Jeff Masters Hurricane Blog

Our picks for personal climate action in 2024 » Yale Climate Connections

At the end of 2023, we asked you which resolutions you’re making for the climate in the new year, and you all had some great answers. We wanted to get in on the action too, so I wrangled my teammates, Editor-in-Chief Sara Peach and Features Editor Pearl Marvell, to talk about what we’re resolving to do for the climate in 2024.

This roundtable discussion has been edited and condensed.

Sam: What resolutions are you hoping to follow through with on climate action this year?

Sara: Pearl, did you want to go first? 

Pearl: No, you go first. 

Sara: OK, I want to sleep more because I really believe that taking care of yourself is a way to keep showing up for the climate.

Sam: 100%.

Sara: And in the past year, I have had a lot of nights when my brain woke me up with ideas, and oftentimes they were good and interesting ideas, but they were not helpful at that time. And also, of course, like any other person, I have thoughts about things I’m worried about. So I have been listening to some very relaxing meditations on YouTube as I go to sleep, and I already feel better and like my brain works better.

Sam: That’s so exciting!

Sara: Yeah. It is. I don’t know why, but that section of YouTube seems to be dominated by Australians.

Sam: Yale Climate Connections, powered by Australian YouTubers.

Sara: In more concrete ways, well, I am going to get solar panels installed on my house this year. They’re supposed to go up in March, so I’m thrilled about that. I also have been really enjoying my e-bike. I’ve never felt more like an evangelist for something than I feel about my e-bike. And so one thing that I have been thinking about investing in is a trailer for it so that I can haul groceries, which would cut out a car trip a week.

Sam: That’s so cool. Pearl, what about you?

Pearl: Well, I wanted Sara to go first because I, too, want to rest and sleep more. I think you, Sam, actually brought that up in one of our previous conversations. And I had never really thought of rest as being a climate solution.

I think when I started this job [almost exactly one year ago!], I felt like I needed to do everything all at once and be a model for this work. But I have learned through the year that you can’t do it all, you know. You do what you can. And I think resting is a very important one. You’ll eventually break down doing this work if you don’t give yourself that time. So I’m gonna try and rest more. I have downloaded Headspace. I’ve been trying to do a little bit of meditation every day to stop the racing thoughts. We’ll see how that goes. 

I did a home energy assessment in December, so thanks to Sara for bringing it up. It was a little overwhelming going through all the information about what we could do to our home because there was a lot. Our house is still very energy-efficient, but there’s always obviously room for improvement. 

I’m also looking into a heat pump water heater because I realized that one of my biggest things in the winter is that I do like a very, very hot shower. And unfortunately, right now with the oil-burning heater that we have, it doesn’t work very well. It goes through cycles, so it might start warm and then it goes cold. And then I’m like, “I have to stay in here until it gets warm again.” Then I’m wasting water, so I just go down that guilt hole. So hopefully the heat pump resolves a little bit of that.

Sara: Heat pump, heat pump!

Pearl: Yeah. And the ambitious goal is to eliminate as much plastic in our house as possible. I know that is not 100% possible, but I’m going to do my best. So just trying out different products, things like dish detergent, bar soap, shampoo and conditioner bars as opposed to getting a big plastic bottle of something. So just testing different things out to see what works for us. We have a couple of stores around here where you can go and fill glass jars full of beans and your face wash and all that stuff. So I’m going to try to really utilize all of that moving forward.

Sara: That would be an interesting one for you to write about as you go.

Pearl: Yeah, well, I was thinking about it today because I was washing a pan with a dish detergent bar and it wasn’t foaming. It definitely didn’t do as great of a job as the traditional one I use. But then I was thinking about it and obviously, it’s going to be trial-and-error of which product works and which doesn’t, or you might have to use a little bit more elbow grease to get something clean, and that’s OK. We just have to convince my husband of that. 

Sara: And as long as you still have time to rest.

Pearl: Exactly, exactly. And therein lies the contradiction. 

Sam: I wonder what it is they put in things that make them foam better. Because I have had that experience with the bar shampoo. I have trouble getting the shampoo all around my hair. So now I’m like, what is it? What are they putting in to make the foamy stuff?

Pearl: Probably some really bad shit.

Sara: It’s Bambi. [Everyone laughs]

Sam: Ground-up baby deer.

Sara: You heard it here first.

Pearl: Breaking news. Ground-up Bambi —

Sam: Makes things foam.

Sara: We’re gonna get sued.

Sam: It’s not real. Allegedly. Allegedly.

Editor’s note: We looked this up later. The real answer is that lather comes from chemicals known as surfactants that reduce surface tension in liquids. 

Sara: What are your resolutions, Sam? 

Sam: I have several. I think the big one, or the scariest one is I’m trying to become more comfortable — which is not hard because I’m very uncomfortable — biking on the road. We have good bike paths in town, but it’s just getting to them that I’m like, “AHHH!” So I would like to do that more because then I could bike to my knitting group and stuff. But I’ve been taking the bus more, and that’s been nice, and we’re going to get some more electric buses, which is exciting.

Sara: Oh!

Sam: Yeah, we’re doing a big bus rapid transit project. Not “we.” I’m talking as if I’m involved. The city is doing a big bus rapid transit project, and I think that those are supposed to start running at the end of 2024, and there are electric buses involved.

Sara: I’m jealous.

Pearl: Yeah, yeah. Me too.

Sara: On the bike thing. I have a couple of questions. One is: What are the steps you’re taking to try to get more comfortable on the road? And then also, what could your city do to make it better? Because people, I think, are rightly scared of the roads.

Sam: I think it’s a reasonable fear and I don’t think I’ll ever be unafraid completely. For now, I’m just planning to walk my bike to the bike paths, and I’m not far from one. So maybe that is what it ends up being. Maybe I’m always going to walk my bike on the sidewalk to get to the bike path, and I’m only going to really ride on bike paths. 

We don’t have a ton of protected bike lanes. So I think cities in general can do more of that with real protected lanes — not just a couple of bollards that a car is going to knock over. 

In general, I just think cars should be smaller. I mean, a couple of times ago when I went to pick up my car from the charging lot, it was between a Hummer EV and a Ford F-150 EV, and it looked just like this tiny car. If these are the cars of the future, why are they so big? You’re going to miss any small child, you’re going to miss me walking in front of one. So I think less scary cars would make for less scary biking.

Sara: That’s so scary.

Sam: I think also we need better and more street lighting in town, particularly because in the winter, it’s dark for so many hours. Not that I plan to do a bunch of biking in the winter. 

Another resolution that is related is: We have been talking about how a lot of people want to take action, they’re alarmed about climate change, but maybe they’ve never been asked to take action personally. So one of my resolutions is to give people I know more specific tasks — assign them climate action. 

Sara: Wow, like what?

Sam: Well, so I asked. I put a tweet up and it said: “Like this tweet and I’ll give you a climate action New Year’s resolution.” For my friend who lives in my town, I asked them to write to our city and to the county asking them to create an e-bike rebate program like what Denver has done. I saw Atlanta was doing one. Minneapolis is doing one.

Sara: Oh, again, I’m very jealous.

Sam: Yeah, I know. We don’t have anything like that. Then if people were homeowners, I told them to get a home energy audit or to learn about a heat pump, and others to compost their food scraps. I told a friend who can get kind of doomer-y to read Joanna Macy’s “Active Hope.” [laughing]

Sara: I like these specifically tailored actions. That’s really cool.

Sam: I told somebody else to make an emergency kit and meet three new neighbors. So yeah, I’m having fun assigning people things.

Sara: You are the puppet master for Good.

Sam: With this summer with the wildfire smoke, and it was hot here, and then December was so abnormally warm here that I have been feeling a lot of restlessness, mentally. And I think it is tied to climate change. And so I am also committed to just being out in the world more, like in the woods or the prairies, particularly when it does feel more “normal,” like we have a bunch of snow on the ground now, and it’s going to get really cold. That feels like how it is supposed to. So making sure I’m reminding myself that these things are still here and they can still be enjoyed. 

And then the other big thing, well, maybe this is actually scarier than the bike thing, is before extreme weather season, I have to have a good relationship with a talk therapist.

Pearl: Oh, yeah.

Sam: So I’m excited about that. Well, I’m not excited about it, but I think it’s what needs to happen.

Pearl: Yeah. It’s difficult. I was just talking to someone about that. Like how it’s like dating. It’s very scary and I, too, have the same resolution of trying to find someone before extreme weather kicks in again.

Sam: I know, I know, I was like, I can’t put it off because I can’t have the anxiety of making these appointments while hurricanes are a month away.

Pearl: But isn’t that so messed up? Like as an anxious person you have anxiety about finding someone to help you with your anxiety.

Sam: Yes. It’s not a good process. Every step of the way, my brain is like: do not want to do this, do not want. And I’m like, okayyyy.

Sara: The classic trap.

Sam: Yeah, I know, I know. So I think those are my things. And then I started taking food scraps to the city compost last summer. And so I’m going to do that again. They only do it when the farmer’s market is open, which is spring to fall. So I’m excited to keep doing that and keep reporting interesting stories about climate change.

Pearl: I like what we’ve sort of set as an objective for of focusing more on climate solutions. And I hope to at least balance my reporting with hope. 

Sam: Yeah. There is so much that can be done. And there’s so much that has been done. And so many ways to take care of ourselves and each other. 

Sara: And I like how in our resolutions, each of us had a mix of action to take to reduce our contribution to the problem, but also what we’re doing to take care of ourselves while we’re living through this really scary and turbulent time.

Pearl: Well, yeah, because there’s the sustainability of the planet, but also yourself as a human being. To go through this, it’s not sustainable to always be talking about the most disastrous effects of climate change. And I feel like I’ve kind of learned that the hard way. But I’m here now. I’m here now and trying to balance it out.

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