By Matthew Hable|
Located at the north end of Humboldt Bay and along the Pacific Flyway, a major north-south flight path for migratory birds that expands from Alaska to Patagonia, situates The Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary, a 307-acre sanctuary that includes marshes, sloughs, uplands, mudflats, roughly five miles of trails and an Interpretive Center.
Patrick Carr, a psychologist with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and lecturer for the evening’s Climate Conversations, patiently waits for the last participant to arrive at the center five minutes pass the scheduled 7 p.m. start time. The Interpretive Center operates as an exhibit, bookstore and info center pertaining to the sanctuary. Seven of the eight folding chairs are occupied in the shape of a semicircle, which are facing a wide window that overlooks a spectacular view of the marsh—the sun begins to set beyond the marsh, adding to the overall visual splendor. The last participant arrives and the lecture begins.
Carr welcomes the discussion group to the event and proceeds to describe the sustainable implementations of the Interpretive Center.
“This building is equipped with a passive solar building design, high-efficiency LED lights and skylights,” said Carr.
Collectively, the Interpretive Center qualifies as a net-zero building, meaning that the amount of annual renewable energy consumed significantly outweighs the use of non-renewable energy, resulting in less production of greenhouse gasses.
Greenhouse gasses are essential to life on earth—without them our planet would be frozen and unsustainable. However, too much emission of greenhouse gases overheats the planet that threatens humanity. Moreover, global warming has had observable effects on the planet due to human activities—a century’s worth of burning fossil fuel, overpopulation and globalization. If sustainability practices are not implemented on a global scale and industrial activities continue to emit greenhouse gases at an exponential rate, future generations will struggle with sea level rises, ocean acidification, intense heat waves, longer periods of droughts and so on.
Next, Carr offers other options to reduce our inherited carbon footprint habits: transportation, dieting and consumerism. He suggests a collective vegan diet would effectively reduce carbon footprint. The global food production and consumption, namely beef, produce more greenhouse emissions than transportation combined; however, transporting meat overlaps with production. Additionally, a decrease or complete abstinence from consuming meat could reduce the risk of heart disease and other health-related issues.
“The internet globally consumes 10% of electricity,” said Carr.
Consumerism contributes to climate change. The internet is woven into our society—businesses rely on it to survive and people depend on it as a primary source of communication in the digital age. The demand for internet is spreading at an increasing rate as globalization develops across the world; as a result, companies supply the demand with devices, especially smart phones, laptops and accessories, such as external hard drives. Ultimately, the production and use of devices are the contributor to high emissions of greenhouse gasses. Also, the cost of fuel to transport goods also impacts the climate. The world constantly operates in this vicious cycle that intensifies global warming.
Needless to say, persuading an entire planet of people to change their lifestyle is no easy feet. There are many factors that circumscribe change towards consuming energy renewably.
Opposing views of climate change is “intensely emotional,” said Carr.
To evolve requires a deep, communal understanding of climate change before taking action, first and foremost. In a fragmented society that is mostly ignorant or indifferent about climate change, achieving a collectively sustainable movement seems merely impossible—it would take a global village to influence real change. Another major setback for change involves economic prosperity. In a world dependent on fossil fuels, leaders of renewable energy need to convince the government, parliaments, corporations, politicians and other globalized leaders that the transition would be greater than profits generated by fossil fuels.
Despite the tremendous challenges supporters of renewable energy face, there is hope in the long run. Redwood Coast Energy Authority, a non-profit joint powers authority (JPA) based in Humboldt County, received state approval in January to lead a new energy program that aims to “provide lower electric rates and local control of our energy sources” by implementing renewable energy practices. Sonoma, Marin and San Francisco opted into similar programs. If programs like these succeed, this could lead a path to saving society or at least reverse the effects of global warming.
Human beings are one with nature and each of us have a certain connection to it beyond biological reasons.
“I have a spiritual connection with nature,” said Valerie Carr, biologist and wife of Patrick Carr.
Humboldt transplant and auto racing enthusiast, Bob Friedman, also participated in the discussion. He is passionate about finding ways to incorporate renewable energy to the sport without compromising speed.
“I am from the dark side,” said Friedman. “I spent years driving race cars and working in factories that produced car batteries.”
After inhaling and observing the immense amount of pollution pumping into the air over a long period of time, Friedman decided to leave Florida and head west. He has been in Humboldt since 2016 and is currently pursuing entrepreneurial ways to produce his own brand of race car batteries.
Climate Conversations concluded with a reminder that change begins with awareness and an open discussion about the issue.
Another action we can take is “sacrificing vacation for renewable energy,” said Carr. “Instead of saving money for a long vacation, take a short one and invest your money into sustainable practices around the house.”
Ride your bicycle to work, switch to energy bulbs, grow your own food—a little goes a long way.