Monday, October 15, 2007

Happy Blog Action Day!

It's a new international holiday! Today, bloggers from around the globe are uniting to write about our environment. Last time I checked, 15,861 bloggers had signed up, and I'm one of them.

Here's a tidbit about me: My degree is in environmental studies from the University of California at Santa Cruz. I only got a university degree because the monolith of a company where I worked thought I should have one. Otherwise, truthfully, I probably wouldn't have bothered. Of the courses of study offered at UCSC, environmental studies seemed most up my alley. So there you have it. And the irony is, I moved to Costa Rica after graduation, never actually putting my degree to any use with said company.

While at school, I was far more involved in environmental action than I am now. I had high hopes of doing something, anything to get interested in environmental issues here. And then something happened. I realized that a lot of Costa Ricans don't seem to care very much about their own beautiful country. They throw trash all over the place; allow rampant, unchecked development (especially in sensitive coastal areas); pollute their own sources of drinking water (rivers and lakes); and on it goes. My favorite vet in Escazu once told me about a project he had going to clean up the rivers (Escazu spends more on public sports activities than it does on the environment). He publicized a volunteer day everywhere; of course lots of people said, "Yes, yes, what a great idea! We'll be there!" And only one person showed up. Costa Ricans can be very self-centered (ask any one of them, they'll tell you the same). There just isn't the social activism here, unless it has to do with taxi drivers losing their jobs, or CAFTA (me, me, ME! activism, in other words). It can get depressing after a while. It is depressing. Because you can't make people care. They either care or they don't. So I realized the only thing I could do, is do the best for myself and my family.

On that note, here are a couple of small things I've learned that are very easy to do, maybe you can try one or two of them and help make the environment in which you live a little better for yourself and your family. You don't have to solve global warming on your own, but every small thing you do helps solve global warming.

1. Eat less meat. No matter what naysayers say, the scientific fact is that energy is lost every step up on the food chain, so the lower one eats on it, the better. A plant-based diet, therefore, is going to have less of an impact on the environment, and an organic plant-based diet, even more so. If you're not ready to give up meat entirely, try just one meal a week. Meatout Mondays is a good place to start. At the end of the year, you'll have added an extra 52 plant-based meals to your life. And if you don't believe me when I say that a plant-based diet is better for the environment, read this. Or this.

2. Eat fewer pre-packaged foods. Save money and reduce garbage at the same time. I know a lot of us don't have a great deal of time to devote to cooking, so here is an idea. Make a big batch of something that freezes or cans well, and store the rest. Spaghetti sauce, for example, or chili. You can probably make about 10 jars of either for what you'd pay for one jar of pre-made stuff, and yours made at home will undoubtedly taste better.

3. Vote for politicians who make the environment a priority. Simple enough. Even though we should, by all rights, have had a President Al Gore by now. (And if you want him to run again, sign the petition.) And can I just say? Props to him for winning the Nobel Peace Prize!

4. Support environmental organizations that make a difference. We can't all be out there on the front lines, but luckily there are plenty of NGOs that can. A few of my favorites are Caribbean Conservation and Sea Turtle Survival League, National Resources Defense Council, and Wildlife Direct. And by supporting, I don't necessarily mean monetary support (though I'm sure it's always welcomed). Sign up for action alerts, send letters, and it's easy to be an armchair environmentalist.

5. Do one little thing for the environment every day. Ideal Bite is a good place to look for tips. They'll send you one a day for free.

6. Educate yourself. Did you know that in the Virunga National Park, rangers are putting their lives on the line every day to save some of the last remaining mountain gorillas on the planet? I didn't, until a story ran in National Geographic News a few months ago. Now I read their blog, Gorilla Protection, every day to keep up with what's going on and to see what I can do to help. Find something that interests you and read up. There are blogs on every conceivable topic nowadays, so it shouldn't be too difficult.

7. Don't let it get you down. There is actually a medical condition related to the stress some people have over the state of our environment: eco-anxiety. It won't do anyone any good to make yourself sick over it, so fight the good fight, do what you can, and hope for the best.

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