What We Have To Give Up

I like to think about what we will have to give up. And when I say ‘we’ I mean ‘me’. To live in harmony and balance on earth. What will I have to give up out of my daily life?

By 2018, if everyone on earth lived like Americans we would have already used up 5.1 earths. That’s not sustainable. So it’s us, it’s me, that will have to change. I will need the structural support of a new circular economy in government and municipal policies because I cannot do this alone.

I try to imagine what in my daily life I would have to STOP doing. Probably I won’t be able to eat snacks like chips: pita chips; tortilla chips; Cheetos. All of those packages (with perhaps insignificant exceptions) are not sustainable. They are made to waste. They ALWAYS end up in a landfill (or *THE OCEAN*). That is not to say that we could not move to some more sustainable way to trade snacks. My neighbor who might be great at baking pita chips could prepare them and I could trade something else with her, in reusable containers. But the idea and the convenience of grab-and-go snacks would disappear, as would the entire snacking industry unless they can figure out a closed-loop system (which they could with the right policies and incentives in place).

My boys in 2018 on the plastic inflatable dinghy

What else might I have to give up? All these inflatables we buy. This boat we’ve had for ten years. Seemed like great ‘fun’ for the kids when it was purchased (and it was) but now it has a hole, which I have tried ineffectually to patch a few times. It will not stay inflated for more than 30 minutes. Today it is in my trash bin headed to the dump (for shame!). Where else can it go? This huge sheet of plastic? No one will recycle it. I repeat: NO ONE CURRENTLY RECYCLES INFLATABLES, or Halloween decorations, or toothpaste tubes, or shoes, or, or… Even many of the things we place in our single-stream recycling bin that should and could be recycled are not currently being recycled due to market forces.

We all need to think a little more before we make or buy things. Even the most well-meaning of us, who want to save the earth, often hide under the comfort blanket of ‘it will be recycled’ when that is 100%, not the ongoing reality. Unless you have followed your disposed item to its final resting place, you don’t know where it goes. Most of the things that are made are never made to be recycled, and that is a shame, because with a little more thought and planning they probably could.

Waste is a design flaw.

I Wear The Mask

Fall Frenzy 2022 Writing Contest Entry

Thanks to Kaitlyn Sanchez and Lydia Lukakis for hosting these

fun writing challenges to help us practice and hone our skills!

Halloween – Credit Sebastiaan Stam for Unsplash
I wear the mask so they won't see me
The fear I hold inside
That no one will ever love me
If they knew the real me

I wear the mask so they won't see me
I'm smart and funny -- and a creep
They have their rules and right ways of being
I don't want to do the wrong thing

I wear the mask so they won't see me
Ants crawl under my skin
They say it's so simple
Why can't I just get on with it?

I wear the mask so they won't see me
Trapped inside my head
Escalating and extrapolating
Every insignificance into certainty

I wear the mask so they won't see me
I'm suffocating in here
I need to get out
To finally be free

I wear the mask so they won't see me
Why won't they see me?

I need more NOT Dystopia

I’ve grown up on Dystopian science fiction. I am a huge fan, but I’m becoming more convinced that we need less dystopian fiction and more futures where we make it. SCIENCE—FICTION. It’s fiction, based on science. There is lots of science that shows how we are going to mess up our earth. Indeed, we already have: Oceans rising and acidifying, fish dying. Food becomes increasingly expensive and difficult to cultivate. Our children will scrabble in the mud like prehistoric beasts fighting over every last resource: clean air, water and food. As much as I want to keep reading books based on these ‘futures’, I find them increasingly depressing and hard to finish.

The science is clear. We are headed to this future, if we do not turn around. We are already there. It is no longer fiction. It is reality to a large extent. We, collectively, have f&$ked up.

Yet there is also science that shows how we can still turn around. How we can use and share earth’s resources more equitably and responsibly. It is an EMERGENCY that we start using this other science yesterday, for our own survival because, let’s be clear, our mother Earth will survive, even as we all starve to death or die of heat exposure.

Identifying the location of your limited resources is literally a critical aspect of ‘worldbuilding’ because it’s assumed that your characters have to fight over those resources. I dare to say this is cliché. It’s been ‘done’. We should be building worlds that show better futures where humanity leans in to our better instincts. I’ll admit, there is much evidence of humanity being terrible right now but I believe there is more evidence of humanity making altruistic, selfless choices. Sometimes in dire circumstances as in the war in Ukraine and at other times, only after sustained pressure and lobbying from citizens organizing for change.

Obviously we must throw in conflict and tension into our stories, because a story where there is no poverty, disease or violence in the world and everyone has what they need will probably not sell. I believe we can still find that conflict, because humans will always be (flawed) humans. But can we please start creating some settings where we survive by fixing our problems the right way?

Rocky Mountains, Canada

We seek out the macabre for entertainment, but I do not believe that any one of us wants to actually LIVE in that macabre future, or on Mars, or anywhere else but this beautiful, amazing, glorious earth. Why would you live on Mars when you could run up a mountain in the Rockies and swim in the bluest turquoise Caribbean sea? All while breathing unassisted, without a helmet? It’s insanity to think that ANYONE (including the billionaires who say they do) ACTUALLY wants to live on Mars?!?

Mars Rover

I have my doubts we’ll ever find a planet as perfect as earth, but I’ll concede it’s possible we could eventually find another earth-like planet. Although, we may not find an alternative before we destroy this one, and by then we’ll probably all be dead, so?

What if there are superior alien life forms out there? They may be deliberately avoiding contact with the dumpster fire that is human selfish, short-sightedness and destruction right now.

I am a HUGE fan of science fiction, and of dystopian fiction, but, in the daytime, I am a mom of two young men who does not want to leave them an earth worse off than the one I inherited. This miraculous gift, that we abuse and rape every day. I am desperate to fix it for them. It is my duty to start that work.

I believe as writers we have an obligation to show hopeful futures as well as dystopian ones, so people can start imagining better and we can start growing into that reality. We don’t have to finish the work, we just need to be a catalyst. We’ve already done/are doing ‘Dystopia’, thoroughly.

Our culture needs us to represent all types of science – fiction, even that based on hopeful science (which is out there).

Our Individual Choices Are Killing Our Planet

I made a terrible choice the other day. A couple weeks ago I looked in both supermarkets and in both pharmacies within a 1 mile radius of my house and could not find my usual OB applicator free tampons. I have not used tampons with an applicator in at least 5 years. Before that I believe I used cardboard applicators and before that (for decades) plastic applicators.

I have since learned that there is a ‘tampon shortage’ in the country and it all now makes sense. Because I could not find my usual tampons, I jumped onto amazon, found OB tampons and clicked ‘buy’. When they arrived, I was mortified to find that they had plastic applicators.

Size of Applicator Free tampons compared to applicator tampons

I didn’t even consider that OB still made tampons with plastic applicators. I thought that they were the ‘environmental’ choice and only made the type I always buy, but obviously powerful market forces have OB still manufacturing tampons with plastic applicators.

We, collectively, are those market forces. On that day, I made a ‘buy’ purchase decision without spending 15 extra seconds to look over the details of that decision. And now I am stuck with 18 plastic applicator tampons. And all I can think about is where those plastic applicators will end up after I have finished using them. Because these are the things that I think about now that I have the time to think. I’ve already purchased a different brand, Cora, so I am better prepared for next month.

In our busy society we believe that we, individually, are important. We wake up each day and run around like chickens with heads cut off believing that what we do ‘makes a difference’ and maybe, some of us, are making a difference. But we are also, collectively, generating an obscene amount of waste and abusing our planet. I will contend that no matter who you are, NOTHING you do in each day can matter more than how we collectively look after each other and this planet.

Look I get it. There are powerful market forces driving our behaviors each day, in each hour. Our boss says that we have to get to a meeting at this time or we will be fired, and then our children will not eat. So we rush and we don’t take the time to consider all our options. We consume without thought because we think it’s important that we get to that meeting on time, and it is, for our individual family. But collectively? For everyone and for future generations? 100 years from now I guarantee it will not be important what any one of us has done in any given day.  All that will matter is what we have done together.

Since mankind first started organizing in hunter gatherer groups the only thing that has mattered is what we do collectively. Our collective action and cooperation is what has made us dominant over earth. And right now we are doing a TERRIBLE job of considering how our collective individualism is impacting earth and future generations, and even how it’s impacting current generations. The ‘cheap’ clothes we buy could be made with slave labor in China or Indonesia. We don’t bother to check.

Specifically, as it relates to managing my monthly feminine hygiene, I’ve made deliberate choices because I know that I do have choices. I just have to investigate them. Have I made the most environmentally friendly choices? Probably not. There are Thinx panties (I own two pairs but use them only at night). There are menstrual Cups (which would be a better environmental choice than tampons but as a sporty person I am hesitant).

I know that my individual choice to choose more sustainable options in this instance does not matter, unless I can convince every woman I know to also make different choices, and unless they can convince every woman they know, and every man who has daughters to make better choices. Especially in a Tampon Shortage, isn’t it a great time to try something new?

Our Policies are Failing Us

I sat in my privilege today. I used my spare time today to log in to the websites of three different mailers that go to my mailbox to unsubscribe. I spent the time to search for the number and look up ‘xyz mailing unsubscribe’ and completed the process. I did it because I have time to do it. Every individual is not going to do what I did. We cannot expect them to. The policy that allows hundreds of thousands of unsolicited mailings to land in hundreds of millions of homes around the US every year is failing us. That is a horrific waste of trees, paper, water, energy to power the trucks and the manpower that places those things in our mailboxes. Most of these items go directly in the trash without being opened. It is a waste of earth’s shared resources.

So I sat in my privilege of having the time to do something about an environmental debacle (for me only), in the privilege of not needing the coupons to shop (maybe, I’ve honestly never once opened the Clipper in 17 years), and in the privilege of owning a home that the coupons get mailed to.

This is our problem with our approach to environmental stewardship. Everything we expect people to do to save the earth requires privilege. Often, it means someone is white and rich. They have the time to investigate where items go to recycle and to compost their own kitchen scraps. They have an extra $70K lying around to buy a Tesla. This is not going to work.

We cannot criticize the poor for their choices, because they have none. It is the rich and privileged that have the choices. We must implement policies that make it easy for the poorest person to make good environmental choices. I don’t believe people want to destroy their environment, but some people have no other option. It is the companies, the governments and the billionaires who have choices and need to lead with policy and invest in a sustainable revolution.

“To those who have been given much, much is to be expected.”

We Are Bred For Comfort

Modern generations of humans have been bred for comfort, and convenience, including myself. I love hot water running out of my tap, plumbing (working toilets!) inside my own home and, above all else, I think I might actually die if I could not escape the oppressive Florida heat inside of an air-conditioned room. I love home delivery. I think I might have been one of the first customers of Amazon back when friends and family thought it was ‘crazy’ to put your credit card info out into the ‘interwebs’ like that. I’ve always loved convenience. And home delivery is the essence of convenience.

No other species spends their day with so much free time in search of entertainment. Their lives, from the time they are born are constantly filled with hunger, danger and the threat of death. That is how we started out. While generations before us spent their entire day looking for food and hiding from threats, we spend our days wandering around in our modern ‘civilization’, looking forward to getting lost in the next great streaming hit or recreational pastime. Whether it be watching or participating in recreational sports, reading, building a model airplane or learning a new skill ‘for fun!’, we humans have lost our survival skills.

We have gifted ourselves the miracle of ‘free time’, a luxury only available to kings and queens in the 17th century. We have lifted millions of humans out of poverty and that is an amazing thing. We have done this at great cost, one that we have not yet paid. We have taken out the most irresponsible loan against the earths resources, paying little to no downpayment, no interest and no premiums. Our children will have to pay this loan if we do not start paying it back now.

The resources of the earth are finite and our rate of consumption and production cannot be sustained. We cannot afford to run out of resources. The world as it is now, with such high expectations from so many, would simply implode. Most of us would not make it in an apocalypse, with extended shortages of food and energy, and comfort. I know my children will not make it. They have been bred for comfort also. Besides, who really wants to live in that world anyway? You’d be living in a hellscape, definitely not getting the chance to binge out on Bridgerton.

Some people say we can all go live on the moon, or Mars if we destroy this planet. First of all, do we really think we will ALL get to go? And second, the number of people who want to trade their home on earth for one on Mars is ZERO. Even the richest billionaires do not actually want to live on Mars because Mars has nothing on our Earth.

This is why it is critical we use the technologies we have available to us right now to ensure that we  never run out. That there will always be enough, for all of us, and the many more we still need to raise out of misery.

All Coral Reefs Are Dying…Soon

I got out the ocean after snorkeling in Cozumel, turned to the boys and said, “Do you know why mummy is so psychotic about climate change? Because in 10 years, if we don’t fix it, this will all be gone.”

For over a decade, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been warning us about this; only one of the many catastrophic consequences of global warming over 1.5 deg. ALL the Coral Reefs IN THE WHOLE WORLD are on track to die in the 2030s. All the real-life Nemos and Dorys. Not in 100 years, or 50, or 30…10. Most of us will still be here to mourn the loss.

My 12 year old diving on a reef off Cozumel

Not so fun to think about on Spring Break vacation (or at any time) but I believe hopeful hysteria is appropriate right now. I feel called to live consciously incongruently with a ‘broken open’ heart. I know there are mundanities $ and hygiene items I’m responsible for. I know that while I’m vociferously bashing our extractive destructive economy, I have been, and am, an active participant in it.

I also know all of that mere ‘surviving’ would be meaningless if I cannot save these things. If WE cannot course correct and save these things. It would require me to cut out a piece of my soul to continue moving through a world in which I stood passively by and let ALL the coral reefs die….because I was scared to change or wanted to remain ‘comfortable’.

All are called and welcome to partake in this transformation. It is going to take all of us. I know I cannot do this alone, and I am not alone. Warriors in this fight have been trying to wake me up, wake us up, for decades. Ocean and reef conservation groups have been, and continue to work tirelessly to save what they can. But they will not be successful without the rest of us also contributing through massive emissions reductions. A ‘drawdown’ is necessary to save the reefs.

My children saw this reef in Cozumel. Whether my grandchildren (and yours) will get to see a real natural reef, is yet to be determined. If I thought all was already lost, and there was nothing we could do about it, I would just give up. I’d tell you to book your bucket list trip to the Great Barrier Reef without delay and that I know a great travel agent. And while you were there, I’d tell you to feel free to take home as many souvenirs of sea fans as you want, because they will be dead in a few years anyway.

But we are not there yet (so don’t you dare touch the reef!). We know what we need to do. We have all the tools and technologies available. We just need to start, today.

“My Heart is Moved

By all I cannot save

And by all we can…”


Cozumel Reef Life

Conveniences as a Service

Our water heater stopped working this week. It came with our house, which we have been in for over 17 years so it’s at least as old as that. I looked up online to see how long water heaters are supposed to last and the answer is 8-12 years. So after consulting with our trusted plumbers, I arranged to get a replacement (yes, a new one).

My husband asked me this morning when he saw the new one in the box, ‘What is wrong with the old one? Can it be fixed?’ I replied that I have no idea what is wrong with it because I am not an expert on water heaters. I’m sure if we wanted to wait forever for hot water we could bring in someone who might be able to look at it and tell us that it could be fixed…for more than the cost $ of putting in a new one. That has been my experience with appliances. They are not built to last.

Old water heater which still has valuable metals and resources

My husband then dared to say (in jest, I believe, because he was Cheshire cat grinning) ‘But you with all your sustainability, how could you put in a new water heater?’ *STANDS*ON*SOAPBOX*

‘Because this is how our society and economy is structured right now. And as much as I would love to fix all of that myself with my individual habits I cannot.’ The real problem is that as a collective we do not demand a society and system without such waste. We do not demand water heaters that last for more than 12 years, that the manufacturer will come in and fix and replace the parts of AFTER the warranty expires (they very cleverly make sure their warranties only last a fraction of the life span).

Warranty for new water heater

They do not even consider the need to repair the water heater before they manufacture it. If they did think about this, they would make sure the parts were modular and easily removed and replaced.

Or better yet, manufacturers could offer water heaters, fridges, stoves, Air conditioners, as a SERVICE where they continue to own and manage the appliances, leasing it out to customers for a fee and coming in to maintain, repair or swap out the old appliance when it stops working. I’d bet if the manufacturer owned the appliance, they would take better care of it and think about ease of maintenance before they built it. They could even, in the case of air conditioners, lease out ‘cooling BTUs’ where they give you a certain level of cooling that you need. Why should I, as the consumer, have to care about the size of my HVAC unit? All I care about is being cool. If, let’s say, these appliance lessors could manage the cooling centrally and balance out the needs of several customers at once, some needing more or less cooling than others depending on the weather, they might also be able to save energy overall.

This is not some genius idea I just came up with. There are manufacturers that are already doing this in our world, today….yes, even the Cooling as a Service, which already has it’s own acronym: CaaS.

This is not about us all giving up our conveniences and luxuries and going to live in a commune where we grow our own food. No one is going to catch me out with that old trope. That is a dog whistle. This is about all of us thinking more deeply about how we use the, often-limited, resources of our earth and applying existing circular economy solutions to preserve them.

Time to Get Serious

I was honored to be published in The Invading Sea today. The time to be tentative and believe that someone else is going to fix this is past.

This is not inevitable, but we have run out of time to agree that we all share the same goal of a livable climate for our children and grandchildren, and to start making the changes we need to make in our homes, communities and businesses. This is not going to be ok unless we take action. Miami is not the only coastal city in the world sitting on top of limestone…it’s just one with money.
“Nothing can ever be broken that we can’t fix, together.” – Mirabel, ‘Encanto’