More Trees, Fewer Humans: Getting Our Priorities Right

If we recognize that we want a planet that supports human life and flourishing much as it has over the past several millennia, we should recognize that depopulation is good and reforesting of lands is necessary. Both of these are contrary to current views of leaders, educators and good people around the world. It’s common sense to applaud the birth of humans and decry the loss of human life; similarly, it is uncontested logic that forests and jungles should be cleared to develop economies. Both elements of “common sense,” part of a neoliberal worldview, need to be challenged and reformed. Such is part of the cultural shift needed to sustain a habitable planet. Such are some of the value shifts needed to reverse the looming climate catastrophe.

Why We Need More Forests

Let’s start with the easier one. Forests act as a carbon sink. They absorb greenhouse gases and thus remove them from the atmosphere. The more trees we have, the more we slow and reverse climate change. Forests include alpine, temperate, and tropical as well as coral reefs, kelp, and mangroves. States could pass laws that any forest cleared for whatever reason must be offset by planting double the acreage of forest (somewhere appropriate), understanding that offsets schemes are not automatically effective; they must be funded and managed properly. States can expand areas designated as National Parks and can enhance protections and management of National Forests. Individuals and corporations can act responsibly when removing trees or clearing forested areas by taking care to limit the removal of trees, and commit to replanting  any trees removed. States can also invest in technology and labor in early detection of forest fires. Fire prone areas along the West coast of N. America can invest in management of forests by controlled burns, diversion of water or other creative management to limit the uncontrolled spread of wildfires. Such efforts are critical for preventing forests from becoming sources of carbon-emissions when they burn. NGOs can work with governments, individuals, and corporations to plant trees along highways, streets, neighborhoods, parks, rivers, anywhere that is appropriate. Trees are a critical part of the solution and must not be neglected in the effort to restore the planet to balance. If you don’t already, consider using ecosia the search engine that plants trees when you search (Tip: to search google inside ecosia, use #g inside your ecosia search.)

Alright, Grasslands and Prairies are Important Too

What we really need is strategic and informed re-wilding, reforestation, and restoration of ecosystems based on the best science and wisdom available. In some wildfire prone areas, it may be that grasslands are better for now. See here and here.

Fewer Humans is a Good Thing

Speaking to politicians about the need to freeze fossil fuel expansion, one response I’ve encountered is that 2 billion more people will be added to the population by 2050 and that they would have energy needs that must be met by expanding our energy supply. I argue that current and future energy needs can be met by expanding green energy sources, but the point I’m recognizing here is that more humans means more consumption of energy and resources, which means more pressure on the ability of the planet to sustain human life. I’ve also heard it often argued by people of varied political persuasions that the resources of the planet can support our growing population, we just have to manage our resources more efficiently. My response to that is, good luck. Studies suggest we are on several unsustainable trajectories for meeting human consumption demands (worst case summary here). In any case, what is the point of having more humans? Why is that considered good? Denser populations lead to more waste, more disease, more competition, higher prices on food and housing, and often more crime, and violence. Larger populations mean more challenges for employment, education; and increase likelihood of famine, and pandemics, and war. Rather than thinking that more is always better when it comes to humans, we need to recognize that there is an optimal number of humans that can be supported by our planet shared with other species large and small.

I’ve also hear it exclaimed that we have too many wild animals…too many deer, or foxes, or wolves. Evidence of this is the increasing sighting of such animals in populated areas. Somehow it doesn’t seem to occur to such people that the increase in sightings of animals is due to loss of habitat due to human encroachment on their habitat or due to forest fires or lack of food or water.  It is often claimed that environmentalists care more about animals than humans, this is a misrepresentation. The reason there is often such an appearance is that environmentalists appreciate the importance of animals in the sustenance of healthy ecosystems. Environmentalists are also humble enough to not assume they understand why or how a beetle or bird or fungus may or may not contribute to an ecosystem or to human health; they believe in the awesome majesty of the natural world and seek to preserve it in all its diversity. One can read into this a reverence for creation and respect for the source of life.

Expanding upon this respect for the diversity of life in order to preserve healthy life-giving ecosystems we must understand how the expansion of human populations pose a threat to ecosystems and other species. We are currently experiencing a great extinction event, the sixth mass extinction event our planet has undergone. Unlike previous extinction events which were precipitated by global climate change due to traumatic events like an asteroid crashing into the earth, or long-term atmospheric changes, the current extinction event is caused by human activity and population expansion over the past 125 years.

To arrest this mass extinction event which threatens to take humans along with it, we need to change our view that human population should always expand. This is flawed. The global population needs to shrink. Ageing populations are good. Other depopulation events are also, in the big scheme of human flourishing and earth-healing, good. This is why I thought Thanos in Infinity War was a benevolent figure, akin, perhaps, to Yahweh or Allah, or perhaps Shiva or Kali, who exercise wisdom and compassion that transcends petty, self-interested human reason. To be clear, I’m NOT advocating the engineering of depopulation events. I am, however, arguing that the unprecedented challenges of this moment call for a taking seriously the problem of overconsumption/over-population which opens the heart to a bigger non-species-centric love, which in turn, fosters an ambivalent gaze upon earth’s corrective measures as they come, fast and furious, that, at the same time redoubles our commitment to ending regimes of power fueling such destruction. Take a deep breath, exhale, smile.

It is time, to live and let die. Let the elderly enter that good night at home, surrounded by loved ones without the clutter and buzz of medical machines and devices. It’s less alienating, more real, and saves money and resources, #palliativecare. Alternatively one may go for and/or advocate assisted dying, #assisteddying.

It is time to encourage policies and practices that discourage procreation. Read about women pledging to go childless to protect the planet, #birthstrikers (here and here).

It’s time to ask would be parents to consider adopting or remaining childless, or having one, or, at most, two. There are many children who need a loving home.

It’s time for governments everywhere, but especially in places experiencing fast population growth to incentivize and promote family planning.

In closing I would like to point out that this focus on human populations is a shorthand, if you will, for addressing over-consumption. Recognizing the inequity of production and consumption patterns, another approach would be to regulate consumption rather than population. If others have a good plan for doing so I welcome the dialogue. I certainly don’t have all the answers, and I recognize how ugly some of this may sound or look in practice. But I’m willing to risk perceived ugliness, for climbing out of this sixth mass extinction of species. What about you?

You Cannot Be a Good Parent and Be Nonpolitical

As parents we should be alarmed, incensed, and demand change to build a safe and healthy society for our children. But how do we know what to fight for? This can be tricky, especially because the same corrupting powers influencing politicians are also working hard to influence our views. As parents, we have to break free of the influence of those powerful lobbying groups to think for ourselves, and to gain clarity. Only you can decide what is most important to you and your family, but I will present my thoughts on a few issues that are worth fighting for in America.

Legislation to Prevent Senseless Massacres
(of our children)

This is a hot button issue and people are primed up to jump on it one way or the other. Why is that?  Why is it so important for fellow Americans to own military grade assault rifles like the AR15, high capacity magazines, and bump stocks (which modify rifles to fire like a machine gun)?  No one can seriously suggest any of these are needed to hunt or even to protect one’s life, family or property (do you live in a live war zone of attacking militias? if so, consider other fixes). So what does regulating or banning such weapons and accessories have to do with parenting?  Do you remember the massacre of 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7 at their elementary school named Sandy Hook in Connecticut?  As a parent, that was one of the saddest days of my life and it still fills me with sadness. I’ve never been to Connecticut, I didn’t know any of those kids or their parents, but as a parent, I know what it is like to drop your kids off at school and can imagine the unspeakable horror to have my own beautiful innocent children taken away in such senseless violence. How did this happen? How did it happen in Parkland, FL? In Vegas? And so many other places?  I’m no expert, but one of the common threads in the massacres mentioned is use of the AR 15 which is designed to kill humans by tearing up their internal organs. Those conducting autopsies on the victims in Parkland said they’d never seen anything like it. It is easy to use and once hit there is little to no chance of survival which is why it is increasingly the weapon of choice for mass murder.

As parents, we should ask ourselves would we rather work now to prevent future massacres of our own children or wait until it happens to one of our children, like the father of Jamie Guttenberg, gunned down at her high school in Parkland, FL? NO, we should educate ourselves now, write emails, make calls, donate money. Those are the basic ways to be a participant in our democracy. Because powerful organizations like the NRA do this, it requires all parents to stand up together to fight for our children and their safety. It’s not easy to become an expert, and so we have to rely on others at some point to make the best decisions about gun control. But the wrong positions are easy to identify and protest; the talking points of the NRA and their proxies are usually in the interest of making more violent weapons more widely available (facilitating more massacres).

Legislation to Protect the Environment

Another important issue for parents to be informed about and active on is the environment. Once again, it has become politicized thanks to powerful corporations who have full time lobbyists to influence politicians and marketing teams to confuse the public. As parents we have to recognize that we want to ensure our children have clean air and clean water and not let corporations or politicians stand in our way. How would you feel if you were among those families in Flint, MI exposed to lead in your drinking water, harming your children?  We have to keep up the fight for high environmental standards. We also have to become educated about climate change and work to address it in the name of our children and grandchildren. Again, Parents stand the most to lose on these issues, we should STAND UP and BE HEARD. We should organize as PARENTS fighting for our CHILDREN and their FUTURE. The political parties have just paid lip service to our needs; we need to demand more of all of them. We can do it together.

Healthcare Reform

Maybe you are happy with your healthcare, maybe you have good insurance, or maybe you have found it prohibitively expensive. As parents we need to ask ourselves what we want for our kids and fight for it. Polls suggest that most Americans are interested in universal coverage such as is found in Canada and most other developed countries. America is the outlier on this, as it is on guns, because of the corruption of our political system. Do you want to go broke getting medicine for your child? Do you want them to go broke after they are grown? No, it’s not right and there is a better way.

Other Issues

As parents we have many other concerns: internet safety, drugs, education, sexuality, money, racism and more. There is much we can do on our own to protect and educate our children, and some issues may not have clear legislative fixes. We should be careful not to think everything can be legislated. Some things are left to us and our wits and responsible actions. What we want to work on at the political level are those threats that are more difficult to protect ourselves from through our own wits and efforts, which is why I’ve listed three: guns, climate, healthcare. These three already have robust resources to explore and organizations to help. I welcome thoughts in the comments below on the issues I’ve raised or ones I may have missed.

The Bottom Line

Being a good parent requires a great many things besides being political. In fact, being a good parent is MOSTLY nonpolitical in nature. BUT, due to the unbridled corruption of our political systems we the people need to fight to make the world safe for our children. This is why I think parents are a critical source for political action and change. We love our children and would do anything for them. If that is true, political action is part of our call as good parents, to ignore politics is to make the world more dangerous.


Organizations and News Outlets Working to Address Climate Change

We are busy people and as much as we would like to research, advocate, and demonstrate, we can’t do everything. That is why we rely on the work of others and should support those who are committed to fighting climate change.

Organizations Working to Prevent Climate Change

Please consider supporting these organizations   – Founded in 2008 by Bill McKibben and associates, 350 is named after 350 parts per million — the safe concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. 350 is a global network linking activists in 188 countries that uses online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions to oppose new coal, oil and gas projects, take money out of the companies that are heating up the planet, and build 100% clean energy solutions.

The Sierra Club  – Founded in 1892 by John Muir and associates, the Sierra club is arguably the most enduring and influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States. Over recent years they have focused on fighting climate change.

Oil Change International – Founded in 2005 by Stephen Kretzmann, Oil Change is a research, communication, and advocacy organization focused on exposing the true costs of fossil fuels and facilitating the coming transition towards clean energy. The production and consumption of oil, gas, and coal are major sources of global warming, human rights abuses, war, national security concerns, corporate globalization, and increased inequality.

The Rainforest Action Network  – Founded in 1985 by Randy “Hurricane” Hayes and Mike Roselle, the focus of the organization has been to protect rainforests and thereby prevent climate change. More than most groups they pressure corporations to act responsibly.

Greenpeace – Founded in 1971 by Irving and Dorthy Stowe with other activists working to ensure earth’s ability to nurture life in all its diversity. It is now a global network of activists involved with direct actions, lobbying, and research and has done much to raise awareness of environmental issues.

The Natural Resource Defense Council – Founded in 1970 by law students and attorneys to protect America’s air, land, and water from pollution and corporate greed. Apart from advocacy and information, this group also engages litigation to support environmental protection.

The Union of Concerned Scientists – Founded in 1969 by scientists and students at MIT to engage in scientifically informed advocacy on critical issues such as nuclear weapons, climate change, and sustainable agriculture.

The Best News Organizations for Climate Change Coverage

-Please consider supporting them. Neither accepts corporate sponsors, which is a key reason they are the best source of news on climate change. Both of these are politically left of center, but that has more to do with respect for science and concern with justice when it comes to climate change, rather than any political bias.

Democracy Now

The Guardian


If I’m missing your favorites please let me know and I will see about adding them to this list.


Cows and the Environment

“Livestock production may have a bigger impact on the planet than anything else.”
-The Triple Whopper… Global Meat Production


According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), 37 percent of human- induced methane comes from livestock. Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas and warms the atmosphere much more strongly than CO2. However, it doesn’t stay in the atmosphere as long as CO2 (its’ half-life in the atmosphere is only about 8 years, compared to 100 years or more for CO2). Significantly, this means that we can reduce the dangerous greenhouse gases in the atmosphere much more quickly by reducing methane, than by reducing CO2 (see –Livestock and Climate Change). This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t focus on reducing CO2, it just means that in addition to our CO2 reduction measures, we can get more bang for our buck by reducing methane. The way to do that is one of the easiest things you can do: purchase less beef and dairy (milk, cheese, butter, yogurt) More Info Here . If you want to be an ally in the reduction of climate change reduce your consumption of meat (especially beef) and dairy. If you want to be a climate hero go vegan! It is a rapidly growing trend that we can all support by not ridiculing vegans or vegetarians.

Going Vegan or Vegetarian

Just as there is much misinformation about human induced climate change, there is also plenty of misinformation about vegan and vegetarian diets. I’ll try to clear up any questions or confusions you may have.  I’ll start by saying that Vegan and Vegetarian diets are arguably the most healthy diet one can have. It’s not hard to find someone who will tell you how their health has been turned around for the better by adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet. Studies indicate that these diets prevent heart disease, strokes, as well as various diseases. In short, you can be strong, healthy and long-lived as a vegan or vegetarian. We have centuries of proof.

First what is the difference between Vegan and Vegetarian?

Vegans do not purchase or consume animal products and byproducts such as meats of any kind, or milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs or butter. Strict vegans are careful to check products for any animal products, this includes some vitamins and many packaged goods. Vegans can, nonetheless, consume the many plant-based meat and dairy substitutes which are increasingly available. Milk alternatives are made from soy, almond, coconut, cashew, rice, hemp and more. Silk brand makes milk substitutes from soy, almond, cashew, and coconut. Daiya makes better than average cheese substitutes. Some of the meat substitutes available are made by Yves, Morning Star, Beyond Meat, Field Roast, Tofurky,  Trader Joes, Lightlife, Boca Burger. Did I miss your favorite? Tell me about it in the comments.

If this sounds too great a challenge or you’re not ready just yet to abandon butter or cheese, consider going vegetarian instead. Vegetarians also include one’s who avoid eggs and milk, but there are also many vegetarians who consume milk, eggs, and butter. What all vegetarians avoid is meat of any kind, beef, chicken, fish, lamb, other seafood. As mentioned above, there are increasingly good substitutes available. Many which require no sacrifice in taste or enjoyment.  You should, however, educate yourself on how to best meet your nutritional requirements. A good rule of thumb is to include a good variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet (colors and textures) as well a consistent protein source (beans, peas, tofu, nuts, substitutes).  For more info visit: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Being a Vegetarian

The Alternatives to Beef and Dairy Are Healthy and Delicious

Beef and dairy can be replaced with protein found in vegetable sources. These sources of protein are better for the environment as well as socially responsible. The production of beef generates twice the greenhouse gas emissions of pork, four times as much as chicken, and 13 times that of vegetable proteins found in beans, lentils, and tofu.

Still feel you are not up to taking the plunge?  Feel free to try it out to the level that you are comfortable. You can take it slow by having “Meatless Mondays.” That one day a week can be completely meat free and give you a chance to explore and experiment with meatless alternatives. After a few weeks or months, you may have naturally begun to eat more meals which are meat free. If not, make a conscious effort to have another day or several meals meatless every week. Or, go further and limit yourself to meet and dairy on two or three days of the week. Whatever it takes to begin to make that shift. But start right away. There is no time to lose.

If you continue to eat meat you should choose responsibly. That means eating pork or pork products and chicken RATHER than beef or other meats. Pork and poultry are the most climate-friendly (they account for only 10% of total livestock greenhouse-gas emissions while contributing more than three times as much meat globally as cattle). “Pork and poultry are also more efficient for feed, requiring up to five times less feed to produce a kg of protein than a cow, a sheep or a goat.”-Livestock and Climate Change

So, the calculus is pretty simple. The less beef and dairy you consume, the greater contribution you make to reducing your personal carbon footprint. If you eliminate beef and dairy completely like hundreds of thousands of people have, you will be a climate hero. Heroic action requires struggle and sacrifice–but going vegan has gotten easier than ever!

Additional Links:

The Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change

5 Ways Factory Farming is Killing the Environment

Why People in Rich Countries are Eating More Vegan Food

Your Questions about Food and Climate Change Answered (NYT)

Dairy is Scary. The public are waking up to the darkest part of farming.




The Science of Climate Change

This page is meant to be a place to find information about the science of climate change. It will be updated as relevant data or information comes to my attention.

Consensus? What Consensus?

Yes, there is a scientific consensus on human-caused climate change. Many individual and groups continue, however, to sow confusion and doubt about the science of climate change. These groups often evoke the banner of “science” to back their claims. Whatever their motives are, they are performing a great disservice to the cause of truth.
Below are links to bonafide scientific sites or sites which cite and explore genuine science in good faith. (see also “Trump Administration Agrees CO2 Will Warm the Planet”)


Climate facts at NASA
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ report on the scientific consensus and confusion about it.
The weather underground’s report
Skeptical’s report

What are the Causes of Climate Change?

The most important trigger of the climate change we are currently witnessing and experiencing is something called the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect describes the way the earth’s atmosphere traps heat due to the presence of “greenhouse gases” in the atmosphere. These greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and nitrous oxide, and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) . All of these greenhouse gases are released by various human activities. Since industrialization began we have increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere by more than 30%. Human sources of CO2 include the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation (forests act as “carbon sinks” which absorb CO2–more forests means less CO2, less forests mean more CO2). Industrial food production accounts for increases in methane, nitrous oxide and CO2 (through deforestation). Read more about these causes at NASA. Explore further here.


Explore graphics depicting aspects of climate change and its causes here.

How do we know the earth is warming?

In short, scientists measure temperatures of air and water and observe key indicators like ice melt. The measurements are taken regularly and then studied for patterns and averages. Over a span of years and decades one can detect patterns. These patterns indicate warming trends.




The above graph charts the rise of global temperatures since 1890 using five different scientific data sets. More information on this graph may be found here.

How Do these Changes Impact Weather and Climate?

As the atmosphere warms up due to increasing levels of greenhouse gases, the air warms up. Warmer air over land causes more evaporation, leading to increasing drought conditions. The drier conditions increase the likelihood and severity of fire. The result has been longer and more destructive fire seasons. This increase in evaporation leads to an increase in rainfall in other areas, thus leading to more devastating floods in interior regions. Warming ocean water expands, which means coastal areas shrink and when storms come ashore more water is pulled over land, increasing the damage done through storm surges in coastal areas. Finally, wind patterns are responsible for the formation of storms such as hurricanes. Warmer water produces greater wind speeds which increases the likelihood of more powerful storms. For a more detailed explanation of the connection between climate change and hurricanes and other weather events see scientist Katherine Hayhoe’s video here. If you need a friendly intro to climate related questions I recommended checking out Katherine Hayhoe’s videos here, she is a scientist and educator who lives in Texas.


Not convinced you should be concerned about climate change? Here’s a simple test.

Climate change may seem so remote, big, or abstract that you may not feel you should be concerned. To help, I’ve devised a simple test of two questions to help people determine if they should be concerned about climate change.

I do not want you to dismiss these questions as silly, meaningless or even insulting. I want you to seriously consider both of them as genuine questions which require a response from you. Even if you find the questions easy to answer, I encourage you to think about each of your answers and then move to the conclusion.

Question One

  1. Do you care about anything?

This is not a facetious question. It is possible that there are nihilistic apathetic misanthropes who might not care about anything. So, how about you? Give it some thought. Think about a few of the things you really care about. Again, this may seem pointless, but it is a very good question for everyone to think about from time to time. So, go ahead and give it some thought. Once you have decided about the people, things, animals or places, you care about, take a moment to appreciate them and then move on to the next question.

Question Two

  1. Do you believe in science?

Answering this question requires that we understand what science is. Above all science is a method, a way of pursuing and developing knowledge. We might rephrase the question: do you believe in the basic principles of scientific discovery?

This opens another, important question: What are the basic principles of scientific discovery?

First, is a commitment to not making stuff up. This means not accepting anything as true unless you have evidence to support your conclusion. The gathering of evidence is fundamentally done through sober and systematic observation. Equally fundamental is that your conclusions are open to testing and retesting by others and that you are open to being proven wrong. These two qualities are known as reproducibility and falsifiability.

So, do you believe that this method is a valuable and reliable tool for determining facts about the material world?  Keep in mind that I’m not asking about ultimate or spiritual truths here, but rather, demonstrable facts about the observable world. If you your answer is yes, jump to the conclusion. If you’re still not sure, keep reading.

Still here, great. Keep in mind that science made possible the computers, smartphone, internet, automobiles, televisions, and all kinds of devices we use every day. In other words, all those things prove that science works as far as being able to explain facts about our world. So, if you use these kinds of devices and believe they are useful you should answer yes to this second question. But your answer is up to you, and I want you to really feel it.

The Conclusion

Warning!: It’s going to get real, real fast.

If you can answer yes to both questions, in other words you care about someone or something and you believe in science, you should be mortally concerned about climate change because it is a scientifically validated apocalyptic scenario that threatens everything and everyone you care about.  So you should do everything you can to follow the best scientific advice available to help prevent catastrophe. This advice is clear and this blog will help introduce and explain it in detail.

In short, first and most importantly we must transition from fossil fuels as our energy source to clean forms of energy. The most important clean sources of energy are solar, wind, geothermal, and hydro-electric. The second most important solution is the development of carbon capture technology to help reduce atmospheric carbon. The third most important change is to radically reduce our consumption of beef and in turn reduce cattle herds. Why are all of these important and how do we do this?  For now you can explore further here, here and here.  You should also come back to this blog where I will continue to elaborate these points and provide information on the hows and whys of transition. And, importantly, don’t despair. Join me and countless others in fighting for our future. It won’t be easy, but we can do this.

If you are able to answer no to one of those questions, consider the possibility that you may have misunderstood one of the questions and give it some more thought. I’m happy to respond to any genuine questions about science (or caring). 🙂


Need more evidence of the scientific consensus?
I’ve begun to compile links and information here.

A Moral Tipping Point

It is now morally repugnant to support the buying and selling of humans. To hold others in bondage as slaves  is understood as barbaric, but it was once business as usual in many parts of the world including the antebellum American South.  Slave holders were successful and respected members of their communities; they were social, economic and political elites, but something changed. IDEAS about what was right and wrong, CONVICTIONS of what was morally permissible, CONCEPTIONS of what was just and unjust– all began to change.

slave girl in chains

Slave trade memorial in Zanzibar, Tanzania.

The abolition of slavery in the American South didn’t come easy-it came about through bloody revolts and a horrific civil war (1861-1865).

I join others in believing that we are at yet another moral tipping point. Again there is a respected class with economic and political clout that is engaged in morally untenable practices, namely those involved in the fossil fuel industry. As Mouhot, who has written a book on the subject, has written:

“Intriguing similarities between slavery and our current dependence on fossil-fuel-powered machines struck me: both perform roughly the same functions in society (doing the hard and dirty work that no one wants to do), both were considered for a long time to be acceptable by the majority and both came to be increasingly challenged as the harm they caused became more visible.” (full article here)

Neither he nor I are suggesting morally equivalency between slavery and the fossil fuel industry; there are critical differences between the two, however, there are structural similarities which are striking and important. Just as we needed to end the Southern economic dependence on slavery, we need to end our dependence on fossil fuel energy.

Is the Fossil Fuel Industry Immoral?

As Mouhot has noted, “Our contemporary economies have become extremely dependent on fossil fuels, just as slave societies were dependent on their slaves – indeed far more than the latter ever were.” This dependency, in both cases, generated wealth, power, and influence. The wealth and power of large plantation owners in the South was connected to land and slaves; the wealth and power of the fossil fuel industry is directly connected to the amount of coal, oil, and bitumen extracted–“black gold.”  Fossil fuel executives, like slave owners before them, believe they have a right to what makes them rich and powerful and aren’t willing to give it up without a fight.

smoke stacks

But, you might ask, how is oil money immoral? The burning of fossil fuels, which are currently the most common source of power for electricity, transportation, heating and so on, is known to release carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is also expelled every time we exhale. The problem with the production of carbon dioxide through power generation and transportation is the astronomical amounts of CO2 that are released all the time, day and night, streaming into the atmosphere. We know that this human generated CO2 (through the burning of fossil fuels) is changing the composition of the atmosphere surrounding the earth. We also know that CO2 in the atmosphere acts like a blanket holding heat in. This is what scientists have called the greenhouse effect. Like the glass or plastic used in the construction of a greenhouse, CO2 prevents heat from escaping the planet. The more CO2 we pump into the atmosphere the warmer the planet gets. There is no debate on these basic points, but just as slave owners appealed to the Bible to justify slavery, fossil fuel executives have sown confusion and doubt about the science behind global warming and climate change (for more go here). Their campaigns of misinformation have been so successful that many people have been wrongly convinced that climate change is a hoax. It is not a hoax; it is scientifically established fact.

Dangerous Times – Brought about by our Fossil Fuel Habit

We are now seeing and living the dangerous reality of global warming and climate change. It is no longer “just a theory.” It is part of our world. It is reflected in the historic floods, fires, droughts, and hurricanes that have increased in strength and frequency around the globe creating catastrophic damage to property and loss of life. By now we have all experienced an historic climate related catastrophe or have friends or family who have. Some of the events that have impacted me and my friends and family are hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans (2005), fire in central Texas (2011), super storm Sandy in New York (2012), southern Alberta flood of 2013, the central Alberta fire of 2016, and hurricane Harvey and the Houston flood of 2017–all of these events were devastating, life-altering events for the communities, families, and individual impacted. I invite you to share your experiences with our growing climate catastrophe below, what floods, fires, storms, droughts have you experienced?

houston flood

The Houston Flood of 2017

What is the connection between our fossil fuel habit and storms, droughts, floods, and fire?

Scientists are very careful and conservative by training; as a rule they don’t jump to conclusions without carefully amassing and considering evidence. What we can say today is that climate change has increased the level of danger of such events, and ultimately, makes catastrophic events more likely. The proof that this is the case is the increasing length and devastation of the fire season around the world and the increase in catastrophic flood events around the world. The increase in the devastation of these events is why continued pumping of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere has become a MORAL ISSUE. It is an unintended consequence of our fossil fuel habits, but it is wreaking havoc upon communities around the world. Support for the fossil fuel industry after all that we know at this point is support for the devastation of communities around the world. This is why  support for the fossil fuel industry is now a moral question. Making a living off of products that are so destructive is an immoral life choice.  The connection between warming and catastrophic weather events is the crucial link that makes fossil fuels a moral hazard. The strength of this argument rests on this connection, so let’s review the basics of how climate change impacts fires, floods and other events.

california fires 2018

California in flames, 2018

As the atmosphere warms up due to increasing levels of greenhouse gases, the air warms up. Warmer air over land causes more evaporation, leading to increasing drought conditions. The drier conditions increase the likelihood and severity of fire. The result has been longer and more destructive fire seasons. This increase in evaporation leads to an increase in rainfall in other areas, thus leading to more devastating floods in interior regions. Warming ocean water expands, which means coastal areas shrink and when storms come ashore more water is pulled over land, increasing the damage done through storm surges in coastal areas. Finally, wind patterns are responsible for the formation of storms such as hurricanes. Warmer water produces greater wind speeds which increases the likelihood of more powerful storms. For a more detailed explanation of the connection between climate change and hurricanes and other weather events see scientist Katherine Hayhoe’s video here. If you need a friendly intro to climate related questions I recommended checking out Katherine Hayhoe’s videos here, she is a scientist and educator who lives in Texas.

We Have a Choice

To say that we have reached a turning point means that we have a choice to make. For this to be a reasonable choice we must have alternatives. Fortunately, advances in science continue to make renewable sources of clean energy a real possibility. In 2014, Mark Jakobson developed a road map for the US to transition to 100% clean energy, see here.  A few years later he did the same for 139 countries (story here, map here). This is a difficult and complex challenge and will require monumental changes to transform the energy that drives our world (see here). One thing is for sure, the speed with which we need to make this change requires politicians and corporations and individual consumers to make decisions on moral and scientific considerations, not old assumptions about economics and energy habits. As far as economic considerations go,  renewables are quickly becoming cheaper than fossil fuels (see report here and here.).

evs w power

Vehicles powered by clean energy is the only viable future.

At the consumer level an individual or  family can spend money on a gas-guzzler OR buy one of the much more efficient electric vehicles (EVs) available or coming to market–this too is now a MORAL decision. Thankfully, car-makers are making this easy by developing a fleet of excellent EVs. The instant acceleration of EVs make them fun to drive and Procsche , for example, aims to make 50% of its vehicles electric in the near future. EV are very low maintenance: they never need gas or oil and produce no emissions. Viable EVs are currently being manufactured by Nissan, Chevrolet, Tesla, BMW, Kia, Hyundai, and Volkswagon. Other manufacturers moving into the EV market are  Honda, Mercedes, Ford, MitsubishiFiat, Volvo , and Audi. By 2020 we can expect more choice, longer ranges, and better prices. Places with the most widespread EV adoption and experience are California, Norway, and China. Consumers can also install solar and achieve partial or total energy independence (see benefits to home solar here and cost reductions here and here).

Religious Leaders See this as a Moral Issue Too

If this is indeed a moral issue we should expect religious leaders to speak out against our fossil fuel habit and that is exactly what we have seen with increasing fervor since 2015. Religious leaders across the religious spectrum from Catholics, Protestant Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, and others have all recognized we are entering a climate emergency that calls for an immediate moral response. Pope Francis has been a strong advocate for a transition to a fossil free world (see here and here and divestment here). In 2015 Islamic leaders  called for a fossil free world by 2050 here.  Read the statement signed by a spectrum of religious leaders in 2015 here and Buddhist leaders here and a report on Jewish leaders here. A nice compilation of statements from religious leaders may be found here.

Of course leaders and individuals from all backgrounds and walks of life understand the nature of this climate crisis and urge everyone who can to push for a quick transition to clean energy. Read an open letter from CEOs from 79 companies in 20 economic sectors with operations in over 150 countries and territories generating over $2.1 trillion of revenue in 2014 here. Tragically, the issue has become politicized. Nonetheless, truth will prevail and the issue is recognized by both political parties in the US, Democrats and Republicans (see here). One of the reasons the issue has been politicized is simply the huge sums of money donated by the fossil fuel lobby (report here). As the Union of Concerned Scientists have said:

When corporations use their influence to obscure science and block effective climate policy, the public loses. (source)

As long as politicians and corporate leaders drag their feet, we are all losing. We must demand more.  Time is up. This is THE ISSUE of our time and we must get it right.



I will continue to explore this issue and its urgency in future posts. I will also share suggestions for how you can participate in this transformation. If that interests you please come back and consider sharing these posts.



houston flood

Image from

california fires 2018

In this photo provided by the Ventura County Fire Department, firefighters work to put out a blaze burning homes early Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Ventura, Calif. Authorities said the blaze broke out Monday and grew wildly in the hours that followed, consuming vegetation that hasn’t burned in decades. (Ryan Cullom/Ventura County Fire Department via AP)