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Do The Math for Climate Change

Earlier this week I attended Do The Math at UCLA with Bill McKibben and For those who aren’t familiar with Bill McKibben, he is the author of 14 books including Eaarth and The End of Nature. He is an educated voice in the field of climate change and he has a plan to turn things around.

As organic gardeners, we’re already doing a lot to cut down on carbon emissions. We compost (which captures carbon), we grow our own food (so it travels fewer miles to our plates), and we don’t use chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers on our plants (which are all petroleum-based anyway). But there is more to do, and this call to action that Bill McKibben proposed during Do The Math has worked before. Let’s start with the math.

I learned these three important numbers:

1) 2 degrees Celsius – the maximum increase in temperature we can have before we tip the scales to the point of no return on climate change. (We’re already up 1 degree, BTW)

2) 565 gigatons – the amount of carbon dioxide scientists estimate that humans can pour into the atmosphere by mid-century and still have some reasonable hope of staying below 2 degrees. At current rates, we’ll blow through this within 16 years (how old will your kids be?).

3) 2,795 gigatons – the amount of carbon fossil-fuel companies have in their reserves in the form of coal, oil and natural gas. In short, it’s the fossil fuel we’re currently planning to burn. And the key point is that this new number – 2,795 – is higher than 565. Five times higher.

What to do? Here’s what I learned:

1) If we focus on stopping oil companies from releasing more carbon into the atmosphere, we can stop the demise of our planet. That’s a big job, how the heck can we do that?

2) Hit ’em where it counts – divest! Sell off any stocks that hold interest in fossil fuel companies. Think this doesn’t do any good? Think again. This is exactly how we helped end Apartheid.

Students across the United States convinced their colleges to sell off their shares of any company that supported Apartheid. Over $3 billion in stocks were shed from Universities across the country. When Nelson Mandela became president, he flew to the United States – not to visit the White House, but to a college campus – to thank the Universities for divesting. He said that that act was a driving force that helped end Apartheid.

Universities produce our future experts and professionals, so why on earth would they support companies who are destroying the future home of these kids?

3) Write to your Alma mater and tell them that you won’t contribute to the university until they divest of fossil fuel stocks. Need help? Visit for your divestment tool kit.

I’ve already screened my retirement investments for fossil fuel companies and am  happy to report they’re fossil-free. I’m writing the schools I attended this week. I hope you will too, or find another way to get involved.

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