Climate Change and Climate Disaster Must Take Center Stage
I will drive less and drive an electric vehicle when I do drive.
I am purchasing my first electric hybrid vehicle. To start that process, I have to have an EV charger installed in my home. I did almost no homework on how electric vehicles work. I trusted the wisdom of the crowd, by which I mean I posted something on Twitter and asked people how they liked their electric vehicles. It seemed like we were at a point in the process where electric vehicles have become stable and reliable enough that it made sense for me to make this my next mode of transportation. I’ll check back with you on that, owing to how crazy the car market is right now. I’ve ordered the car, but it will be a few months before it arrives. In the meantime, I am having an electric vehicle charger installed and mapping out charging stations along some of my favorite routes.
I nixed the lawn mafia.
I’ve changed all of my lawn maintenance to a company that uses eco-friendly products and technologies. Not only does the low-level hum of gasoline-powered lawn equipment drive me batty but it turns out they are also an environmental nuisance. Investing in a manual lawn mower and requiring lawn services to use greener equipment is a no-brainer.
I am sunbathing.
Well, my house will be sunbathing. A solar panel consultant is walking me through installing solar panels. When I purchased my home I did look for one that was certified by the National Green Building Standard. To be transparent, I did not know exactly what that entailed. It felt like a responsible thing to do. Consequently, my home is prepped for solar panels. The state of North Carolina does not offer a state solar incentive, but I may still qualify for the federal solar incentive. If I do not qualify for anything, I will settle for living on a habitable planet.
That’s where I am on my climate journey and how I plan to bring it into my daily life. I will periodically update you on how my green life is going, as a person who is never going to become an environmental expert but thinks it totally matters and is going to try to do her best. That’s the thing, isn’t it? None of us are going to be great at this, but that cannot stop us from trying.
Here’s what I’ve determined so far in the journey: It is hard. It takes a lot of time. One of the reasons white men have been so dominant in this discourse is because they are disproportionately the ones who have the time and the status to figure all of this stuff out. The information asymmetry is a real burden to get over. That’s true, even if you have some economic privilege, as I do. But it’s totally worth it.
It’s worth it because these changes bring climate change into my everyday practice. By putting these symbols of climate change in my view, like having something on my kitchen counter, having the car in my garage, having the panels on my home, it becomes a tactical reminder for me that this thing is happening and it’s happening right now.
And no, that doesn’t equate to a direct effect on the decline of, say, gas emissions. But it does keep climate in our daily view in a way that makes us ask those questions politically, so that we start to assume that a person should have a plan and that those people will include corporations and political actors. Shifting our awareness to making demands of politicians and corporations for doing their outsize share starts by putting the little symbols of climate in our daily view.
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Tressie McMillan Cottom (@tressiemcphd) is an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science, the author of “Thick: And Other Essays” and a 2020 MacArthur fellow.