Druidry in the Face of Climate Change

an invitation to virtual tea, and deep discussion among fellow Druids

(but first, a bit of background)

The Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), Volume II, recently published by the United States Global Change Research Program (2018), summarizes the findings of the earlier, 2017 Climate Science Special Report (CSSR), Volume I, and then lays out, in great detail,

“…the human welfare, societal, and environmental elements of climate change and variability for 10 regions and 18 national topics, with particular attention paid to observed and projected risks, impacts, consideration of risk reduction, and implications under different mitigation pathways. Where possible, NCA4 Volume II provides examples of actions underway in communities across the United States to reduce the risks associated with climate change, increase resilience, and improve livelihoods.”

Climate change is a topic of great concern to Druids – and for many of us it is also a source of great distress – because our religious beliefs stress the sanctity of Mother Earth and all Living Beings who dwell upon her (and within her various biospheres), and because our spiritual paths and lifestyle choices are driven by an ethic of care toward All Living Beings. So, what is a Druid to do in the face of global climate change?

If we fail to remain focused on our (meaning the specific Druids engaged in the conversation; not a vague referral to “humanity” in general) sphere of influence, rather than the infinite and terrifying and paralyzing sphere of concern, there is a tendency for people to go off on rants about what “people” should have done in back the 70s, when we first should have known about this, or what “people” need to do now. It is a waste of energy, and tends to lead people to despair and inaction.

I am interested in brainstorming on what we, as a small group of scattered Druids, can do concretely, to maximize our utility to ourselves, to our families, and to our wider communities, in the face of the dramatic changes that have already arrived, as well as those which are likely yet to come. But before we can generate plausible, actionable strategies, we must understand the science, the ecology, and the socio-economic contexts that will serve to constrain our viable solution-space.

Therefore, beginning in January 2019, the World Fellowship of Druids will be hosting a series of biweekly discussions (via private Google Hangouts), to discuss the findings presented in The Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), Volume II report, a few chapters at at time. Based upon our growing understanding of those findings, and the scientific analyses underlying them, we will discuss what types of concrete, Druid responses would be both feasible and most wise, so that we can as a group offer help and solace, and act as pillars of hope and light, in times that can often seem quite dark.

I hope you will consider adding your voice to this important conversation.

Schedule of Readings (due: first and third Saturdays)

Saturday 5 January 2019
Front Matter
Chapter 1: Overview

Saturday 19 January 2019
Chapter 2: Our Changing Climate (review of climate science)

Saturday 2 February 2019
Chapter 3: Water
Chapter 4: Energy Supply, Delivery & Demand
Chapter 5: Land Cover & Land Use Change

Saturday 16 February 2019
Chapter 6: Forests
Chapter 7: Ecosystems, Ecosystem Services, and Biodiversity

Saturday 2 March 2019
Chapter 8: Coastal Effects
Chapter 9: Oceans & Marine Resources

Saturday 16 March 2019
Chapter 10: Agriculture & Rural Communities
Chapter 11: Built Environment, Urban Systems, and Cities

Saturday 6 April 2019
Chapter 12: Transportation
Chapter 13: Air Quality
Chapter 14: Human Health

Saturday 20 April 2019
Chapter 15: Tribes and Indigenous Peoples
Chapter 16: Climate Effects on U.S. International Interests
Chapter 17: Sector Interactions, Multiple Stressors, Complex Systems

Saturday 4 May 2019
Read ONE of the ten, lengthy, “Regions” Chapters
(choose the one for the region in which you currently live),
Meditate fully upon what that chapter has to say to you about the climate change effects that hit closest to home, and how they relate to your life.

Saturday 25 May 2019 (NOTE: this final discussion is on a  4th Saturday!)
Chapter 28: Reducing Risks through Adaptation Actions
Chapter 29: Reducing Risks through Emissions Mitigation

Discussion topics and times will be posted to the World Fellowship Members page, two weeks in advance of each scheduled discussion. If you choose to sign up to participate, you will be sent information on how to access that information.

How to Participate

  1. Sign up for the World Fellowship of Druids discussion group. (Please note your time zone in the bit about your home biome, to help with finding a time that works for all participants.)
  2. Note the date and time for our next discussion, mark your calendar, and RSVP so that you are sure to be invited into the private Google Hangout, when the appointed time arrives.
  3. Read the assigned chapters listed for each date BEFORE the scheduled discussion time.
  4. Be at your Google Hangouts enabled device, cup of tea (or something stronger) in hand, and ready to receive your invitation when it comes.

I look forward to having your voice in the discussion!


Petrochemical Chariots

So, the 20-year-old Saturn was finally on its last legs, and I was in the market for a new car. Being a responsible Druid, concerned with the environmental impacts of cars and driving, my knee-jerk assumption (based on all the lovely, green propaganda) was, of course: get an electric car, or at the very least, a hybrid! Right?

Well, if you look at the current research, and policy analyses, in depth…

Hawkins, et al. (2013). Journal_of_Industrial_Ecology, “Comparative Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of Conventional and Electric Vehicles”

…it turns out that the decision is WAY more complicated than the propaganda suggests, and very much sensitive to one’s anticipated use-case.

My use case happens to be VERY low mileage, but LOTS of shortish trips with starts from cold, in hilly terrain. My last car, when retired due to the gradual engine gunking from oil and petrol (which happens to all cars over 20-odd years, given a very high number of starts from cold), had barely 90,000 miles on the odometer when she died. And sadly, since so many of the parts for an old Saturn were no longer made, it was not reasonable to consider rebuilding the engine at that point.

If one considered only the air-quality issues in one’s own backyard, during only the consumer-use phase of an automobile’s life, a case might be made for purchasing an EV or hybrid vehicle. However, when one considers the cradle-to-grave impacts of the manufacture, use, and end-of-life disposal of the automobile and all of its various maintenance/replacement parts, the calculus changes dramatically. The EVs do slightly better, over the lifetime of the car, when it comes to overall greenhouse gas emissions (about 10-20% better) – provided that you get at least 93,000 miles out of your car. If you drive your car fewer miles during its lifetime, that benefit decreases to only 9-14% better for a lifetime mileage of 62,000 miles. However, given the same automobile lifespan, EVs are nearly three times (300%) worse than combustion engines when it comes to the impacts on: human toxicity, freshwater eco-toxicity, and freshwater eutrophication. If you consider people, flora, and fauna, the EV no longer looks so appealing!

So, very much to my amazement, it turned out that a traditional gasoline engine was still the option with lowest environmental impact, at least for me. It was really hard for me to wrap my brain around that one, but the science was right there. And the policy analysis cited above (based on my personal evaluation of the work, as a Ph.D. graduate of Carnegie Mellon’s Department of Engineering & Public Policy), is rock-solid.

My final decision: a manual transmission Honda Fit. A high gas mileage, base model to minimize the amount of manufacturing impact, with the intention to maintain it well, and drive it slowly into the ground. If I get 20 years out of this car, as well, then by the time I need another car, perhaps the battery manufacturing, toxicity, and longevity issues will have been addressed, and the calculus will look a bit different than it does today.

On the other hand, by that time I might have retired to a castle in the country, and be ready to trade in my car for a horse.


The Importance of Harvesting Low-Hanging Fruit

As a Druid, one of my duties is to change my lifestyle habits so as to live more and more harmoniously with my other-than-human kin. It is a duty that I take very seriously. It can also be quite difficult.

Changing habits of any kind is a challenge because it requires focused attention and the exercise of will power – continually, and without fail – until the new, desired habit is firmly established. Otherwise, we risk slipping back into old habits. And failure to achieve our desired goal(s) can easily lead to despair. In addition, the news media is filled with stories detailing the ways in which the rest of humanity is busy mucking up the environment, even as we struggle to clean up our own acts. It is easy to wonder: why bother, at all?

Therein lies the problem: despair breeds inaction.

By the same token, every successful, little, right action that can be named and celebrated gives a person reason to hope. Every little success makes it that much easier to do the next little, right thing, easier to do the next, slightly bigger, right thing, easier to share the joy of having done a little right thing, so that others might easily do one as well.

For example, consider the Problem of the Plastics-Filled Ocean Gyres

Not long ago, I saw a terrifying documentary illustrating the horrible ways in which marine wildlife die through ingestion and/or entanglement in post-consumer plastic waste. A few weeks later, China announced that it would no longer accept our plastic waste for recycling, so most of the plastic we currently put in our recycling bins now ends up in the dump, instead!

I immediately set myself the challenge of eliminating plastics from my life. I researched strategies on Life Without Plastic. I started trying to implement what I had learned. And within two weeks, I was in a state of utter despair. It simply cannot be done without huge expenditures of time and cash, to completely retool one’s life, as well as the lives and business practices of every vendor with whom you do business — the butcher, the grocer, the pharmacist, the dentist, the list goes on and on and on. Plastic is ubiquitous.

But I needed to do something, so, I decided to think in terms of making it more difficult for the sea turtles of my nightmares to find a mouthful of plastic for dinner. I started harvesting some low-hanging fruit, by switching to:

  • Strips of eco-friendly HE laundry soap, that come in a nice, recyclable cardboard envelope, instead of liquid detergent in plastic jugs;
  • Organic cotton string bags for groceries;
  • A reusable, stainless-steel freezer box for my home-made bread;
  • Reusable, stainless-steel boxes and water bottles for lunch;
  • Waxed, silk dental floss in a glass jar, for which I can order refills;
  • Bamboo-handled toothbrushes, and a natural toothpaste that comes in glass jars (bonus: my dentist was so amazed at the improvement in my dental hygiene, that he asked what toothpaste I was now using!);
  • Purchasing vinegar, condiments, and juices in glass containers only;
  • Bar soaps in paper wrappers, in lieu of plastic bottles of liquid soap, for bodies and dishes, alike.
  • Ordering paper products (toilet paper, paper towels, tissues) that use no plastic in their packaging, and kill no trees for pulp. My preferred source is now “Who Gives a Crap“.

I call this strategy, “Life with Less Plastic.” No, it is not perfect. But my rate of plastic disposal is very much reduced. And every time I use one of my new choices, I am encouraged to look for the next easy way to do just a little more. And I dream of how much of a difference we could make in the world, if everyone harvested those low-hanging fruits, as well.

Small successes make it child’s play to build new habits of right action. For that reason, I consider it imperative to harvest all low-hanging fruit, when it comes to making lifestyle changes.

What low-hanging fruit will you harvest, today?