By: Aaron Witham, Contributor

To some people, climate science seems like straight-up fiction—so why even try to lower your carbon footprint? For others, climate science seems real but also too complicated—so why try to take action if you are not sure which action is best? Finally, some people just plain shut down when they hear about ice caps melting, monster hurricanes, and historic droughts, because any action you can take seems hopeless.

No matter where you fall on the spectrum, it’s hard not to think what if I put in all this effort for no reason?

First, you might become healthier. For example, if you pledge to ride your bicycle to work or school once a week instead of riding in a car, you’ll get some additional exercise and get to soak up the last bit of sunshine before the Maine winter comes howling.

Perhaps bike riding is not for you. What about cutting your beef consumption in half, and replacing it with less carbon-intensive foods like turkey or chicken? Beef is not only one of the most carbon intensive foods we eat, it is also higher in calories and cholesterol than many white meats. Better yet, switch your beef for low-carbon vegetables, which are even better for your health.

Second, you might be happier. Riding a bicycle once a week could be good for your mental health, as it will give you a chance to breath in fresh air and be more present with your surroundings, taking your mind off school and work.

Switching your diet to less intensive carbon food might lead you to buy more locally-produced organic vegetables. You could buy these vegetables at your local farmer’s market or you could invest in a CSA (community-supported agriculture) where you get your food directly from a farmer. Either method presents an opportunity for you to build a deeper relationship with your local community. Many people experience great satisfaction by being able to shake their farmer’s hand and know that they are supporting the local economy. Better yet, you could plant your own vegetables in your backyard, or in pots in your kitchen if you don’t have a backyard, or in a community garden plot at USM. Growing vegetables not only helps some people feel accomplished, but it’s also a great motivator for getting outside to breath in the fresh air and watch the seasons change.

Third, you might find yourself more empowered. You could join a University group like the Eco-reps or the Environmental Science & Policy Club to work on tangible projects that help you feel like you’re making a difference. If you’re a commuter student, perhaps it’s more convenient to join your town’s local energy team or climate action team instead. In either case, you’ll be sharing resources and sharing ideas, building bigger projects than you could have built yourself. You might even make some new friends along the way.

If you don’t have time to join a team or a committee, then you could focus on at least exercising your right to vote. Participating in our democracy may not only make you feel empowered as an individual, but it may also inspire others to get involved.

So, back to the original question: what if the scientists are wrong about climate change, and you take all these actions for no reason? The answer is that you might find that you’re healthier, happier, and more empowered because of it. Is that such a bad outcome?

To hear more about climate change and the actions you can take, join us for a free event on Wednesday, October 4th from 3:00-5:00 pm at Talbot Hall in Luther Bonney on the Portland campus. The event is being co-hosted by the office of sustainability and CELL (Center for Ecological Living & Learning).


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