.

  2. Kathryn Neale Manalo says:

    Almost two years ago, I stopped working as a home visitor for a local non-profit simply because I could no longer rationalize the negative impact my driving long distances had on the Body of the Living Earth and it’s many cells. I used to work in the Central Valley with young disabled children and their families, many of whom were suffering with pulmonary impairments aggravated severely by the very poor air quality there. The non-profit for which I worked just didn’t get, or didn’t care about the interconnectedness, the interbeing of environmental impacts and their resultant health impacts enough to change its practices. And I failed in my attempts to influence those practices. It was very frustrating. I tried implementing a personal policy of fewer, longer visits to halve the driving mileage required (as well as the mileage reimbursement) only to be questioned and harrassed, frankly, regarding my veracity. The families actually enjoyed the longer, more leisurely visits; and I found that my ability to serve and compassionately witness them actually benefited from this paradigm. But “number of visits” rather than length of time spent in quality interaction with families and children seemed to be the only current, viable “measurable objective” to be met. So, after a brief stint as a consultant upon my return to the Bay Area (after seven years with the organization), I decided that despite the help provided families with disabled young children, the lack of consciousness and desire to lead in the area of environmental impacts, made my continued employment untenable. The disconnect between our organizational behavior and the fact that so many of of client’s disabilities were, in fact, caused and aggravated by environmental degradation in which we were participating struck me as ludicrous (yes, womens’ wombs are a part of the Body of Earth as are women’s ovaries and men’s testicles and the environmentally impacted/degraded DNA/RNA carried within eggs and sperm; yes, fetuses are marinated in a vast panoply [indeed mercury acts as a suit of armor blocking in and outflow at the cellular level of function] of noxious chemicals causing untold developmental/neurological effects, the impacts of which we are only beginning to see in our medical and educational systems [note the dramatic rise diagnosed autistic spectrum disorders, the dramatic increase in premature deliveries, etc.])

    This is all very real and personal to me as I have a son with moderate pulmonary insufficiency (among other disorders resulting from extreme prematurity) which required that we return to the Bay Area after a three year trial in the Valley. When one’s life is personally impacted in a significant way by environmental degradation, one’s awareness, and thus, one’s willingness to change increases exponentially.

    Driving as little as possible, selling a vehicle, riding my bicycle as much as possible, walking, turning off the lights, replacing incandescents with florescent bulbs, buying used furniture instead of new, bartering (and letting the corporations know why), replacing old refrigerators/freezers, consuming less in every way, riding the bus, riding the train–all of these activities are initial steps to a reordering of our lives. A global “leveling” as regards the Body of Humanity is on the way. Ready or not, here it comes.

    We must educate ourselves as well as to the interconnectedness of environmental degradation with its many causes–foremost among them the notion that human beings are somehow apart from, over and above, the rest of creation. I suggest reading Elisabet Sahtouris’s EARTHDANCE to all. We are a part of the living Earth and our destinies are inextricably interwoven. Stewardship, a commonly-expressed word to describe a desirable “relationship” with the Earth and Its beings, sentient and non-sentient, is inadequate, grounded as it is in hierarchical paradigm.

    Our eyes must be focused on multiple targets simultaneously. The concentration of global capital, the reality that our Federal Reserve System is a completely private corporation, that the very nature of money and the institutions which control it (no longer the Congress nor our Executive), manipulate our economy and those of the globe to the benefit of those corporate “persons” and their short term self-interest. All social justice issues are environmental issues if one’s looks deeply enough. I’m pretty sure John Woolman would agree.

    The environmentalists working with the Network of Spiritual Progressives are seeking to deepen the understanding of those involved with this new movement, the nation and world. In NSP’s Spiritual Covenant with America, many of the eight commitments of that convenant speak to Earth’s agenda: challenging materialism and selfishness, taking personal responsibility for ethical behavior and celebrating the grandeur of the universe and the mystery of being, building social responsibility into the normal operations of our economic and political life, reshaping education, emphasizing the dependent nature of the well-being of citizens of the U.S.A. with the well-being of all others on Earth. The specific commitment #6 on the environment is a start: “We will be stewards [there’s that word again] of the environment. We will champion voluntary simplicity and ethical consumption while seeking to change the global economy so that it is ordered in rational and sustainable ways.”

    Care of the Body Earth, upon which the Body of Humanity and all our bodies herein depend, is the work of social justice and peace. Organizing ourselves into networked local bodies of social and spiritual support is essential to the task of reordering our lives in a direction that chooses alignment with the integrated health of the BODY at all levels. The Earth is diseased, we are diseased, and irresponsible corporate civilization and our participation in that unhealthy paradigm is alignment with disease and “commitment” to demise. Alignment with integrative health and spiritual awakening at all levels of the BODY is the path to continued existence.

    (I must give credit to Neil Garcia-Sinclair, President of Cyber-Tran, my co-facilitator of our Wednesday small spiritual support group, member of Alameda NSP, long-time environmentalist, activist, and healer… for his cogent synthesis of the physical systems extant in nature, the world’s faith traditions, and integrative health. In his words, “It’s all a matter of health!)

    Kathryn Neale Manalo, M.A. (Special Education)
    Member, Berkeley Friends Meeting
    Member, Ministry and Oversight Committee, BFM
    Former Named Minister to Death Row Inmates at San Quentin
    Coordinator, Alameda Network of Spiritual Progressives
    Facilitator, Wednesday Small Spiritual Support Group, Alameda NSP
    Clinical Rehabilitation Credential in Orientation and Mobility
    Music and Movement Teacher for Children with Special Needs
    Vocal and Cello Instructor
    Singer, Dancer, Writer, Performance Artist
    and most importantly………………………
    One of the Body of Earth, One of the Body of All Beings, One of the Body of Humanity, One of the Body of Community holding an opening for the improvisatory, spiraling, synergistic dance of co-creation and integrative health!

    May All Awaken and Participate!