the making of amends for a wrong one has done,
by paying money to or otherwise helping those who have been wronged.
It's been three years since the Paris Climate
Accord. Apparently one of the reasons the Unites States has
withdrawn is that we do not want to pay our fare share of climate expenses.
It really is a puzzle. There are all these messy pieces, but the parameters are clear.
We have to transition away from carbon-based fuels as quickly as possible.
And as the recent National Climate Assessment Report suggests,
we don't have much time. The warnings have been loud and
clear this year, with enormous fires and storms.
But our leaders ignore the signs...
I get it.
I'm now doing physical therapy for injuries
I received during the summer, but ignored. It was just too
inconvenient. But, if I had acknowledged the irregular pains, and if
I had actually rested it right away, my ankle might have healed a lot faster.
Does this sound familiar? Let's just ignore the problem.
It might go away...
I don't know about you,
but I display this kind of behavior all the time.
In my head, I know one thing. In my heart I know another thing.
And then I act as if none of those understandings or feelings existed!
On a trip to Mexico a few years ago, we had a beachside room that was not very romantic - - Each day, the tide came higher and higher and each night I woke to the sound of
waves crashing beneath me. It was frightening. I vowed to never travel
again. I did not want to be part of the problem...But guess who's
going to Mexico with her extended family this year?
It was just too good to pass up...
What about the climate?
Yes, but what about my extended family?
It's a choice many of us make all the time, especially around
holidays. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, like when I first see all those
puzzle pieces in a pile on the table, I took action by gathering data. I may be an artist,
but I value real information. The facts. So I investigated the climate impact of my traveling. Here's what I discovered: When combining all trips I have taken alone and with my
family, beginning with my first international trip to Ireland & England, in
1974, I have traveled 208,674 miles on 105 different trips. That's the
same distance as flying eight times around the equator.
Total Carbon impact: 141.26 tons.
What's a gal to do?
Cross her arms, plant her feet,
and say "so what?" Or, perhaps, get on with it and
take responsibility? I'm tired of ignoring warning signs and not taking
action, so I went online and learned that 'all' I need to do was pay $4,146 to offset
the carbon impact of my family's adventures. (www.myclimate.org).
A carbon offset:
a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases
made in order to compensate for or to offset an emission made elsewhere.
I had been petrified to learn what we might owe for our family's amazing adventures
and it was that fear that had kept me from exploring offsets sooner. But here I
am, still icing my ankle and feeling rather stupid. If we had paid offsets
as we went we would not have this debt for which we had not
budgeted. I wonder if our leaders feel stupid too...
Sometimes, as hard as it may be, we have to admit
our mistakes and pay our fare share for the privileges we have.
Given the National Climate Assessment's re-evaluation of our current climate
circumstances, it seems appropriate that we pay the carbon debt we owe
as quickly as possible. It's just the right thing to do.
Thank you, President George H.W. Bush.
Country (and planet) before self.
Next week, in part 2, I'll
talk about how.
"It's a process, steps along a path.
Becoming requires equal parts patience and rigor.
Becoming is never giving up on the idea
that there's more growing
to be done."
- Michelle Obama from Becoming
I've always admired Michelle Obama. It's hard not to. She's honest, intelligent and radiant. She promoted organic gardening and healthy food at the White House and inspired us to get our hands dirty, literally, in the garden (check out American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America). She's my kind of woman.
Naturally, I bought her latest book, Becoming, the day it came out and, because I had a bad cold, was able to sit on the couch, drink tea and read it from cover to cover. I love that the keys on my piano are chipped, like the one she learned to play on, and that I would probably feel comfortable inviting her to my house for conversation by the fire. She's that real.
Earlier today, while I was working on my annual 'between-holiday' puzzle, I wondered if Michelle ever does puzzles. And if she does, what is her approach? Does she do the edges first, like me? Does she sort by shape or color? Is she methodical or random? It doesn't really matter, but Becoming was an invitation to consider our commonalities. As she writes at the end of the Epilogue, "Let's invite one another in. Maybe we can begin to fear less, to make fewer assumptions, to let go of the biases and stereotypes that unnecessarily divide us. Maybe we can better embrace the ways we are the same."
It was this spirit that inspired my exploration of compost. To me, it was so much more than necessary nutrients for the garden. It became a metaphor for what it means to be an American. Without diversity of the green and brown stuff (nitrogen and carbon), patience and periodic attention, my compost pile would be an unproductive mess. Since diversity is our strength, why, then, do people fear it?
A few days ago, I tore up some recent newspapers (The Valley News, our local paper) to offset all the vegetable scraps from Umpleby's Cafe and looked closely at what I saw in the compost pile. The stories covered everything from immigration conflicts along our border with Texas and deadly runaway fires in California to the dangers of E-Cigarettes and a recent shooting. Among these dramatic issues, each of which deserves our attention, there was an invitation to buy skis and yet another Snoopy carton. There are big problems in the world, but we can't solve them ourselves. We have to move beyond fear and ski if we love to and laugh at Snoopy, because it just feels good. These are ways we get out of ourselves.
"We all play a role in this democracy.
We need to remember the power of every vote.
I continue, too, to keep myself connected to a force
that's larger and more potent than any one election, or
leader, or news story - and that's optimism.
For me, this is a form of faith,
an antidote to fear."
- Michelle Obama from Becoming
Thank you, Michelle, for your invitation, your inspiration, and your optimism. You give me confidence to build this blog, By Degrees, and to share practical ways we can become the people are meant to be in a society that celebrates all of us.
Our one true connection is Harvard. You went to law school and I earned my undergraduate degree in Fine Arts there. I wonder what you would think of my degree collage. For each of us, that experience in Cambridge, MA contributed to our capacity to share our stories with others and to have the confidence to put ourselves out there. I'm sorry that I won't be able to hear you speak in person, but I love your Instagram posts. With gratitude, Lyn
"It's not about being perfect.
It's not about where you get yourself in the end.
There's power in allowing yourself to be known and heard,
in owning your unique story, in using your authentic
voice. And there's grace in being willing to
know and hear others. This, for me,
is how we become."
- Michelle Obama from Becoming
Why is this blog called By Degrees? Because...
Change happens in increments...until it doesn't;
We need to look at the world from many angles;
More people experience damage to their tissue because of the sun's increased power;
There are many educated people with lots of diplomas,
yet we still can't get along or figure out how to solve our current climate crisis;
There is a difference between 2 and 1.5 degrees celsius.
Maybe it's time to literally 'reframe' the narrative.
Why not have a proverbial 'do-over' and see what emerges?
We have degrees.
We are separated by just a few degrees.
We can have a 10 degree perspective or a 360 degree perspective.
We feel the heat.
It's time to look within and recompose our shared story.
Because change happens in logical steps and stages...
until it doesn't.
Who knew trees could be so tricky? When looking for shade in a parking lot, I head for the trees. When seeking a place to hang a hammock, I look for trees. When wandering in the woods, I revel in the play of light through the leaves and branches. Trees, and the forests they inhabit, truly are the lungs of the earth. They absorb our poisons and release the oxygen we need to breath. Why then, given this reverence, would I advocate cutting them down in order to install solar panels?
To be clear, I love trees. I also love moving toward a 100% renewable future. If cutting trees allows me to reduce my personal and our collective dependence on toxic fuels, then it's something I am willing to consider, just as I am willing to consider altering mountain or ocean views in order to promote wind power (that's a different conversation). The fact is, I knew nothing about carbon sequestration when we cut dozens of trees to clear a view and to make room for more sun in 2004. It never occurred to me to do a cost-benefit analysis because I didn't know there was a choice. I loved trees from a distance, but hadn't really paid close attention to them.
Our goals were to create a soccer field for the kids, a vegetable garden, and a beautiful near and distant view. It's been almost 15 years and a lot has changed. We've planted a River Birch 'glen,' a bird-friendly hillside and a rain garden. We've installed solar panels and have a great lawn for all manner of sports. Each year, however, I become more and more curious about the trade-offs we made in order to create our own private Eden.
So here's what I've learned. On the most basic level, it's easy to plant new trees that serve multiple purposes but that won't block the sun. Fruit and nut trees, for example, absorb carbon and produce food. Flowering trees of all kinds provide nectar for pollinators and berries for birds. By cutting down all those evergreens all those years ago, we made room for a significantly more diverse landscape the provides food for us and a host of flying creatures.
When I did some research, I learned the following about the tree-solar trade-off. It takes 1.106 lbs of Co2 to produce 1 kwh of electricity so if you install a 5,000 kwh system, that would avoid 5,530 lbs of Co2 emissions each year.
No two trees are the same: A 30 year old white oak absorbs 60 lbs of carbon a year; A white pine absorbs 193 lbs of carbon a year; A fast growing red oak can absorb 240 lbs of carbon a year. In Hanover and much of New England, we have a lot of white pines. 5,530 lbs/193 lbs = 28.65 trees. If you cut less than 28 trees to maximize your solar options, don’t feel guilty in terms of carbon absorption and avoidance - - If you are cutting white pines.
I'm a photographer who loves trees and light. I'm also a gardener who loves backyard biodiversity and a world free from fossil fuel dependence. In my quest for a sustainable future for my family, I am constantly making trade-offs. We needed shade for our terrace and planted a tree whose maximum height is 30 feet, just below our rooftop panels. I had wanted an elegant oak, but needed to compromise as oaks get too large and would shade our rooftop panels. Who knew we would now have more than 15 varieties of trees on our property where before we just had white pines and a few oaks?
In July, we considered electric lawn care and the many alternatives to gas-powered machines, including reducing the actual size of your lawn. This month, we continue the lawn care theme, but address it from the point of view of the trees and solar power. Both absorb the light. Both generate energy from that light. At the moment, however, we need to maximize the rate at which we transition to renewables. If that transition necessitates cutting some trees, I am willing to do so, especially if that creates more light for more diverse plantings and clean energy.
Who knew we'd have so much fun at a 4th of July Lawn Mower Brigade? And who knew we'd end up winning the 'float' competition? Here we are on Main Street in Hanover and on the Dartmouth Green with the prize sponsors from White River Toyota. We are proud to contribute the $500 prize to Hanover's Ready for 100% Clean Energy efforts.
We especially enjoyed sharing our enthusiasm with members of the community with a Lawn Care Jeopardy game, a raffle to inspire participation, and hands-on experiences with the various machines on display that had been in the parade.
The best part, is that electric lawn care is here to stay. You can purchase a Fiskars Reel Mowers at Dan & Whit's and electric weed whackers at Hanover Hardware. You can also purchase Consumer Reports rated push mowers from Lowe's and Home Depot, among other options.
If you are really curious about how electronic innovations can help you save time, money and energy on your lawn, check out the new robotic mowers! Once installed, they automatically mow your lawn. To explore those options, get in touch with the two dealers in our region: D & B Outdoor Power Equipment, LLC in Lebanon, NH sells the Husqvarna robotic mower and Green-E-Mowers in Bradford, VT is an authorized dealer of the Robomow robotic mower (e-mail Nancy Rae Mallery).
Finally, there is the Mean Green NXR-48/52 (Nemesis) zero-turn mower which is designed specifically for the residential market. Because it can mow between 1.25 and 2.50 hours (or 2.5 to 5 acres) on one charge and costs $9,000 to $10,000 depending on deck side and battery size, it’s best suited for homeowners with large lawns (2 to 5+ acres). Because it’s designed to hold only one battery, it’s a bit smaller and about half the price of their commercial/professional CXR-52/60 zero-turn riding mower (Pictured here). To learn more about this option, e-mail Steven Wisbaum from Eco-Equipment Supply.
Like I said, who knew an electric and people-powered lawn care brigade could be such fun?
Who knew our lawn care equipment could be so interesting and, in its own way, so powerful? Did you know, for example, that for every hour of use, a gasoline mower is equal to driving 300 miles in terms of emissions?
Please join the Hanover Neighborhood Action Group and the Sustainable Hanover Energy Committee on Wednesday, July 4th and march in our inaugural Electric Lawn Care Brigade. Bring your electric, battery or people powered weed whackers, leaf blowers, hedge trimmers or mowers. Bring your neighbors and friends. And be sure to wear Red, White, Blue and a bit of green. We will gather on Hovey Lane, by the Hanover High School, at 9:40 am. The parade starts at 10. We will assemble on the Hanover Green afterward.
There are many ways to use less energy on our lawns. We can reduce their size by adding pollinator gardens or planting shrubs and trees. We can also let our grass grow a bit longer and not cut it quite so short. Our goal is to introduce these new technologies so that when your current equipment reaches the end of its lifespan, you have information about all the options when you go to purchase a new piece of equipment. 2050 is only 30 years away. The more we can do to increase the quality of our air, the better for all.
The thing that I love the most about the new electric lawn care equipment is that the designs are so elegant. There are fewer parts and they don't involve breathing fumes or spilling gas every time you refuel them. I just learned, for example, that about 17 million gallons of gas is spilled as equipment is refueled each year, polluting our drinking water in the process. These images are from a recent demonstration of the Mean Green Mower in Hanover. Dartmouth College will be in the parade brigade demonstrating their new Mean Green Mower - - How cool is that? We hope to see you on the 4th!
To learn more about limiting air emissions, download this PDF file from the State of New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services. To learn more about the parade, you can listen to my recent interview with Keith Hanson on WNTK radio. You can also click here to link to the Valley News LTE about the parade.
Rip Road Neighbors Gather on Earth Day
It felt really great to invite neighbors to our house, to have people actually show up, and to have thoughtful conversations about issues in our neighborhood and town. April Salas, a member of Hanover's Planning Board and a member of Sustainable Hanover, joined us with her daughter. My father, an octogenarian and lifelong student, was thrilled to get a chance to talk with her. It was a wonderfully multi-generational gathering!
Our neighbor Len Cadwallader, a lifelong activist and former head of Vital Communities, invited us to help him maintain trails on Balch Hill, a local landmark and treasure. I was so caught up in the energy, I forgot to take pictures of neighborhood kids playing in the treehouse!
Although we have had many neighborhood parties over the past decade, this one felt different. In addition to being part of our new Hanover Neighborhood Action Group, this gathering was also part of my own 'coming out' as a community leader. It's been five years since I've risked being in the public eye - - After trying various avenues for involvement (schools, non-profits, etc.), I've found where I'm meant to be - - Not just at home doing my photography, but with my neighbors, truly trying to figure out what it takes to walk this walk we are on.
Five years ago, a contemporary at my 25th Harvard Reunion suggested that what rich people in New Hampshire do doesn't matter. What really matters is what's happening in China. At that same reunion, I spoke with my classmate Melissa Lane, a philosophy professor at Princeton, who had recently published a book called EcoRepublic: What Can the Ancients Teach us about Ethics, Virtue and Sustainable Living in which she states:
Lane's ultimate argument is that republics necessitate participation. Thus, if we believe in the idea of our democracy, then we have to have confidence in the power of our individual actions.
Just as every emission matters, so too does every choice we make. For me, that choice is about building community in my neighborhood to see what living in a democratic society feels like at the most local level. I mean, if we can't do it, who can? So I transcended my fears of conflict and rejection and had a party. Last Sunday's gathering was a great place to begin and I look forward to more. Thank you to all those neighbors and friends who celebrated Earth Day with me.
March 28, 2018 Town of Hanover, NH Energy Forum
It's been a year since Hanover became the first community in the country to vote to adopt the Sierra Club's Ready for 100% Renewables goals of 100% renewable electricity by 2030 and 100% renewable heating and transportation by 2050. What's happened since we made this commitment in May 2017?
We were honored to support the Energy Sub-committee of Hanover's Sustainability Committee at the March 2018 Achieving 100% Renewables Forum at the Richard Black Center. The evening began with an inspiring presentation by Dan Kalafatas, Chairman and Co-Founder of 3Degrees, a California-based business that offers comprehensive clean energy services that enable organizations, utilities and individuals to transition towards a low-carbon economy. A Dartmouth Alum, Mr. Kalafatas has been hired by Hanover to help the town's leadership make good and efficient decisions as we proceed.
Our Town Manager, Julia Griffin, followed with a review of all that the town has done to weatherize its buildings, improve energy efficiency, and install renewables. Check out this impressive visual summary!
Yolanda Baumgartner, Co-Chair of the Sustainable Hanover Committee, gave additional details about Sustainable Hanover's Energy-Subcommittee. We are inspired by the clarity of their vision and the specificity of what each sector can do. As a Neighborhood Action group, we are particular excited to help residents at the ground level as they explore community solar, solar at their homes, and other ways to shift away from fossil fuel dependence.
The evening concluded with a panel discussion and Q & A. There was interest in getting additional support for residents as they weigh different decisions and try to make informed and financially viable choices for transitioning to renewables. The big message: Weatherize and work on efficiency first, then purchase the systems you need when what you have is ready to be replaced.
As neighborhood leaders, were were inspired by the data the town has gathered on our current solar penetration. The Dogford/Hanover Center community has 17 solar installations and The Carriage Lane/Lindy/Orchard neighborhood has 7 installations generating a combined total of 158.16Kwh of power per year. Etna Village, Greensboro Road and North Hanover with a combined total of 26 installations generating 183.89Kwh. In town, the Mink Brook, South Street and Hovey Lane neighborhood has 11 solar installations generating 67.65 Kwh of power. What can we achieve between now and next year?
We know there are numerous constraints that limit homeowners in their options for renewable power. We hope that through ongoing neighborhood level conversations we can brainstorm strategies for getting to 100% Renewable Electricity by 2030.
If Hanover can't do it, who can?
Here's what some businesses in town have accomplished
Welcome. At its core, By Degrees is about caring deeply. As I consider what it takes for a suburban family of four to live within the planet's means, I reflect on my individual actions at home, in my garden and with the possessions and people I love most. Along the way, I offer thoughts about sustainability, climate action and what it means to be a good neighbor.
This is a personal web site managed by Lyn Swett Miller. It focuses on individual climate action and neighborhood collaboration to achieve our community's 100% Renewable Energy goals. This is NOT an official Town of Hanover site, nor is it an official Sustainable Hanover Committee site. Unless otherwise noted, all photographs are taken by Lyn.