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A New Shade of Green

By Sherry Listgarten

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About this blog: Climate change, despite its outsized impact on the planet, is still an abstract concept to many of us. That needs to change. My hope is that readers of this blog will develop a better understanding of how our climate is evolving a...  (More)

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Should we change how we think about change?

Uploaded: Jan 2, 2022
Happy New Year everyone! Or at least A Less Calamitous New Year. Good grief. I’ll let Colorado’s State Senate Majority Leader have the last word on 2021 before I move on to 2022.


Source: Twitter

I won’t disagree. I hope 2022 is a year of powerful change, in our hearts and minds as well as in the transportation, energy, and building sectors. I’ve been wondering about change lately. Change is stressful, but we need to overhaul much of our economy and infrastructure in the next few decades. That means that our kids will likely be facing a lifetime of change.

How do we teach them, or ourselves, to prepare for that? We will change how we fuel up our cars, what we put on our plates, how we heat our homes, how often we fly, whether we reuse or buy new, how we use and value land, what jobs we have, and how we work. How do we think about that constant shifting without feeling unmoored?

There is an interesting discussion about change in the Netflix movie “The Two Popes,” a fictionalized account of some conversations between Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Bergoglio (who later became Pope Francis). Cardinal Bergoglio is talking with the more conservative Pope Benedict about the evolution of his views away from orthodoxy.


Source: Netflix’s The Two Popes

Are we worrying about the wrong changes? Should we change how we think about change? For the last two years we have been asked to wear masks, limit gatherings, and work remotely. In the coming years will be asked to switch to EVs or ebikes and to adopt heat pumps. We will use more second-hand items, fly less overseas, and eat less meat. We will find new ways to save more energy and to waste less food. In one sense, it’s a lot of change, on-going change. On the other hand, it’s a small amount of change in the much bigger service of maintaining our values -- keeping ourselves and our community healthy; limiting ecological disasters; and generally keeping the planet habitable for life around the globe.

Instead of focusing on what is changing, would it be better to focus on what is staying the same, namely our core values, our health, our home? It’s not about being progressive or being conservative. It is about keeping these fundamentals intact, not only for ourselves but for others. It’s not a story of change, but a story of conservation. We change small things to preserve big things.

I’d go one step further and suggest that for extra credit we be grateful for our ability to make these changes. Otherwise where would we be? Aren’t we lucky to have had masks and vaccines to use, that we have EV and heat pump options, that we can modify our diets to reduce emissions? What if we didn't and couldn’t? Shouldn’t we be celebrating our luck rather than resenting the needed change?

Maybe that’s too Pollyanna, but I think our perspective is off and that is hurting us. I know in my case it took me years (literally) to start using a compost bin and to get my head around the idea of driving an EV. But once I made those changes I quickly got used to them. It’s uncomfortable for me now to throw food scraps in the trash, and I just don’t like driving a gas car. Moreover, getting those changes under my belt has made it easier for me to try more things. Small victory: I finally tried cooking with oat milk this past week. (What better occasion than to experiment on your family over the holiday?) I served chocolate pudding made with oat milk, which was delicious, and I also made a quiche with oat milk that tasted entirely normal to me. These are baby steps, but over time they will turn into bigger steps.

Do you think a new perspective on change would make a difference? If you do have climate-related changes in mind for this year, what inspired you? I’d love to hear.

Notes and References
0. Kudos to reader Peter from Daly City who sent me pix of his new electric space and water heating, to reader Sonya of Redwood City who is contractor-shopping for a mini-split in her home, and to reader Hong-Ha of Palo Alto who loves her new HPWH. Your efforts are inspiring!

1. The day after I posted this I saw this essay in ProPublica about on-going wildfires in California. It is also partly about how to think about change. It's not an easy read, but I recommend it.

Current Climate Data (November 2021)
Global impacts, US impacts, CO2 metric, Climate dashboard

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Comments

Posted by David+Coale, a resident of Barron Park,
on Jan 2, 2022 at 8:27 pm

David+Coale is a registered user.

Hi Sherry,

Thanks as always for your postings. The most recent change I am making to address climate change is to move my banking from Wells Fargo, who is one of the worst banks when it come to financing fossil fuel projects, like the line 3 pipeline that would carry tar sands oil, the most polluting kind of oil, from Alberta Canada to Superior Wisconsin. Web Link Since we vote with our dollars, it is important to make sure we vote for the climate and not against it.

I was inspired by a ad in the San Jose Mercury News by the good people at "This Is What We Did" to make this change: Web Link Moving your banking can be difficult and it takes a while, but I felt really good about taking this step to address climate change and to make sure my money will not be financing fossil fuel projects. The "This is What we Did" web site walks you through how to make this important change.

And if we are mentioning films, make sure you see "Don't Look Up" Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep on Netflix: Web Link It is a must see film.


Posted by Janice Selznick, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jan 3, 2022 at 6:58 am

Janice Selznick is a registered user.

Hi Sherry!

Thanks is for your thoughtful posts. If we're going to do anything about the climate issues, we need to whip up the eco-hysteria. Glad to see you're doing your part.

Best wishes in 2022!


Posted by Janice Selznick, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jan 3, 2022 at 7:01 am

Janice Selznick is a registered user.

Question:

In your book, which is worse:
A) being a climate skeptic; or,
B) being against vaccine mandates.

[FYI: I'm triple-vaxxed.]


Posted by Jim Pfister, a resident of another community,
on Jan 3, 2022 at 8:59 am

Jim Pfister is a registered user.

Regarding fossil fuels...my winter 2022 AAA magazine noted that as per California SB 500, autonomous vehicles with the model year 2031 and with a gross vehicle weight of 8,501 pounds or less must be a zero emission vehicle in order to operate on public streets.

Does this new law mean that gasoline-powered cars will no longer be sold after 2030 but can still be driven?

Is an ‘autonomous vehicle' defined as a basic passenger vehicle (i.e. SUV, pickup, sports car etc.)?

Reason for asking...we are planning to purchase a new car but are not quite sold on the charging inconveniences and distance range of an EV + those lithium-ion batteries are very expensive to replace in the event they falter after 100,000 miles.

A neighbor has an older Tesla and to replace the battery now costs more than what he originally paid for the vehicle new.

And if one were to simply donate a worn-out EV to a charitable organization, how can they be recycled in an eco-friendly manner given the costly battery replacement and required battery recycling-disposal protocols?

Lastly, will there be new home-building requirements to include fast-charging EV units?









Posted by Robert Tyree, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Jan 3, 2022 at 10:38 am

Robert Tyree is a registered user.

"A neighbor has an older Tesla and to replace the battery now costs more than what he originally paid for the vehicle [new]."

A replacement battery for an older Tesla Model 3 runs about $16,000.00+ including parts and labor. Your neighbor paid considerably more for his Tesla [new] than the cost of a battery replacement but the expenditure is nothing to scoff at either.

There are other EV car manufacturer/models that run less in terms of new vehicle prices and battery replacement costs but countless potential EV customers are naturally drawn to both the Tesla and Prius offerings as these makes pioneered the EV movement.

Another option in terms of cleaner air would be for vehicles to run on either propane or recycled cooking oil. Both applications have been around for quite some time now



Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Jan 3, 2022 at 1:29 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

What a great assortment of comments and questions, thank you!

@David: Thanks for chiming in with your action and the relevant links. FWIW, what I did two years ago was to move my investments into ESG funds (e.g., Vanguard information), which do not invest in fossil fuels. That is relatively easy to do for retirement investments, since there are no capital gains. For non-retirement accounts, if you are interested in making charitable donations, then you can use those to offset the gains. Or you can at least ensure that new investments go into ESG funds.

@Janice: It’s interesting that you refer to this post as “eco-hysteria”, whereas I also got an email calling it “thoughtful”. I think it’s telling that there is apparently such a fine line between alarmism and realism these days. I’d be curious to know which aspects of this post strike you as hysterical.

To your question about which is “worse”, climate skepticism or vaccine skepticism, it depends on your leverage. Are you a physician? An actuary? Assuming no particular leverage/influence, I would guess that an individual vaccine refuser can do more damage. Anti-masker is more interesting, since that is inherently a public protest and as such has more leverage.

@Jim: An autonomous vehicle is a self-driving vehicle. I wouldn’t worry too much about SB 500 at this point.

IMO charging an EV at home, which is how you will charge most of the time, is much more convenient than filling up a gas car. If you do 250+ mile drives a lot, it’s worth checking your routes to see how many charging stations there are. FWIW, I go to Tahoe a lot on 80 and there are plenty of chargers along the way, so it’s never been a problem.

Keep in mind that the car battery won’t suddenly fail after 100K miles. It will just slowly lose range. A battery with a 150-mile range may not work for you but would be great as a second car for another family. A typical car drives something like 40 miles a day. You could have a very degraded Tesla battery and still go that far. I think these cars will still be in demand. They are simply nicer to drive and less expensive to drive and maintain.

Many new building codes already require EV charging units, for both residential and commercial. I think the main outstanding question is how many are required in new multi-family buildings. Right now I think the 2022 building code plans for only 40% of the units in the building, which isn’t enough.

I hope this is helpful, and would love to hear other comments and questions.


Posted by Janice Selznick, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jan 3, 2022 at 7:25 pm

Janice Selznick is a registered user.

Happy New Year, Sherry! And thanks for responding to my comments.

[Sherry: It's interesting that you refer to this post as “eco-hysteria", whereas I also got an email calling it “thoughtful".]

I think this post is “thoughtful" as well. When I use the term “eco-hysteria," I'm referring more to the body of work of your posts here. IMHO, about a third of your posts cross over into what I'd label “eco-hysteria." Also, I be found that whenever I'd leave a comment quoting (or linking to) reputable sources such as Bjorn Lomberg, Michael Shellenberger, or the Wall Street Journal, I found that you would quickly delete them. I realize this is your blog, but it seemed as though there was no room for any climate skepticism. I'm a strong believer in the idea that “Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it's the only one you have."

[With respect to vaccination (which is getting off the subject): I'm triple vaxxed (Moderna), but I'm adamantly against SARS-CoV2 vaccine mandates " especially for children. I think it's criminal what the Biden and Newsom administrations have in this area.]

Best wishes for 2022!


Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Jan 3, 2022 at 8:43 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Janice: I delete your posts when they are off-topic, which as you know is almost all of the time. These seemed at least borderline on-topic so I left them up.

You are right, I have no patience with people who use the comment section of this blog to spread misinformation, raise FUD, or drive their own agenda. My feeling is that if they want to do that, they can create their own blog. Fortunately, that is rare.

I'd encourage you to expand your reading about climate change beyond Lomborg, Shellenberger, and WSJ op-eds.

And, yes, I hope 2022 is a heckuva lot better than 2021. We shall see.


Posted by Mondoman, a resident of Green Acres,
on Jan 3, 2022 at 9:01 pm

Mondoman is a registered user.

@ David+Coale
I find things like the Wells Fargo issue to be unhelpfully blunt instruments. For example, pipelines are much safer and more energy-efficient than using rail cars or trucks(!) to transport oil.

At this point, I'm not sure any commercial bank is morally better than any other, and believe we should stick to credit unions or local community banks for our banking needs.


Posted by Jennifer, a resident of another community,
on Jan 4, 2022 at 10:40 am

Jennifer is a registered user.

I don't believe banks care about climate change. They pretend to care. It's naive to think any bank is "morally better." Banks are in the banking business. They're not environmentalists. If moving your money makes you feel better, it's your money.

As far as change, change is healthy if it's by choice. By default, it can be a real challenge.

Hopefully 2022 will be a better year. Think positive!


Posted by Consider Your Options. , a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jan 4, 2022 at 1:28 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

Thank you for this article, Sherry. It is great food for thought and action.

Friends, it is time to do all we can. Let's drive less when we can. Switch to electric for our next car. Electric bikes and other smaller electric vehicles have gotten much more efficient for longer trips and for carrying shopping loads. They are a nice alternatives to a second car. I have made the switch to an electric cargo bike. Easy peasy.

My family switched to an induction electric stove---as responsive as gas for sauces, sweets and other fussy cooking. Definitely not your old fashioned electric stove. It also reduces gas emissions in the home and is safer from a fire perspective. This is why many European professional chefs are switching.

Now we are looking at our family's heating and water heating systems for solutions we can afford as we replace utilities. We are taking it one step at a time--making changes to reduce our carbon footprint as we can afford it and need to replace appliances, and do home maintenance projects, etc.

Please consider our planet as you choose vacation options, home improvements, vehicle purchases, etc. A rich and fulfilling life does not have to be gas-dependent. If we all do our part, our children's future will be more secure. Love your children and grandchildren? Love the earth that sustains us all.


Posted by Native to the BAY, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Jan 4, 2022 at 2:09 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

There must be a sea of change in our view of the unhoused. We have an obligation to our citizens to house those in dying need of permanent shelter. The unhoused are enduring in the first line of bi-pedal mammal, climate catastrophe " as we stand by and refuse to look down and move aside from a greedy capitalist “run-a-muck belief. My new year wish: Wealth of health and need over greed. A lusty proposition? We can do it. Housing for all is like health care for all. We all need it and should not be denied because one human is down on their luck. Distribute widely the boots w straps to pull up.


Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Jan 4, 2022 at 4:35 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Jennifer: FWIW, I think the point about divesting is that, as you say, the banks *do* care about money even if they don’t care about climate. So divesting in the name of climate (or anything else) can work if done at sufficient scale. Similarly, companies care about hiring great people, and to the extent young people don’t want to work for fossil fuel companies, that will also make them care. From what I read, both of these are having some effect.

I totally agree with your point about change being easier if it’s chosen than if it’s foisted upon us. Let’s say that global warming has been foisted upon us (not really true, but it does feel that way). My take is that at this point we can *choose* to make (smaller) changes now to adapt/mitigate, and even be thankful that we can do so, or have (bigger) changes foisted upon us later if we do little. I’d rather the former, but I feel like we have a tendency to see only the smaller changes as obstacles and not the bigger changes that are looming. (Looming in a sense, but just in the last two years a Pacific Northwest heatwave boiled an estimated billion marine animals and Australian wildfires killed or harmed three billion animals, not to mention the severe weather that has impacted people.)

I think part of it is that people tend to write off inaction while action is seen as riskier. It’s been easier to do nothing and say “Oops” than to take action that might (say) cost money. (That said, insurance companies are finally starting to wake up to the reality of climate change, as are investors and VCs. But regular people?)


Posted by Native to the BAY, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Jan 5, 2022 at 11:54 am

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

@Consider your options. I also feel that purchasing highly priced dogs (purebreds etc) is having an impact on our carbon footprint. Adopting, fostering, sheltering abandoned, abused, neglected animals a healthier option. We should steer away from the status of owning animals costing six figures, bicycles, tesla, prius'. Our bi-pedal mamals (humans) are suffering the consequences or those owning several homes including vacation and other. It's not only about inversion ovens, solar panels, electric vehicles and bikes. It's how we manage outside our doors and who has what and gets a share. Unhoused. Forever homes of the 1950's is now forever several homes, buying and selling to the highest bidder.


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