During this global megacrisis the most urgent emergency we face is to slow down and reverse what humans are doing to cause the global warming that has been occurring for the past century as a result of the increased carbon in the atmosphere. The carbon traps like a blanket the solar heat hitting the Earth, more of which otherwise would reflect back into space by the albedo effect. The carbon has been increasing from about 290 parts per million (ppm) since 1750 and surpassed 400 ppm in 2013. The impact of increased carbon on temperature persists for a century or more. Thus the effects of our carbon emissions are long-lasting. This means that even if humanity manages to reverse the amount of carbon that is going into the air, global warming will continue to get worse for at least a century. This is why many scientists believe that we are already past the point of no return in regard to climate change.
James Lovelock uses Gaia, the Greek word for the Earth, and in his hypothesis suggests that Gaia has many characteristics of a living organism. He also has pointed out that most global warming so far is heating up the huge mass of salt water in the oceans and is melting some ice on the surface of the Earth. Just as heat melts ice cubes in a glass of water, the actual temperature of the water does not change much until after all the ice is melted. Then the iceless water will heat up very quickly. Also the ice on the Earth is white and reflects much of the sun’s heat by the albedo effect. As this ice disappears, the darker ocean and land absorb more heat. Already much of the ice over the Arctic north pole is melting every summer.
These factors and the continuing retreat of the ice and glaciers mean that global warming is likely to accelerate in the near future. Lovelock and other scientists have criticized the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for being too conservative in their predictions about global warming because of the consensus which the governments involved persuaded the scientists to accept. Lovelock has noted that climate change is not always gradual but in erratic patterns often speeds up, slows down, and even finds times of balance. In his 2009 book The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning he expressed concern that the 7 billion humans already on the Earth have taken Gaia far beyond her carrying capacity. Lovelock has predicted that droughts will spread over most of the Earth with the main exceptions being the far north in Canada, northern United States, northern Europe, Siberia, and a few islands that will have moderate weather because of their proximity to oceans, though the islands and coastal areas will suffer massive flooding from rising sea-water. Lovelock has asked what will happen if the average temperature on Earth increases by 7°C in this century. He estimated that the carrying capacity of Gaia then may be as low as only 100 million people or perhaps even less. He warned that if people continue to use fossil fuels by exploiting newly discovered oil, gas, and coal in the Arctic, human beings may “become our own executioners and cause the death of Gaia as well.”1
Tragically humanity for the past thirty years has been postponing the changes needed to reduce carbon emissions in significant ways. I believe that we must act to solve this problem soon and that any more delays will have increasingly massive consequences for the human race, though perhaps not as horrific as what Lovelock fears. Nonetheless every year that passes without setting in motion policies that will reduce carbon emissions means that billions of people could die from starvation, lack of water, and wars which could result from conflicts over resources and desperate attempts of people migrating to livable regions.
In 2013 in the United States the federal and state governments provided $21.6 billion to subsidize the production and exploration of coal, oil, and gas. Federal subsidies under President Obama have increased from $12.7 billion in 2009 to $18.5 billion in 2014. This does not include $11 billion a year in consumption subsidies. In the years 2011-12 the fossil-fuel industry spent $329 million donating to American political campaigns and paying lobbyists, and during those two years they received $33 billion in US Government subsidies. Estimates of the costs for environmental and health impacts of fossil fuels are at least $360 billion and could be as much as one trillion dollars per year. Such consequences will be with us for years, but surely we must begin by removing the irresponsible subsidies that are making the problems worse.
In October 2014 the nations in the European Union (EU) promised to reduce carbon emissions 40% below their 1990 levels by 2030 and by that year to increase their share of renewable energy to 27%. The next month China and the United States, the world’s largest polluting nations, made an agreement. China said its carbon dioxide emissions would peak by 2030 and that its coal consumption would stop increasing by 2020. China also promised to double its carbon-free sources of energy by 2030. The United States pledged to reduce greenhouses gases at least 28% below 2005 levels by 2025. By the end of the year countries with more than half of all emissions had made similar commitments. Many nations did so in 2015 including Japan, Russia, and Mexico.
In this book I am crying out to humanity that we must act quickly to reverse these self-destructive trends, and I am offering solutions that we can adopt to change our habits radically so that negative effects of climate change will be prevented. Energy can be saved by using automobiles, airplanes, and industrial machines less. Buildings can be made more efficient so that less power is needed to control temperature and provide light. The United States uses much more energy per person and emits more carbon dioxide than any other large country.
Local communities are reforming their public utilities so that they use renewable energy. In California and five other states laws have established the Community Choice Aggregation which allows people to combine their energy load and change their supply by forming a partnership with established utilities which then deliver less polluting power. The Local Energy Aggregation Network is based in San Francisco, and Sonoma County started a clean-power initiative using a local geothermal plant with competitive costs. Voters in Boulder, Colorado passed a proposal for the city to use eminent domain and take over $214 million worth of transmission lines and substations from Xcel Energy. City officials in Cape Cod, Massachusetts funded a network of solar farms. In 2013 Chicago stopped using energy from coal and reduced their carbon emissions by 16%.
Perhaps the most important reform needed immediately is a tax on carbon emissions. In 1990 Finland was the first nation to adopt a carbon tax which was set at 1.12 euros per ton of carbon dioxide, and by 2010 their tax rate on CO2 was up to 20 euros per ton. In 1991 Sweden enacted a tax on most carbon emissions. In 1992 Denmark increased its energy taxes by adding a tax on carbon, making the tax 13.5 euros per ton of CO2 with rebates for industry. In 1993 the Danes increased this tax to 80 euros per ton of carbon dioxide emissions and included significant tax reductions for low-income households. In 1997 Costa Rica enacted a tax on carbon pollution collecting 3.5% of the market value of fossil fuels and designating the revenues for protecting national forests by subsidizing the indigenous communities living there. In 2001 Britain imposed a “climate change levy” on the use of energy. In 2008 the Canadian province of British Columbia imposed a carbon tax of $10 per metric ton which rose to $30 by 2012, and a study showed that during that period their fossil fuel consumption decreased 17%. In 2010 Ireland enacted a carbon tax, and India implemented a tax on oil and gas. Australia passed a carbon tax of $24 per metric ton in July 2012 and had reduced carbon emissions by 17 million metric tons by 2014 before they repealed it in July. In October 2014 Chile became the first Latin American nation to enact a climate pollution tax.
I recommend that as soon as possible the United States should impose a tax of $20 per ton on carbon dioxide emitted with annual increases of $10 per ton. Because the emissions of both methane and nitrous oxide have many times the effect of carbon dioxide, the taxes on these gases should be equivalently higher. These taxes would be collected from the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas by power plants as well as on gasoline, home heating oil, and natural gas sold to consumers. The bill sponsored by Senators Sanders and Boxer proposed $20 per ton of carbon or methane equivalent, but it rises only 5.6% per year. I believe the $10-per-year increase recommended by climate experts is important to strengthen the deterrent against using fossil fuels each year. This will give the companies affected a stronger incentive to reduce emissions and convert to cleaner sources.
We also need to tax the methane and carbon dioxide emitted because of the farming of cattle, hogs, sheep, goats, chickens, and turkeys. Taxes on these animals will not only help reduce the pollution that causes warming but also will encourage people to eat more healthy foods. The scientific evidence of the connection between the consumption of meat with its cholesterol and heart disease and cancers has become overwhelming. Vegetarians on average are healthier and live longer than those who consume animal products.
The carbon tax also needs to be applied for deforestation and other land clearing that causes more carbon to go into the atmosphere. A study by Forest Trends published in September 2014 calculated that 71% of all tropical deforestation between 2000 and 2012 was because of commercial agriculture and that 49% of the total was done illegally, emitting an average of 1.47 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide per year. Brazil and Indonesia accounted for three-quarters of that illegal deforestation. Mostly because of cattle and soy, at least 90% of Brazil’s deforestation of the Amazon rain forest was illegal. At least 80% of Indonesia’s deforestation for commercial agriculture (especially palm oil) and timber was also illegal. According to a United Nations report recently the average loss of forest each year has been about 13 million hectares. Between 2004 and 2013 Brazil reduced its annual deforestation by 80%. According to the Global Carbon Project deforestation’s share of greenhouse gas emissions has been reduced from 17% to 8%.
At the United Nations climate summit on September 23, 2014 the New York Declaration on Forests was endorsed by 150 parties including 32 national governments and 40 multinational corporations. They promised to reduce natural forest loss by half by the year 2020 and to work to end it by 2030. They also set the goal of restoring 150 million hectares of degraded land by 2020 and 200 million by 2030. The Consumer Goods Forum, which is made up of 400 large companies with $3 trillion in sales, pledged to free its supply chains of deforestation by 2020. However, environmentalists noted that these commitments are not binding and that the new agreement goes back on the Convention of Biological Diversity signed by most governments in 1992 obligating them to manage forests sustainably by 2020. The tax on carbon would be a powerful deterrent on companies, and the revenues could be used to subsidize clean energy and restoration of land.
Revenues from carbon emissions that cause global warming and pollute the environment can then be used to subsidize the needed alternatives of renewable energy such as solar power, windmills, and making buildings more energy-efficient. Because the wealthier nations in the North have emitted much more carbon than the poorer countries in the South, who will suffer much more from the effects of global warming, I recommend that half of the revenues from the taxes on carbon emissions be sent to help the poor in those nations to finance renewable energies and to adjust to the consequences of global warming. The other half could subsidize the installation of solar energy, wind power, and other renewables in the United States or in whatever nation adopts the tax.
Already many countries are rapidly increasing their use of solar energy and wind power as the technology is making them more efficient and cost effective. Once humanity decides to move in this direction in order to attempt to prevent the worst disasters that have ever threatened human civilization, people will have new hope while working to adjust to the increasing climate disasters such as severe storms, floods, forest fires, and droughts. These are already upon us and getting worse each year. Adapting and cleaning up these messes will not seem so devastating, knowing that at least we are working to prevent worse possibilities for our children and grandchildren.
Energy expert Brian F. Towler advised in his 2014 book The Future of Energy that an agreement to limit carbon emissions must include the United States, China, Europe, Russia, and India, and then other countries will be likely to follow them. He also wrote,
The world can generate all of its electricity
without pumping any carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
This could even be achieved in a 10-year time frame
if the political will is there.
To seriously reduce the carbon dioxide
emanating from automobiles, there needs to be
a major switch to electric vehicles or low-emission vehicles.2
In 2013 the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) published the scientific study “Wake Up Before It's Too Late,” which reported that 35% of greenhouse gases come from industrial food and farming practices that are chemical-intensive, energy-intensive, and use genetically modified organisms (GMOs) while another 20% of global warming is caused by deforestation which is often driven by agriculture. They called for a return to sustainable farming and forestry that could quickly turn around this pollution. Plants use photosynthesis to absorb energy from the sun by taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. The plants use the carbon with water for growth and release the rest of the carbon and hydrogen from the water into the soil through their roots.
The first major documentary on climate change, “The Years of Living Dangerously” appeared on Showtime in 2014 and won the prime-time Emmy for “Outstanding Non-Fiction Series.” The second season was shown on the National Geographic Channel in the fall of 2016.
A study of agro-ecological principles of farming by 286 projects in 57 countries found that all different kinds of farms increased productivity by an average of 79%. A ten-year study organized by Olivier de Shutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right of Food, found that organic farms captured up to 2,000 pounds of carbon per acre per year from the atmosphere while fields using chemical fertilizers emitted nearly 300 pounds of carbon per acre each year. They estimated that if traditional mixed farming was adopted in the world, about two-thirds of the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could be captured within a half century.
The Rodale Institute study published in 2014 estimates that the total annual greenhouse gas emissions, which were about 52 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) in 2012, need to be reduced to 41 GtCO2e to limit global warming to 1.5°C. Their study of recent data from farming systems and pasture experiments indicate that more than the needed reduction in carbon dioxide emissions could be sequestered into plants and the soil by widely using inexpensive organic agriculture which is regenerative. Studies of organic corn, wheat, vegetables, peanuts, pasture, and other crops have shown that if half of all cropland and pasture in the world used regenerative organic methods, about 29 GtCO2e would be sequestered.
Agro-ecology avoids the problem of bare soil by using conservation tillage, cover crops, crop rotation, compost, and complexity rather than monoculture. Legumes such as peanuts and beans take nitrogen from the air and put it into the soil. George Washington Carver demonstrated this a century ago and helped replenish the soil of the South that had been degraded by growing so much cotton. The sequestration also preserves and increases topsoil as the roots of plants transfer carbon into the soil. Pasturing ruminant animals eat the grass, but the roots die and are integrated into the soil by worms, nematodes, and microbes.
By reviewing hundreds of studies, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization found that in developing countries organic farming is two to ten times more productive than plantations which use chemicals. Industrial agriculture by using billions of pounds of chemical fertilizers and pesticides on heavily tilled and eroded land destroys the Earth’s ability to sequester carbon while they also emit carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Plowing releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and the use of chemical fertilizers prevents plants from putting carbon dioxide into the soil in exchange for natural nitrogen and phosphorus. The leading expert Dr. Rattan Lal has estimated that unsustainable farming, ranching, and land use has already caused the emission of hundreds of billions of tons of carbon or about half of what had been originally sequestered in agricultural soil. As a result about one quarter of arable land in the world is now fallow. A long-term study by the Rodale Institute has shown that with regenerative organic agriculture the soil acts as a sponge for absorbing moisture and produces 30% more crops during a drought than industrial farming.
Dr. David Johnson of Sandia Labs at New Mexico State University has shown that biomass production captures 50 tons of carbon dioxide per acre. Currently about 2.5 billion small and indigenous farmers and rural villagers produce 70% of humanity’s food on 25% of the Earth’s land. Many studies show that small ecological farms produce more than industrial farms while also sequestering carbon.
Organic farming provides much more sustainable and healthy agriculture. In the first decade of the 21st century the amount of organic farmland in the world more than doubled and reached 36 million hectares in 2012. By imposing a heavy tax on pesticides Sweden reduced their use by 65%. Sweden also required emissions labeling on foods and restaurant menus.
Recent research is showing that neonicotinoid insecticides are killing massive numbers of bees, the world’s most prolific pollinators, in what is called “Colony Collapse Disorder.” A Greenpeace report “Plan Bee” calls for living without pesticides by moving towards ecological farming in order to save the bees and prevent the damage to agriculture caused by their decline.
The main sources of clean and renewable energy are solar energy, wind power, hydroelectric, and geothermal. In the November 2009 Scientific American article “A Plan to Power 100 Percent of the Planet with Renewables” professors Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucci calculated that improvements in power generation, transportation, heating, and cooling, if adequately implemented, could provide all of the world’s energy by wind, water, and solar sources by 2030.
The steady energy of the sun is essential to life on Earth and is going to be available on the Earth for billions of years. Solar energy from the sun is going to be a great boon to humanity. The fossil fuels, which have been over-used in recent decades, come from the remains of plants and animals that originally captured this energy from the sun by the photosynthesis of plants and by the animals that ate plants and other animals. The burning of those fossil fuels by humans has caused an increase in the greenhouse gases which soak up additional heat from the sun and thus are warming up the Earth beyond that to which humans have become accustomed.
Passive solar energy is when water or other materials soak up radiation from the sun as heat. For example, this can be used for hot-water heaters.
Active solar energy comes from photovoltaic (PV) panels and concentrated solar power which collects and directs heat from the sun. Photovoltaics convert solar radiation into direct electric current by using semiconductors, and they are the fastest growing solar energy. The cost of electricity from photovoltaic (PV) solar energy has recently been declining by more than 10% per year. Each time PV capacity is doubled, the cost of the PV panels has been reduced by 20%. Although solar power has been only a small fraction of all power in the past, in the future scientists predict that improvements will reduce its costs by 90%. Once PV power plants are developed, they can operate without risks with no fuel costs and without emitting any carbon.
In 2009 solar power produced less than 0.1% of electricity. The price of PV cells in 2008 decreased 75% by the end of 2011. By that year the cost of solar electricity was reduced to $2.43/watt and became significantly less than that from nuclear power. The average price is expected to drop below $2/watt, and already large solar PV installations are below $1/watt. During the year 2013 the energy produced by photovoltaics increased 38% to 139 gigawatts (GW) in the world, generating 0.85% of all electricity. In 2014 it was 178 GW, and Germany increased their use of solar electricity to about 6.5%. Yet most other nations have an even greater potential for using solar energy than Germany which is a northern nation with less sunlight.
Technological progress is increasing the capability of solar cells rapidly, and consumers are finding that photovoltaics are becoming more cost effective. Solar photovoltaic power stations have been springing up in Europe, China, India, the United States, and Canada. Photovoltaics are usually installed on rooftops but also can be used on a large scale in open spaces, though these take up more land than other forms of energy. Even cars, boats, and airplanes can get additional energy from the sun. Once they are installed, photovoltaics can operate for a century or longer with little maintenance. Of course the energy from the sun is free, and it is clean in that it does not pollute the environment. Thus their operating costs are extremely low and offer people energy independence from large utility companies. Extra energy captured from the sun can even be sold back to utility companies for use by other customers.
In 2007 the European Union (EU) set the goal of getting 20% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020, and PV solar power may provide 12%. In 2006 California passed the Global Warming Solutions Act requiring the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. In 2011 under Governor Jerry Brown they set the goal of one-third of California’s electricity coming from renewables by 2020, and some legislators are hoping to increase that goal. In 2009 US President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which included more than $50 billion for clean energy research, development, and deployment and $30 billion in tax incentives; but since Republicans gained a majority in the House of Representatives in 2011, efforts to prevent further global warming have been blocked.
Windmills produce mechanical power from the wind and with turbines can turn this into electric power. Wind farms with hundreds of wind turbines are connected to networks that transmit electric power. Although building wind turbines is capital intensive, the fuel (wind) is free. Wind power is renewable and will never run out. Wind turbines emit neither carbon nor any hazardous waste. No water is needed to cool windmills. Wind technology is easily available anywhere in the world, and wind farms can be built in less than a year. Wind is a relatively new technology and is still being improved by innovation and experience. Wind provides decentralized power and requires only small organizations to become a part of power generation. Wind energy offers jobs and additional income for farmers, and its infrastructure can be built in remote areas. Wind power has become competitive with other energy sources, and its life-cycle costs are stable. Windmills do not take up much space on land, and their effect on the environment is less than most power sources.
Some ecologists have complained that birds are killed by flying into the propeller-like blades of the turbines, but the number is a small fraction of the birds killed by power lines or by motor vehicles or by colliding with glass windows. Wind power varies in the short term but is consistent from year to year. The cost of electricity from wind power is now less than that from coal and baseload gas plants. Small-scale wind power can also be used on rooftops for buildings.
Wind power increased from 17 billion watts in the year 2000 to 121 billion in 2008. By 2010 wind power was providing 2.5% of all the electricity used in the world, and it has been increasing by more than 25% each year. The price of onshore wind decreased by 25% between 2009 and 2011. By then 83 countries were using wind power for their electricity grids.
So far the largest group of wind turbines onshore is the Gansu Wind Farm in China which was installed in 2010 and reached a capacity of 6,000 megawatts (MW) in 2012. The Chinese government is planning six such wind-power megaprojects. The Gansu Wind Farm is expected to achieve 20,000 MW by 2020 at a cost of about $17.5 billion. The second largest wind farm is the Alta Wind Energy Center in the Tehachapi Pass in California. Construction began in 2010, and in 2013 its wind power reached 1,320 MW. India has the Jaisalmer Wind Park which reached a capacity of 1,064 MW in 2012. The United States also has five more wind farms with a capacity of 600 MW or more. Romania has one with 600 MW, and the United Kingdom has the Whitalee Wind Farm with 539 MW.
According to the Global Wind Report Annual Market Update by the end of 2015 the nations with the most wind-power capacity were China with 145,362 MW, the United States 74,471 MW, Germany 44,947 MW, India 25,088 MW, Spain 23,025 MW, the United Kingdom 13,603 MW, Canada 11,205 MW, France 10,358 MW, Italy 8,958 MW, and Denmark 5,063 MW. All nations had a world total of 432,883 MW. The Global Wind Report has estimated that wind power may reach 8% of the electricity market by 2018.
In 2004 China manufactured one-quarter of their wind turbines, and foreigners built three-quarters, but by 2008 this had been reversed. China’s Renewable Energy Law became effective at the beginning of 2006 establishing a national renewable energy target, a compulsory connection and purchase policy, feed-in tariffs (FITs), and cost-sharing. In China’s 12th five-year plan which began in 2011 they set the goals of achieving 50 GW of solar power and 70 GW of wind power by 2020.
Feed-in Tariffs (FITs) have helped Denmark, Germany, and Spain to expand renewable energy from the wind and the sun to replace polluting coal plants and dangerous nuclear power. The Danes began pioneering wind power in the 1970s, and they have begun exporting their excess power from wind to Germany, Norway, and Sweden. In 1984 Denmark imposed a tax on electricity consumption that exempted renewable energy. The Danish Organization for Renewable Energy (OVE) persuaded the Danes to forgo the imminent nuclear power industry by initiating the development of wind power. OVE’s mission is to help Denmark achieve 100% sustainable energy sources by 2030. By 2013 Denmark was generating more than 33% of it electricity from wind, and their government is planning to increase this to 50% by 2020. The Danes are also planning to phase out all use of coal by 2030 and to generate all power and heat from renewables by 2035.
The Electricity Feed Act adopted in 1990 provided the first FIT in Germany, and the Renewable Energy Sources Act in 2000 was the second FIT. By 2011 wind power was producing 29 GW in Germany providing 7.7% of the electricity consumed by Germans.
Greenpeace helped Spaniards reform their energy production, and between 1988 and 1997 two environmental organizations joined their protests. Spain’s wind industry took off in 1997 when they passed the Electric Power Act. By 2012 Spain had installed wind power with a capacity of 22.8 GW which provided 18% of Spain’s electricity.
The Energy Action Coalition was founded in June 2004 and includes fifty organizations from the United States and Canada. Between 2000 and 2008 more than fifty American colleges and universities purchased renewable energy certificates (RECs), and by January 2008 more than ninety American businesses had purchased RECs also. In 2007-08 California, Illinois, Hawaii, Michigan, Minnesota, and Rhode Island introduced FIT legislation to promote renewable energy.
Water power comes from the gravitational force of water released from dams and is called hydroelectricity. Hydroelectric power is also increasing, and in 2010 its electric production provided 16% of all the electricity consumed in the world. Hydroelectricity from dams has been built up over a long period of time, and it currently accounts for 88% of the electricity from renewable sources. As of 2009 the largest producers of annual hydroelectric production were China with 652 TeraWatt hours (TWh) followed by Canada 370 TWh, Brazil 364 TWh, United States 251 TWh, Russia 167 TWh, Norway 141 TWh, India 116 TWh, Venezuela 86 TWh, Japan 69 TWh, and Sweden 66 TWh. Of the 21 major dams under construction China is building 12, Brazil 3, India 2, and Burma, Ethiopia, Pakistan, and Venezuela one each. The largest dams are the Three Gorges Dam in China with a generating capacity of 20,300 MW, the Itaipu Dam in Brazil and Paraguay 14,000 MW, the Guri Dam in Venezuela 10,200 MW, and the Tucurui Dam in Brazil 8,370 MW. Large dams cause some ecological damage and loss of land, and hydroelectric power plants in the tropics release substantial amounts of methane because of the plant material in flooded areas.
In the United States the Columbia-Snake River basin has 76 dams generating electricity with a capacity of 34 GW, and the Grand Coulee Dam has a maximum turbine capacity of 6,809 MW. According to the Hydropower Association the United States has the potential for another 400 GW hydropower capacity, and they estimate that industry could increase hydropower capacity by 60 GW by the year 2025. By using that 400 GW capacity the US could generate an additional 1,250 TWh of electricity per year which is 40% of the US demand. Hydroelectric power is clean, renewable, and more reliable over time than solar and wind power. Dams are also used to save fresh water for use by agriculture, industry, and private homes, and they can provide flood control and less loss of water from the increased rain that is caused by warmer air.
Geothermal energy comes from the Earth’s crust with 80% from radioactive decay of minerals and 20% from the original formation of the Earth as a planet. Temperatures at the core-mantle boundary as high as 4,000°C and pressure from the interior of the Earth cause rocks to melt. Rock and water in the upper crust can be heated up to 370°C. Hot springs were used by ancient Romans to heat buildings, and now they are used to generate electricity. In 2007 geothermal power was used by 24 nations to produce 9,732 megawatts (MW). In 2015 geothermal energy produced 12,636 MW for heating, spas, industry, agriculture, and desalination. Geothermal power is cost effective, reliable, sustainable, and environmentally clean, but so far it has been limited to regions by the boundaries of the tectonic plates. The nations with the largest geothermal installed electric capacity in 2015 are the United States 3,567 MW, the Philippines 1,930 MW, Indonesia 1,375 MW, Mexico 1,069 MW, New Zealand 973 MW, Italy 944 MW, Iceland 665 MW, Japan 533 MW, Kenya 607 MW, El Salvador 205 MW, and Costa Rica 204 MW.
Individuals can live simply and frugally so that others may simply live. Americans have one of the largest ecological and carbon “footprints” of any nation. Our use of jet fuel, gasoline, and other forms of energy gives the United States the highest rate of carbon emissions per person of any large nation. Americans have about one quarter of the one billion motor vehicles in the world and consume more gasoline than the next twenty nations combined. Fortunately the development of electric cars is accelerating. We need to use cleaner forms of energy and reduce, reuse, and recycle material things. We can install more efficient appliances and light bulbs and water-saving showerheads. We can dress for the weather and use less heat and air conditioning. We can exercise by walking, by bicycling, and by taking stairs instead of elevators. We can travel less by enjoying friends and culture at local meetings and by electronic means.
Those who manage to live on low income contribute less to the current federal income tax, more than half of which funds military spending. We can refuse to invest money in funds that support militarism, fossil fuels, or pollution. We also need to increase awareness of the dangers of global warming and of how we can reduce our negative effects on the environment. We can support the networks and coalitions of people working on these reform issues.
The healthiest foods we can eat are fresh vegetables, fruit, and nuts that we prepare for ourselves and our loved ones. Packaged and canned foods are less healthy because they contain preservatives and additives that artificially enhance flavor and color. Because these products may come from far away, their shipment impacts the environment as does the packaging. Recently food-processing companies have been adding more sugar, fat, and salt to make food more flavorful. Refined foods such as white flour, white sugar, and white rice are less nutritious and more fattening than whole foods. When considering the purchase of packaged food, we can learn what substances we are ingesting by reading the list of ingredients. We can bring reusable bags when shopping.
Children can benefit by eating three balanced meals each day because they are growing and expend calories naturally when they play and exercise. Grown-ups may wish to consider eating only two meals a day so that they would not have to exercise so much in order to maintain a healthy weight. By eating breakfast and an early dinner one is less likely to be eating when not even hungry. Being a little hungry when eating makes food more enjoyable.
Eliminating or reducing the consumption of meat, especially mammals, and dairy products will improve health and prevent heart disease and other ailments. Eating less meat also causes less pollution and global warming. People can save money on food and pollute less by growing vegetables and fruit. During World War I and especially in World War II with Victory Gardens at private residences and public parks Americans produced about one-third of the vegetables in the United States. They planted gardens in backyards and on rooftops of apartment buildings. They learned that gardens produce four times as much food per acre as farms.
There are many other ways to make life better, but the main purpose of this book is to focus on what people can do collectively by changing governmental policies. In summary, solutions include using renewable energy, refitting buildings with solar power and skylights, upgrading infrastructure, improving insulation, living closer to where one works, walking and using a bicycle, using more fuel-efficient motor vehicles, forgoing air travel, purchasing fewer material products, efficiently using energy and water, eating a vegetarian diet or at least less meat, cultivating a garden, cutting down fewer trees, planting trees, and perhaps by having fewer children.
With modern technology we can now learn more about our world and communicate with other people around the globe instantaneously by electronic means. Through the worldwide web we can find and read almost any book, watch movies and documentaries on all subjects, listen to music, and communicate with words, sound, and pictures. Thus we can be very aware of our world and its history without leaving our homes and at very low cost financially and to the environment.
To help preserve the natural environment of the Earth to which humanity has become accustomed, we can refrain from traveling great distances and reduce our use of heavy machinery such as automobiles. We can have a rich cultural environment by participating in local groups and events such as educational classes, theater, sports, and various clubs. We can use public libraries to borrow books, videos, and music, and we can purchase used items at low prices and donate books, music, and movies after enjoying them. We can maintain our health by exercise, athletics, sports, dancing, swimming, hiking, walking, etc.
At home we can work for pay. We can grow food which we can prepare and cook. We can practice arts and crafts, read and study, meditate and pray, and socialize with our family, friends, and neighbors. An only child of a family does not need to be lonely when there are other children the same age in school and the neighborhood. Through electronic means we can communicate with relatives and friends with similar interests. Instead of traveling to distant countries to see works of art, we can watch videos about them and learn their histories from books.
We have so many wonderful ways we can spend our precious time and resources. Why would we ever want to waste them supporting greedy pursuits for excessive wealth and futile wars fought to try to maintain fleeting riches?
1. The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning by James Lovelock, p. 88-89.
2. The Future of Energy by Brian F. Towler, p. 301.