The first Earth Day was held fifty-two years ago, on 1970-04-22. Officially, it includes events coordinated globally by EarthDay.org. Unofficially, anybody can do whatever they like. This year’s event happens on Friday, 2022-04-22, with an official theme: Invest In Our Planet. This weblog post is being published almost a week in advance, so that people will have some time to reflect on what they want to do.
When I visited the Earth Day website, to gain an understanding of what this year’s theme really means, I was underwhelmed. One section read: “The fashion industry is responsible for over 8% of total greenhouse gas emissions. Sustainable Fashion refers to a clothing supply chain that is ecologically and socially responsible. Now is the opportunity to shift the industry and consumers away from the fast fashion model and toward sustainable practices in sourcing, production, distribution, marketing, and consumption.” Sadly, there is not much helpful detail. I am left wondering who, if anyone, is going to implement these sustainable practices? Who is going to do anything?
I am not impressed with the new European Union eco-labels for fabrics. From 2023 all clothes and shoes sold in the EU will include colour-coded labels informing customers about the products’ environmental impact. But the Make the Label Count campaign says the system of measurement developed in 2013 is misleading, outdated and not in line with the EU’s climate goals. Fossil fuel-derived fibres, such as polyester, will be certified as more environmentally friendly than natural fibres, such as wool and cotton. These will score red. Microplastic pollution, biodegradability and renewability are excluded from the assessment criteria. Thus, I will not pay attention to any of these labels.
Most of my clothing is made of natural materials, wool and cotton especially. I wear them for many years. For example, my spring and summer jacket was purchased in 2008. It should last the rest of my life. I wear my chinos until they wear out, and even then, they are transformed (through the miracle of a personal relationship with a textile craftsperson) into shorts. My shirts and underwear are cotton. Most of my shoes (4 pairs) are Allbirds, made of wool but with Sweetfoam soles made from sugarcane. This was the most ecological brand of shoes that I could find, that fit my feet, even if I would prefer them to offer a slightly wider variant.
A Stanford University study has shown that the good life in terms of happiness involves the consumption of about 75 GJ of energy per person annually. Quoting from the abstract: “We analyze the maximum global performance of nine health, economic, and environmental metrics by country, determining which metrics increase with per capita energy use and which show thresholds or plateaus in maximum performance. Across the dataset, eight of nine metrics, including life expectancy, infant mortality, happiness, food supply, and access to basic sanitation services, improve steeply and then plateau at levels of average primary annual energy consumption between 10 and 75 GJ person−1 computed nationally (five metrics plateau between 10 and 30 GJ person−1). One notable exception is air quality (energy threshold of 125 GJ person−1 across 133 countries). Averaged across metrics, the 10 countries (with at least seven metrics) showing the best performance given their per capita primary energy use are Malta, Sri Lanka, Cuba, Albania, Iceland, Finland, Bangladesh, Norway, Morocco, and Denmark. If distributed equitably, today’s average global energy consumption of 79 GJ person−1 could, in principle, allow everyone on Earth to realize 95% or more of maximum performance across all metrics (and assuming no other limiting factors). Dozens of countries have average per capita energy use below this 79 GJ energy sufficiency threshold, highlighting the need to combat energy poverty.”
In part because Earth Day begins and ends in words, I won’t be doing anything officially to support it, but here is a short list of my current personal priority issues for saving planet Earth from a 1.5 (or more likely 2.0) degree C increase in temperature, and a lower carbon footprint in the future.
I am fortunate to live in a house that I own together with Patricia, and to have the ability to undertake improvements. Not everyone is in full control of their housing. Some people rent rather than own, others live in condominiums = self-owned apartments. Thus, many individuals and families are at the mercy of others, including home-owner associations. However, we do live in a cold climate, that requires heating. With the construction season started, this year’s highest priority task is to increase the thickness of insulation in the ceiling. We discovered shortly after moving into the house in 1989, that it was essentially uninsulated in the walls, but was insulated in the ceiling.
All of the walls have been upgraded to a minimum of 100 mm of insulation. Two of the four walls that meet the worst of arctic winds, have been upgraded further, so that most of the length of these walls now has 250 mm of insulation, although there are a few meters that have only 200 mm. This year the focus is on increasing ceiling insulation from 200 to 400 mm. Throughout the pandemic there has been a construction boom in Norway, resulting in product and labour shortages and increased prices. Fortunately, most of the material needed for this year’s improvements were purchased before 2020, and have waited patiently to be used.
The other task is to install a balanced ventilation/ heating/ cooling system that will recycle heat, but not air, and will be connected to an air-to-air heat pump that should reduce energy consumption further.
Transportation and Travel
This year could be the year that we transition from an internal compustion engined (ICE) vehicle to an electric vehicle (EV). But transportation involves much more than just owning a car. In terms of driving, I am thinking that we should not drive more than once a week to our municipal centre, Straumen (26 km, round trip) for grocery shopping. About once a month we could allow ourselves a trip to Steinkjer that offers a wider selection of products (an additional 40 km, round trip). There would be an annual visit to Trondheim (240 km, round trip). Some social visits could come in addition. Norwegian Friends of the Earth has been particularly concerned about the use of tires, and their contribution of plastics to the environment.
In terms of air travel, we would like to prioritize one more trip to British Columbia to celebrate Patricia’s sister’s 80th birthday, and one more trip to California, to visit our daughter. We have decided that we can visit much of the rest of the world through documentaries. However, it must be admitted that excursions into warmer parts of Europe during the winter, are appealing. However, trains can be used to get there!
We continue to buy much of our dairy products and eggs from local farmers. This involves walking to the farms. While not vegetarians, we try to eat less meat. We also avoid almost all restaurant food, if only because of their excessive salt content.
In many weblog posts in 2021, and even now in 2022, music has been a major theme. Here, I would like to address the carbon footprint of the music industry, assisted – in part – by a recent Guardian article, that stated that on Earth Day about 100 international, intergenerational and eclectic musicians will release material exclusively via Bandcamp (with the platform waiving its fees) and with the income generated being distributed among causes working at the frontlines of the climate emergency.
On EarthPercent’s website, a somewhat different story is told. They state that for every track sold, a minimum of £1.30/$1.30 goes to our grantmaking programme, after deducting only third-party platform fees and applicable taxes from the purchase price. No EarthPercent operating costs are deducted.
The two sources also disagree about how much philanthropic funding is directed towards the climate crisis. The Guardian states less than 3%, EarthPercent states less than 2%. Regardless, EarthPercent encourages all participants in the music industry to divert a small percentage of their income, to the most impactful climate causes/ projects/ charities selected by an independent expert advisory panel, with the financial goal of raising $100m by 2030.
I do not support the music industry, with the exception of including YouTube links to specific songs in weblog posts. At a personal level, my musical content was converted to audio files from CDs, at a time when it was legal to do so. This is what I play. I do not stream anything. I do not attend concerts. I do not buy new CDs. I do not buy vinyl. I am attempting to go one step further, making my own music, but this is a long and arduous process.
The industrial approach to music is easy for listeners. Pay a regular sum of money (or listen to some ads) and you will be able to listen to (some) music using a streaming service. Pay somewhat more, and you will be able to download it, more still and it will be provided on a CD or vinyl record. Pay something outrageous, and you will be able to attend a concert.
The focus of the music industry is on the promotion of specific groups and individuals, who may be no better or worse than many others. Industry players then attempt to control this music to maximize their return on investment from the production of: CDs, vinyl records, streamed content, concerts. At the same time, they promote the excessive, luxurious lifestyle, enjoyed by a few performers, which only creates more disparity in the world. This disparity leads to an overheating of the world, in part because it prevents the less privileged from making improvements to their lives, such as an ability to replace the burning of fossil fuels with greener substitutes.
Environmentally, music concerts are particularly bad. They not only involve the movement of a band, its roadies and its equipment, but up to tens of thousands of fans (as in enthusiastic people, not mechanical devices that blow air). All this movement creates a serious carbon footprint.
Personally, I am not convinced that kinetic dancefloors, that harness crowd energy, or travel advice apps, will cut carbon emissions significantly. Instead, if people need live entertainment, they should enjoy locally produced music, produced by local musicians, in local venues. Even better, if a person is interested in music, they can make it themselves!
There are many different approaches to music. Here in Inderøy, which is a microcosm of what is happening in Norway and developed countries more generally, there are many different choirs: some are just for men, or women, or children; some are mixed for all genders of adults; some focus on just part of the municipality, while others are for all of it.
There are marching bands with woodwinds, brass and percussion instruments, that will be playing at a wide variety of venues on two upcoming holidays, Labour day (2022-05-01) and Constitution day (2022-05-17). Some of these bands march, some don’t.
Traditional music, often involves the Hardingfele (Norwegian) or Hardanger fiddle (English), often considered Norway’s national musical instrument. It is similar to a violin, typically with eight strings (in contrast to four on a standard violin) and thinner wood. Four of the strings are strung and played like a violin, the remaining understrings, simply resonate. Traditional, and not-so traditional dance bands play music at local events for people who like to dance.
There are also a wide variety of smaller bands that practice together, playing mainly for themselves, or at a few local festivals or other events. Increasingly, they place their music on YouTube.
Yet, the most important group involves solo musicians, who sing or play for their own personal enjoyment. There is some form of music for almost everybody, and the carbon footprint of playing that music does not have to be very high!