Coffee, Avocados, & Drought

Climate change solutions are commonly misconstrued in the environmental movement. When discussing climate change, we often talk vaguely about solutions with comments like: “Decreasing carbon emissions will help fight the climate crisis,” and “Preventing global temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees celsius will conserve biodiversity.”

These phrases are true, but they imply that there is some mysterious silver bullet solution out there that will save humanity, and all the trees, and the cute little crag dogs, and the wildflowers–but there isn’t. 

There just isn’t a single solution for climate change. 

The same goes for drought, which is a big tangled mess in climate change’s knitting basket. This is because water use is so much more complicated than the amount of water flowing out of your faucet. As individuals, we use relatively small quantities of water, but we also use electricity created by thermoelectric power, eat food (like and 🥑) that needs to be irrigated, and scroll on phones that require mined metal. 

There is no possible way for one solution to unravel all of the deeply intertwined drought-associated problems. Instead, drought prevention requires a multitude of holistic solutions. 

So, what drought solutions are you most passionate about?

📚 Information Compiled by: @funkyfrances and @savadkinscroft

🎨 Graphics by: @savadkinscroft

How Drought Affects Wildfires

The next chapter of our drought series is here: let’s talk about drought and wildfires. 🔥

Remember when Smokey Bear was SUPER popular? Like, the level of popularity where you couldn’t go outside without seeing an excessively buff bear telling you that it was your job to prevent wildfires?

Smokey Bear has a more low-key presence these days, and there’s a reason for that: As fire science progresses and fire history is explored, we’re realizing that fire isn’t always bad. And more often than not, it’s actually really good for ecosystems to experience fire.

Take lodgepole pines for example, which can be found all over the western United States. These iconic pines have serontinous cones, which means, in order for the cones to release their seeds, they first need to be burned by fire. Simply put, these trees couldn’t have babies without fire!

Fire benefits more than just lodgepole pines, and we could list the benefits of fire forever and ever. But fire has become A LOT more complicated now that our drought situation is so severe and because humans cause so many fires (not just through pyrotechnic gender reveals, but also through campfires, cigarettes, and more).

If we could sum up current wildfire science into a few words, it would be: natural fires are good and have been used by Indigenous people for thousands of years, human caused fires quickly get out of control, we should have let landscapes burn over the past 100 years, drought is making fires worse, and we need to create systemic change to our fire mitigation practices asap.

📚 Information Compiled by: @stephanie_landry_giavotella and @savadkinscroft
🎨 Graphics by: @savadkinscroft
📸 Photo: Frankie Lopez

Drought in the Intermountain West

With record-breaking drought conditions spread across California, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and beyond, the idea of a “hot girl summer” has taken on a new meaning in the Mountain West this year.

But what exactly is drought, and why does it matter to outdoorists (and everyone)?

Drought, in its simplest definition, is the lack of precipitation, which leads to depleted water supplies. At its worst, drought can last for decades and the lack of water can affect food availability, water quality, biodiversity, wildfire risk, livestock and fisheries health, the economy, human physical and mental health, job security, recreation, and oh so much more.

The intermountain west has been hit exceptionally hard by long-term drought. Since 2000 (that’s right—this drought can legally drink, y’all!), landscapes spanning from the Rocky Mountains to the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountain Ranges have been plagued with wildfires, municipal water restrictions, and conflicts over water rights. This summer, the western United States is projected to once again be hot and dry, further straining our already limited water supply.

We’re diving into the science, sociology, and policy of drought over the next few weeks with the help of climate scientists, but we also want this to be a community discussion. So, we want to know:

How has drought affected you?

Research and graphic design by: @savadkinscroft
Photography: Jana Styblova
Map: via US Drought Monitor

What do today’s Conservation + Climate Announcements mean for outdoorists?

Today was a big day for climate and conservation in the United States. President Biden signed a series of new policies aimed at tackling climate change. From committing to 30×30 to replacing federal fleets with zero emission vehicles, there’s a lot to digest.

We encourage you to read the “FACT SHEET: President Biden Takes Executive Actions to Tackle the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, Create Jobs, and Restore Scientific Integrity Across Federal Government” in full, but if you’re itching to dive straight to the more outdoor-related bits, we’ve pulled ’em for you to make it easier to understand.

Excerpts below are from the Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad Executive Order: 

  • “directs the Secretary of the Interior to pause on entering into new oil and natural gas leases on public lands or offshore waters to the extent possible, launch a rigorous review of all existing leasing and permitting practices related to fossil fuel development on public lands and waters, and identify steps that can be taken to double renewable energy production from offshore wind by 2030. The order does not restrict energy activities on lands that the United States holds in trust for Tribes. The Secretary of the Interior will continue to consult with Tribes regarding the development and management of renewable and conventional energy resources, in conformance with the U.S. government’s trust responsibilities.”
  • “directs federal agencies to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies as consistent with applicable law and identify new opportunities to spur innovation, commercialization, and deployment of clean energy technologies and infrastructure.”
  • “commits to the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and oceans by 2030 and launches a process for stakeholder engagement from agricultural and forest landowners, fishermen, Tribes, States, Territories, local officials, and others to identify strategies that will result in broad participation.”
     
  • “calls for the establishment of a Civilian Climate Corps Initiative to put a new generation of Americans to work conserving and restoring public lands and waters, increasing reforestation, increasing carbon sequestration in the agricultural sector, protecting biodiversity, improving access to recreation, and addressing the changing climate.”
  • “reaffirms that the President will host a Leaders’ Climate Summit on Earth Day, April 22, 2021.”

We are thrilled with today’s actions, but acknowledge that all these positive initiatives and commitments must be met with accountability and follow-through. As we shift our advocacy towards more proactive efforts, we must continue to resolve ourselves to remain vigilante that good policy is not just signed, but put into action.

Here are a few resources from around the outdoor community for more information on today’s big announcements:

Stay tuned with Outdoor Advocacy Project on Instagram and Twitter for the latest updates!

Outdoor Advocacy Climate Action Toolkit 2020

The outdoor community is directly impacted by the climate crisis. We are some of the first to see its effects. Current climate projections indicate that many US ski seasons will be cut in half by 2050, but rising global temperatures are affecting more than just our public lands, air quality, our water and snowpack–the livelihood of entire communities is on the line.

Climate change not just an outdoor issue, it is the largest social justice issue of our lifetime.

Environmental advocacy is a value built into the outdoor ethos, and we must continue to push ourselves to do and demand more of ourselves and the industry at large. The threats we face are unprecedented–we can’t continue business as usual. The future viability of our entire industry and planet is on the line, will we show up to do something about it?

Developed in collaboration with Big Mountain Dreams Foundation

We believe that we have a responsibility to act on climate. That’s why we co-organized Climate Rally 2020, a march and rally at the Colorado State Capitol in Denver on January 31. Alongside organizer Caroline Gleich and a community of climate leaders, we fired up the outdoor industry during Outdoor Retailer, and asked ourselves to commit to stronger, more intersectional climate action.

But the action doesn’t stop once we put down our signs and end our chants. We must continually be moving forward as advocates for climate justice–which is why we created the Outdoor Advocacy Climate Action Toolkit 2020. This collection of educational resources, collective action and tools will get you started and keep you going as a climate activist. Here’s a peek at what you’ll find here–and we’ll continue adding resources throughout the year:

  • Resources like Climate Science 101 and How to Talk to Your Family about Climate Change.
  • An outdoor industry and community sign-on letter for brands, organizations and individuals.
  • Voter registration and resources.

Sign the outdoor industry + community climate action letter

(read the sign-on letter here.)

Get registered to vote or check your voter status

(click here)

Learn the basics of climate science

(from climate scientists)

Explore the climate change glossary

(every term from anthropogenic to sustainability)

See what science says we can do about climate change

(again, written by, you know, climate scientists)

Learn how climate change affects more than just the weather

(click here)

How to talk to climate skeptics – and understanding who they are

(click here)

Learn how to talk to your family about climate change

(during the holidays or any time of year)

ED-OP: How to stay resilient + hopeful during a time of climate crisis

(click here)

If you own or work for an outdoor brand, check out OIA’s Climate Action Corps

(check it out here)

Additional Resources:

If you made it this far, we’re stoked on your commitment to climate action–high five! We look forward to continuing to expand this toolkit and add even more resources from around our community. If you’ve got a climate-related resource or tool we ought to be amplifying, shoot us an e-mail at team@outdooradvocacy.com.

What Science Says We Can Do About Climate Change

Recycling is dead and it wasn’t enough in the first place. Science points to key actionable steps we can take as individuals to help mitigate climate change and build a healthier future. According to science, we CAN mitigate climate change, we just need to act quickly and as a community. The following is a list of actions for individuals to take that will make the most impact. Let’s do this y’all. And remember, ultimately, the most important change that needs to be made is systematic. It’s not just a burden that should be held on the individual level, but those individual changes can be catalysts to sparking systematic change.

Note: We recognize that many of these actions require privilege, monetary and otherwise, so rather than judge yourself (or others… mind your own sustainable beeswax wrappers!) for what you can’t do, focus on what you can do. And remember: the best things we can possibly do are to vote and to consume what we need, not everything we want.


Photo by Laura Mitulla on Unsplash

Eat more plants

Healthy bodies are awesome, but what you eat affects the planet way more than it affects your body. In fact, limiting animal product consumption is considered to be the best way to help save the planet and decrease carbon emissions (source). And no, you don’t have to be a Hardcore Henry and buy all the foofoo organic greens from Whole Foods.

According to the UN, the production of animal products is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the transportation sector- aka your car (source). This means that eating a steak produces more emissions than driving to and from work. That’s WILD. But it makes sense when you think about the 7.5 billion people that need to be fed and the processes that put meat, eggs, and cheese on grocery store shelves. 

Producing meat typically requires deforestation to provide land for housing or grazing livestock, which releases massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere (source). This is why the burning of the Amazon for cattle farming was such a huge deal. Then there’s the supply chain, which at its basics includes cutting the meat with machines, transporting the meat in vehicles, and storing it in refrigerators under fluorescent lights, all of which require burning fossil fuels. So, yeah. It makes sense that animal products account for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions (source), which is a lot since most emissions are produced by big industry. This also signifies that there is no possible way to significantly reduce individual greenhouse gasses without decreasing our animal product consumption. 

Theoretically, you can reduce your carbon footprint by 73% by switching to a vegan diet (source). But let’s be honest: although a vegan diet is cheaper than a carnivore diet (source), veganism is a privilege because many people do not have access to inexpensive fruits and veggies year-round. Luckily, we can still greatly reduce individual emissions by eating 90% less meat and 60% less dairy, which is equivalent to eating animal products for one meal a day (source). Yes, this will require some lifestyle changes, but plenty of people have done it before. There are many ways to decrease our animal product consumption, you just need to find a way that is right for you. Here’s a fun blog post on how to get started!

Support reproductive justice

One of the best things we can do, according to data, is to have fewer children (source). This is a complicated topic, but we need to talk about it because climate change isn’t giving us time to beat around the bush. 

We don’t believe in telling people what types of families to have or not have, so we want to offer a way to think about this commonly discussed climate mitigation strategy that doesn’t infringe on individual rights. One of our fave organizations, the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, gives us this definition of reproductive justice that we can use to frame our conversation: “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.” Let’s break that down while thinking about climate change.

“The human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, [or] not have children”:

Telling people to have fewer children to save the planet not only infringes on reproductive justice, but can get, well, eugenics-y. Instead of telling people what to do, we need to vote and advocate for access to education and tools that people need to make the best reproductive choices for themselves. In some cases, this includes having access to resources that allow them to not have children.

“…parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities”:

Further, supporting reproductive justice means voting and advocating for the enactment of environmental regulations to protect the health of our children. This is especially important in areas that have minimal resources because these communities are often near environmentally unsafe living conditions, whereas communities that have more privilege can avoid those areas (source). 

In short, while having fewer humans on the planet does reduce resource use, everyone should be free to have the type of family they want, free from judgment.

Turn off the lights & take the bus

During World War II, CO2 emissions seriously dropped it like it’s hot (source). This is surprising for a time when the production of planes, tanks, and bombs was at an all-time high. The reduction in CO2 emissions was in part due to citizens turning off their lights at night to prevent an enemy attack. Although we are no longer living in war times, we are facing serious environmental catastrophes, which can also be solved by turning off the lights–and taking the bus, driving instead of flying, putting on a sweater instead of turning up the heat, or being as cool as Greta Thunberg and traveling by sailboat around the world (source). 

Our energy consumption in the form of electricity, gasoline, and natural gas produces carbon emissions, the major cause of climate change. Yet, there are such simple ways individuals can limit their emissions. Turning off the light when you leave the room isn’t that hard, taking the bus lets you people watch and listen to a podcast all at the same time, and guys, have you ever seen Brianna Madia’s smile while driving? It’s obviously way more fun than flying. Plus, you get to see all the beautiful landscapes the world has to offer. 

Simple steps can be taken to reduce emissions. Not all climate change mitigation steps have to be complicated, just turn off the damn lights. 

Photo by Josh Carter on Unsplash

Vote & call your representatives

According to the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, we only have ten years to cut emissions in half before climate change causes irreversible effects (source). This means that a candidate’s position on climate change needs to be our top priority when voting because once legislation is finally put into action, those ten years will be coming to an end. Yeah, it’s scary but as difficult as politicians make environmental policy change seem, we’ve done it before.

Since the industrial revolution, there has been one major climate change success — the shrinking of the ozone hole over Antarctica. The main purpose of the ozone layer is to absorb harmful UV rays that cause cancer, cataracts, and limit plant growth among other things. But, we carved a big a$$ hole in it when we started producing chemicals with big scary names like Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) (source). These chemicals were actually very common and found in aerosol sprays, refrigerators, and air conditioners, and break down the protective ozone layer in the stratosphere. 

Then the Montreal Protocol came along. Enacted in 1989, the Montreal Protocol On Substances that Deplete the Ozone is an international treaty that phased out the production of CFCs, HCFCs, and other chemicals (source). Since then, the ozone layer has begun to recover and is estimated to reach 1980’s levels between 2050 and 2070 (source here and here).

So go call your senators and representatives and tell them that climate change is a BIG DEAL. Vote in your local, state, and national elections for policies and people who will get the job done (learn more about that via OIA’s Vote the Outdoors campaign). Share with your mom, your friends, and your co-workers why voting is important. We CAN mitigate climate change. We’ve done it before and we can do it again. 

Other steps to take

This is where we talk about privilege, because it’s a major problem in advocacy and environmental justice. Not all people have the resources to live sustainably because fossil fuel consumption is ingrained into our society. The following are actionable steps we need to take when we have the resources to do so. 

Boycott fast fashion: The textile industry is the most polluting industry in the world (source). So, although the the super cute dress from H&M–or Old Navy, Gap, Forever 21, Urban Outfitters, etc–looks really cool, it is NOT cool for the environment. Instead, you can purchase clothing second hand on websites like Poshmark and Facebook Marketplace or buy from companies committed to sustainability and transparency such as Toad & Co. and Prana. 

Buy local: Supply chains are dirty and food, furniture, household products, and other everyday items have a massive carbon footprint (source). Buying local produce and other products limit carbon emissions from transportation, while also stimulating your town’s economy. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Avoid plastic packaging: Plastics are made of fossil fuels and we’re not really sure if they break down in landfills (source). Yet, almost everything we buy is wrapped in it. Avoiding plastic packaging on food and other household products by buying local or in bulk will limit your carbon emissions and keep waste out of landfills. 

Go outside: No, seriously go outside. Advocacy and environmental justice are emotionally and physically draining, and therefore we need to remind ourselves what we’re fighting for. So go run, hike, bike, kayak, snow shoe, motto, ski, climb, wakeboard, paraglide or whatever makes you feel re-energized. This won’t look the same for everyone and that’s okay because we are all on the planet’s side. And we are one hell of a community.

<strong>Savannah Adkins</strong>
Savannah Adkins

During some daylight hours, Savannah is a climate change scientist studying how dirt makes all of our lives possible. But her real profession is as a house plant addict, mountain biker, & attempter of skiing down mountains. In her free time, Savannah enjoys dancing around the house, drinking wine, and listening to the Grateful Dead. Oh, and making poop jokes… always making poop jokes.

<strong>Chiara Forrester</strong>
Chiara Forrester

Chiara is happiest when she’s in the mountains on skis, a bike, or running. She also loves Ariana Grande (117 hours this year, thanks Spotify), making dinner with friends, and laughing too loudly at her own jokes. An ecologist who’s passionate about science communication and increasing diversity in STEM, Chiara is currently a PhD candidate in Boulder, CO, studying alpine plant ecology, undergraduate education, and the use of science in federal land management.

Climate Change Glossary

Anthropogenic: A word to describe anything that is human-caused. 

Biodiversity: The variety of life forms across the world. For instance, areas with lots of species have more biodiversity than areas with not very many species. Organisms from single-celled to large animals interact with one another, so when biodiversity declines, so does the health of the ecosystem. For humans, in particular, the decline of biodiversity means a decline in natural resources, on which our lives depend on. 

Biodegradable: Ideally, a biodegradable product is one that can be broken down by processes like composting. However, just because a material breaks down relatively quickly compared to a non-biodegradable product doesn’t mean it is good for the environment. For example, biodegradable polyethylene is a plastic that breaks faster than other plastics, but it breaks down into microplastics that pollute our water sources and aquatic life (including the fish we eat, so those microplastics end up in us). 

Biofuel: A fuel sourced from renewable sources, which are typically plants, such as trees, corn, and sugar. These plants are burned for energy. 

Climate Change: Long-term changes in the Earth’s climate that include an increase in global temperatures, weather patterns, weather extremes, and changes to populations and ecosystems. The climate change we see today is caused by human use of fossil fuels because of land-use changes combined with the burning of fossil fuels that release Carbon Dioxide, Methane, Nitrous Oxides, and other “greenhouse gasses”. Greenhouse gases trap the heat that would typically escape our atmosphere, increasing global average temperatures. Warmer air also causes more water evaporation, which forms more clouds and causes extreme weather events. Climate change is complicated, and this description is the bare minimum, so check out our Climate Science 101 article for more.  

Carbon Dioxide: CO2 is the main greenhouse gas that drives climate change. It is the byproduct of animal respiration and other life cycles but is also produced through any combustion reaction. This includes burning fossil fuels, wood, trash, etc. 

Carbon Footprint: The net amount of carbon (in the form of CO2, methane, and fossil fuel use) emitted by an individual, company, or during the manufacturing of a product.  

Carbon Neutral: A process where there is no net release of CO2. For a country or company to be carbon neutral, the amount of CO2 they release needs to be balanced out through carbon offsetting. 

Carbon Offsetting: You can think of this as being akin to “I ate a donut for breakfast so I’m going to eat a salad for lunch”. This is a way of compensating for emissions through funding or participating in efforts to remove CO2, methane, and other human-made greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere. You can do this through investing in offset projects that work on renewable energy (i.e. wind, solar, hydroelectric), methane collection and combustion (conversion of methane to Carbon Dioxide, which has a lower global warming potential), destruction of industrial pollutants, land-use change and protection (avoids deforestation and promotes reforestation), and more. Make sure to research the project you are investing in to avoid scams. 

Carbon Sequestration: The process of removing CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it naturally or industrially. The “natural” way CO2 can be stored is through growing trees and other vegetation because plants use COto grow (photosynthesis). This is why avoiding deforestation and promoting reforestation is important. Carbon capture and storage is an up and coming technology where CO2 is stored underground. Unfortunately, this method is not reliable because the technology cannot yet be implemented around the world.  

Climate vs. Weather: Weather is the day-to-day, short term changes in the atmosphere that includes temperature, humidity, precipitation, cloudiness, visibility, and wind.  Climate is the weather averaged over a long period of time either for a particular place, region or globally. Climate is usually averaged over a 30-year time period and gives us statistical information about normal weather patterns and the ranges of extremes.   

Deforestation: The permanent removal of forests, which releases massive amounts of CO2 through soil disturbance. When soil is disturbed, all the wee lil soil microbes (bacteria, fungi, and other cellular organisms) are introduced to new food sources and they grow way faster, which releases more CO2.  

Eco-Friendly: just like sustainability, this term is vague unless defined by the company that is transparent about the processes of the product. 

Feedback Loop: This is nature’s version of a never-ending Rube Goldberg machine. Or in science, when a portion or all of a system’s outputs are used as inputs that kick off another process. For example, ice typically reflects light because it is white (the same reason you’re hotter in a black t-shirt on a sunny day, because black absorbs heat while white reflects it). As the ice melts in the Arctic Ocean, there is a smaller area of ice that reflects the sun’s heat back into the atmosphere. This means that heat is instead absorbed by ocean water, which heats it up and increases the melting of the remaining ice. 

Fossil fuel: Non-renewable natural resources such as coal, oil, and natural gas, which are made of hydrocarbons (molecules made of hydrogen and carbon, aka dead things that have carbon in them) that have been pressurized underground over millions of years. When burned, fossil fuels create enough energy to move our cars, heat our homes, and make our clothes, but this releases much more COthan was being released to the atmosphere before the industrial revolution. 

Global Average Temperature: the mean surface temperature of the earth. This is different from local temperatures because the global average temp is found through thousands of satellite measurements, a network of over 3,000 temperature observation stations, and sea surface temperature measurements taken by merchant ships around the world. These measurements are averaged to find the Global Average Temperature. 

Global Warming vs. Climate Change: These two terms are often used interchangeably, but they shouldn’t be. Global warming describes the increase of Earth’s average surface temperature due to human-made greenhouse gas emissions, while climate change refers to long-term changes in Earth’s climate. Climate change includes temperature, changes in weather patterns, variation in snow-pack, sea-level changes, and more. 

Global Warming Potential: The warming effect of each greenhouse gas. For example, methane has a warming effect 23 times higher than Carbon Dioxide. That’s why carbon offsetting projects include turning methane into CO(see carbon offsetting for more information). 

Greenhouse Gasses: Natural and industrial gasses that trap heat from the Earth and warm the Troposphere (the atmospheric layer closest to earth). These gasses include Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Water Vapor (H2O), methane (CH4), Nitrous Oxide (N2O/ NOx), Ozone (O3), and more. Through industrialization, we have exponentially increased these gas concentrations in the atmosphere.  

Greenhouse Effect: The insulating effect of natural and industrial gasses. When light from the sun reaches the planet, it bounces back out as infrared heat. The accumulation of greenhouse gasses causes global temperatures to rise because they absorb heat that would typically bounce back out of our atmosphere.  

Greenwashing: The practice of making an unsustainable product appear eco-friendly.

Methane: CH4is a major greenhouse gas that is the main compound of ”Natural Gas”. It is also a byproduct of cow respiration, which is a major source of atmospheric methane that continues to rise as world populations rise and meat demand increases. Fun Fact: cow methane isn’t from their farts or burps, but from their breath. They actually can’t burp due to the design of their digestive system. 

Mitigation: Actions taken to reduce or prevent greenhouse gas emissions. 

Non-Toxic: This is an unregulated term. Therefore, one toxic chemical can be traded for another and be called non-toxic. Through manufacturing processes, all chemicals end up polluting water or soil because they can escape containment throughout the creation, transportation, and use of the chemical. 

Ocean Acidification: The ocean has the ability to absorb excess COfrom the atmosphere, which in one sense is great because it acts as a buffer to climate change. However, when water and CO2 mix, it creates Carbonic Acid, which makes ocean water more acidic. This affects marine life by killing coral reefs (which are home to many economically important fish) and prevents marine animals from building shells and skeletal structures (also affecting economically valuable organisms, such as oysters). 

Pre-Industrial Levels of CO2: The Industrial Revolution introduced fossil fuel combustion to the western world, which allowed our lives to become exponentially more convenient. Pre-Industrial CO2 levels were about 280 parts per million (ppm) and were 412.4 ppm as of December 16, 2019. We can find historical CO2 levels by analyzing the air trapped in ice cores

Recyclable: Ideally, a recyclable product is broken down and used to make “new” products. However, while many materials are technically recyclable, recycling them is not practical. Most recyclable materials are not actually recycled because it costs too much money or requires even more fossil fuels to recycle them.  

Reforestation: Replanting trees in areas that were once a forest. This increases carbon sequestration. 

Renewable Energy: Energy created from sources that can be replenished in a short period of time. Common renewable energy sources include wood, water movement (dams using water to generate power), geothermal (heat within the earth), wind, and solar. 

Tipping Point: A threshold of change that will have irreversible effects once we pass it. Tipping points common in media include exceeding 2 oC of global temperature rise and ice collapse. On top of this, a tipping point in one ecosystem can lead to a tipping point in another ecosystem creating a cascading effect across the globe.

Sea-Level Rise: This is caused by two main factors. First, as global temperatures rise, glaciers melt and release more water into the oceans. At the same time, as the water gets warmer it expands.  Since the early 1990s, global sea levels have risen 2.6 inches and continue to rise about 1/8th of an inch per year. This is dangerous for coastal communities whose homes and livelihoods are threatened by this rise. More water and higher temperatures also cause an increase in evaporation, which increases cloud formation, which changes weather patterns and is why we can have increased rain in one area and severe droughts in another. 

Sustainability:  Environmentally, this is the avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain ecological balance. This is vague, so a company needs to define its own sustainability standard and be transparent about the tradeoffs involved. Defining this will include knowing the sources of all materials and supply chain emissions. 

If there are additional words or a term you would like defined, fill out the form below!

Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash

Climate Science 101

Climate Science can get extremely complicated and it’s easy to get bogged down or overwhelmed by the details. So, without further ado, here are the very basics of climate science and how it’s affecting our planet:

Climate change is happening because we are throwing the Earth’s carbon cycle out of wack. Carbon is an element that is essential to life because we eat it, incorporate it into our bodies, poop it, and breathe it out. For us humans, carbon makes up about 18% of our bodies, and our food is made of 50% carbon (source). When we eat and digest this food, our bodies break the food down into less complex molecules, which produces energy that we use to run, dance, skip, and even Netflix and Chill. 

Lots of other organisms do this too. On Earth, carbon moves between the atmosphere, soil, and oceans because plants and animals transform carbon from one type of molecule to another (source). In essence, the CO2 we breathe out is used by plants to make sugars to grow (through photosynthesis) (source). Yes, plants literally turn air into food and it’s rad AF. Animals then eat that fruit, leaf, bark, or root and transform the carbon in the plant into different molecules that provide energy. During this energy-making process, CO2 is made as a waste product and humans, worms, tigers, bacteria, and almost any other living animals breathe it out for plants to use again. Pretty cool, eh? And since there are billions of plants and animals on earth, massive amounts of CO2 are taken up by plants and released by animals every day. 

At one point in time, the amount of carbon dioxide released into the air through animal respiration was roughly equal to the amount of CO2 taken up by plants (source). 

It looked a little something like this: 

But then we found fossil fuels and we threw the carbon cycle out of wack. Fossil fuels made our modern-day lifestyles possible. Clothes no longer took weeks to make by hand, traveling 25 miles no longer took an entire day on horseback, and when your best friend Sofía moved three states away, she was no longer gone forever. Fashion, entertainment, travel, and freedom to do as we please are what fossil fuels brought us, but there’s a trade-off for these luxuries.

Fossil fuels are made of carbon, just like you, me, the plants, and the bees (source). But, fossil fuel carbon was hidden underground for millions of years until we started extracting it (source). When we burn fossil fuels to run our cars, turn on our lights, and make our clothes, large quantities of CO2 are released into the atmosphere. This means that there is now more CO2 in the atmosphere than plants can absorb, which changes more than we could have ever imagined (source). 

Excess CO2 in the atmosphere traps heat from the sun — instead of heat from the sun bouncing out of our atmosphere, it bounces right back toward us, which causes global temperatures to rise (we’re talking the whole world here, folks, not just the city you live in). Higher global temperatures increase the amount of water in the air because more evaporation occurs — you’ve seen this happen when water droplets form on the inside of a lid covering a hot pan. More water in the air forms more clouds and ultimately alters weather patterns, which causes extreme events like droughts, floods, hurricanes, and wildfires (think Australia, California, and Puerto Rico). Extreme weather affects not only humans but plants, animals, our food and water supply, air quality, sea-levels (they rise), and more.

The new carbon cycle that includes fossil fuels looks like this:

These are the very basics of climate change. Not everyone has the time to know every intricacy of climate change, but we all need to know the basics to take action. At the end of the day you, me, the government, and big industry are all on the hook for this, but you, me, the government, and big industry can make the carbon cycle balanced again.

For actionable steps to take against climate change, read: What Science Says We Can Do About Climate Change.

If you want a fabulous visual of climate change, watch this Bill Nye the Science Guy video.

PS: If you can’t access any of the primary sources we’ve cited in this article, reach out and we’ll send you a copy!

Savannah Adkins
Savannah Adkins

During some daylight hours, Savannah is a climate change scientist studying how dirt makes all of our lives possible. But her real profession is as a house plant addict, mountain biker, & attempter of skiing down mountains. In her free time, Savannah enjoys dancing around the house, drinking wine, and listening to the Grateful Dead. Oh, and making poop jokes… always making poop jokes.

Chiara Forrester
Chiara Forrester

Chiara is happiest when she’s in the mountains on skis, a bike, or running. She also loves Ariana Grande (117 hours this year, thanks Spotify), making dinner with friends, and laughing too loudly at her own jokes. An ecologist who’s passionate about science communication and increasing diversity in STEM, Chiara is currently a PhD candidate in Boulder, CO, studying alpine plant ecology, undergraduate education, and the use of science in federal land management. 

NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

How to Talk to Climate Skeptics – and Understanding Who They Are

It feels really good to have people agree with you. In fact, it feels so good that we tend to only surround ourselves with people who have the same viewpoints as us. But when we come across someone who doesn’t agree with us, our natural instinct is to become immediately defensive and double down on our own opinions. It’s challenging to have conversations outside of our comfortable social bubbles, but to fight climate change, we need support from more than just the people who look like us and talk like us. In this article, we hope to provide you with a better understanding of why people think the way they do and equip you with some tools to engage in a constructive climate conversation. 

We all agree with each other more than we think.

Most people generally do believe in climate change – that fact probably isn’t very surprising. The data actually tell us that only about 16% of Americans don’t believe in climate change. Right now you might be thinking you’ve got a pretty good idea of who to blame for that 16% (other than Obama; thanks Obama). But as it turns out, we’re pretty bad at trying to predict who the climate believers and skeptics are. Us believers might assume that skeptics aren’t as highly educated or informed, but that’s not the case: general attitudes about global warming are unrelated to scientific literacy and education. You might be thinking, “what about… Republicans?” Wrong again! Data from multiple surveys actually show that the majority of Republicans believe in climate change. 

Why are people resistant to climate change policies even if they believe the science?

If majorities of both Republicans and Democrats believe in climate change, then what’s holding us back from coming together on climate issues? The answer, per usual, is each other. Republicans might not be skeptical of climate change, but they are skeptical of Democrats – and Democrats, in turn, are skeptical of Republicans. Psychologists have repeatedly shown that individuals tend to favor party over policy. That is, voters are more likely to support policies that are put forward by their own political party and reactively reject policies that are put forward by the opposing party, with little regard for the policy itself.  Unfortunately, these partisan allegiances seem to extend to climate policies as well, with Republicans opposing climate policies in large part because they are often proposed by Democrats. 

But there’s hope in this big ol’ mess. People cannot and should not be reduced to simply “Republicans” and “Democrats” – we are all so much more than that. And a path forward is right in front of us: if we’re able to distance ourselves from political labels and traps, we can uncover our commonalities and focus on solving this gigantic problem together. Of course, this is easier said than done. But a better understanding of the human mind and motivations for why people oppose climate policy can help us empathize with others, and offers us a much better chance at a constructive conversation.

Cognitive dissonance and the psychology of climate policy resistance

Now for the fun part: Let’s learn about a neat little psychological trick that, if you’re like me, will have you questioning nearly every decision you’ve ever made and shake you to your core: cognitive dissonance theory! 

Let’s unpack this theory with a simple example: Chiara’s a huge BBQ fan. She loves herself a fat slab of ribs with a side of corn dogs. As a scientist, she’s well aware that the meat industry is a huge contributor to climate change, but every week she heads to the butcher anyway. That mental discomfort she feels when a belief she holds (knowing that eating a lot of meat is bad for the planet) contradicts her actions (eating meat anyway) is what we refer to as cognitive dissonance. And people hate being in a state of dissonance. It’s sort of like being super hungry. It’s uncomfortable, we hate it, and the longer it persists the more motivated we are to get rid of it.

So how can Chiara reduce her dissonance? She can either change her actions to align with her beliefs, or she can change her beliefs to align with her actions. The first option means she has to quit eating meat, but she really doesn’t want to do that. The second option requires her to change her underlying beliefs about eating meat. To justify her actions, she can tell herself things like “my meat consumption won’t make a difference in the long run” or “I drive a Prius to work so I don’t need to stop eating meat”. If she’s feeling a particularly large amount of dissonance, Chiara might even seek out information that claims the meat industry isn’t contributing to climate change, or even that climate change itself isn’t real. By altering her beliefs about climate change, Chiara can keep eating meat without experiencing dissonance. And just like that, we’ve taken one of the authors of this article and turned her into a climate change skeptic (don’t worry, she’s not). 

This theory is powerful because it not only explains why Republicans are more likely to oppose climate change policy but also why anyone else whose values or actions are discordant with climate policy proposals might oppose them. For example, consider the case of Frank, a landowner in northern Texas who’s fallen on hard times. He’s approached by an oil and gas company to install a natural gas well on his property in exchange for royalties that will allow him to provide for his family. Though he was previously sympathetic to climate policy, Frank now finds himself in an elevated state of dissonance, where his family’s livelihood is intimately tied to the fossil fuel industry. To reduce his dissonance, Frank will likely start to downplay his beliefs around climate change.

An important takeaway here is that people who are acting to reduce dissonance by justifying their actions or a choice they made aren’t intentionally lying to you. Rather, they’re lying to themselves. This can all come off as very condescending, so it’s important to keep in mind that we are all guilty of this same conduct. For instance, you might really care about a farmer’s ability to support themselves, but then find yourself in a state of dissonance when that farmer’s choice to frack on their land clashes with your stance on environmentalism. To reduce dissonance, you’ll recharacterize the farmer as an ignorant and greedy opportunist. This doesn’t mean that you don’t understand the farmer’s financial motives, it just means you’re making it easier for yourself to sleep at night when you later vote to remove his access to that type of revenue. 

Now that we can understand a bit more about where people are coming from, and recognize what we have in common, what are the key ingredients to a constructive conversation?


Do it face to face. People have better first impressions, less conflict, feel more emotionally connected, and are more vulnerable when having conversations in-person rather than online. 

Paint a picture of a more positive future. Most narratives around climate change solutions paint a painful picture of a difficult future that will require substantial individual sacrifices. But if we do things right, the changes we make to address climate change could lead to a healthier, less expensive, more equitable, and guilt-free future. And while we understand why you want to convince Uncle Joe that climate change is scary and real, focusing on positive solutions is more effective in engaging people. It’s also critical in breaking down the cognitive dissonance that arises when we tell people that if they care about climate change, they’ll have to settle for a lower quality of life. Instead, focus on how policy and economic shifts could give us a better life even in a world undergoing climate change. We highly recommend listening to Ezra Klein’s conversation with Saul Griffith on this topic.

Leave party politics at the door. Like we said above, people tend to interpret information as positive or negative depending on which party presents it, so the less political you can remain the better. Further, using language like carbon “offsets” instead of carbon “taxes” can make people more amenable to your argument.

Use personal anecdotes and story-telling. Using stories, anecdotes, or narratives is an effective way of communicating science with non-experts, and local stories can make people want to engage more. Content presented in this format is also easier to understand.

Demonstrate vulnerability and show that making mistakes is okay. We need to do a much better job of normalizing the idea that it’s okay to make mistakes and change our minds – we’re all human! Most importantly, we must learn to forgive people when they do admit a mistake, and allow them space to change their minds. Attacking others for their views will only cause them to become more entrenched. Be vulnerable yourself; maybe share a story about a time you experienced dissonance and justified a poor choice, but were later were able to admit to yourself that you were wrong.

Show empathy and actively listen. Remember that you need to have a conversation with this person rather than direct your best monologue at them. Take a breath and prepare to actively listen. Remember that you have other things in common with them and that you both have reasons to hold the opinions you do (see all of the above). Going on a tirade that makes the other person feel steamrolled, misunderstood, or patronized will not be productive. People typically stick with the common opinion of their social group, so to reach someone, it’s important to maintain a positive relationship with them. Treat them with respect and kindness and show gratitude when they are willing to engage in a conversation with you. 

Talk about how strong of a consensus there is about climate change among scientists. Simply talking about how almost all climate scientists (97% to be exact) agree that climate change is real, pressing, and human-caused has been shown to increase climate change acceptance across party lines. 

Provide a brief mechanistic explanation of the greenhouse effect. Giving a brief explanation of the greenhouse effect increases climate change acceptance. You can even show them a fun video with Bill Nye. If you want to explain it yourself, here’s our two-liner: We’ve thrown our carbon cycle out of whack by burning fossil fuels, which means that we are now releasing more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Excess CO2 in the atmosphere traps heat from the sun — instead of heat from the sun bouncing off the Earth and back out of our atmosphere, it bounces right back toward us, which causes global temperatures to rise. Check out our Climate Science 101 article for more, or if the person you’re talking to has misconceptions about the science of climate change, check out our article on addressing specific climate change misconceptions

<strong>Shane Schwikert</strong>
Shane Schwikert

Shane is a teacher, researcher, and data enthusiast at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he wailed his way to a PhD in Psychology, Neuroscience, and Cognitive Science. His hobbies range from dirt biking to backcountry skiing to gold panning, and he is an avid rock collector known for assembling his treasures in strategic piles throughout his apartment.

Chiara Forrester
Chiara Forrester

Chiara is happiest when she’s in the mountains on skis, a bike, or running. She also loves Ariana Grande (117 hours this year, thanks Spotify), making dinner with friends, and laughing too loudly at her own jokes. An ecologist who’s passionate about science communication and increasing diversity in STEM, Chiara is currently a PhD candidate in Boulder, CO, studying alpine plant ecology, undergraduate education, and the use of science in federal land management.

NOTE: THIS IS A LIVING RESOURCE! As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, change, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own.

ED-OP: Staying Resilient + Hopeful in a Time of Climate Crisis

It’s a daunting task to find the right words to fit our current moment in ecological history. Never before have the joint fates of humanity and the natural world been at higher risk. Never before has the discussion around climate action and our relationship to nature changed so rapidly in the face of such immediate risk. We grasp for poetry, prose, or politicians who can give us a sense of hope and security moving forward, but, increasingly, it feels that words are a shout into the void of our collective crisis. 

Forgive me — I haven’t gotten off to a very empowering or inspiring start. Allow me to say, rather, that it is the greatest challenge of our generation to contextualize and combat the climate crisis – to put it into words that move masses, to pass effective policy, and to, one day, re-order our socio-economic and political structure in the hopes of healing our broken relationship with the land. We have been entrusted with a responsibility to notice what has been neglected, connect with what has been overlooked, and return to the roots from which we have grown so distant. 

Photo by Julentto Photography on Unsplash

The arc of humanity’s course hasn’t always been bent towards destruction. Indeed, for most of our history, our relationship with the land was a reciprocal one, with an intrinsic appreciation for the beauty and value of nature and a sense of gratitude for what she has given us. How, then, did we stray so far from the path? At what point along our journey did we lose sight of our obligation to protect and preserve the natural world? Many forces can be argued to be at fault: capitalism, western religion, patriarchy, industrialization, and globalization to name a few. These institutions have rooted themselves in the bedrock of our human identity, and, although certain brave activists and intellectuals attempt to chip away at them or abandon them entirely, they have had an irreversible effect on how we identify ourselves and what we owe to the natural world. 

This, therefore, is my thesis. To remind you, and to constantly remind me, how much we owe to the natural world. Indigenous cultures in North America, such as the Ojibwe and the Potawatomi, base their relationship with the environment on reciprocity; nothing is taken without permission, and everything that is taken is a gift that is owed gratitude, stewardship, and respect in return. It’s a simple premise, that we cannot take without asking and we cannot accept a gift without an act of gratitude in return. In native communities, this act of gratitude is often an offering of tobacco, a holy plant. The concept, a plant for a plant, a gift for a gift, is sacred in its simplicity. It is this concept that I cling to as we plunge deeper into our shared ecological fate. 

Humans, for all their faults, have always been quick learners. 

We must relearn this essential act of reciprocity, in whatever form it takes. Whether spiritual or physical, there is something we can offer the natural world in exchange for what it has given us. Gratitude and reciprocity are often forgotten as central tenets of environmentalism, but it is through these practices that we can heal our broken relationship with nature. This takes many forms; from cleaning up the parks and green spaces in which we play to paying a carbon tax, we are slowly relearning the practice of giving back in exchange for what is taken. The oldest and most essential of these practices is the planting of trees – thinking ahead for a future we may not be alive to see. The planting of a tree is an almost selfless act, as it asks an individual to give water, light, and sun to a being that will be standing long after we have fallen. 

When I’m asked to describe how I feel about the climate crisis, many negative words spring to mind. Afraid, disappointed, and anxious, my mind often screams, terrified of our spaceship earth going down. But, more than any of these things, I am grateful. 

Grateful for the opportunity to heal and to mend, and to relearn what we’ve so long ago forgotten. I am grateful for everything nature has given me so far and grateful to devote myself to the work of giving back to her. It is gratitude – deliberate, reciprocal gratitude – that will guide us as we look to save what has been overlooked for so long. 

RESOURCES FOR RESILIENCY

To keep from losing hope and remaining grateful in times of crisis, I prescribe the following remedies:

  • Community: there are groups in almost every town and county designated to bringing people together in appreciation for the natural world and the fight to protect her. In urban places, I urge you to seek the groups focused on preserving and maintaining local parks and gardens – access to natural spaces in urban communities is an essential aspect of rebuilding our relationship with nature. 
  • Local Advocacy: Often, it can feel like too much to try to carry the greater national and global fights of climate change on your shoulders. If you’re passionate about doing the work of outdoor advocacy but feel too overwhelmed to start, look to local groups working to protect and preserve the green spaces in your own community. It can be uplifting to see the effects of the work you’re doing in your hometown and to connect with other locals about what common ground you share and work to protect. 
  • Literature: so much of what we read about the environment these days is disheartening, exhausting, and depressing. There is an important place for this literature; it agitates us into action. However, to reconnect more peacefully and resiliently with this fight, check out the following books! 
    • Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer – a story of the nexus between indigenous tradition and scientific knowledge, and how we can bring the two narratives together to create a reciprocal relationship with the natural world. 
    • The Overstory by Richard Power – a gripping novel chronicling the lives of several different individuals as they had been impacted by and guided by trees, and how they ultimately came together in the fight against deforestation of America’s old-growth forests. 
    • We Rise: The Earth Guardians’ Guide to Building a Movement that Restores the Planet by Xiuhtezcatl Martinez – Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is a 19-year-old climate activist, hip-hop artist, and powerful new voice on the frontlines of a global youth-led movement. In this book, he and his group the Earth Guardians share stories and resources to guide regenerative, restorative climate action and activism. 
 Priya Subberwal
Priya Subberwal

Priya is a 20-year old climate activist currently studying Environmental Studies at New York University. She grew up hiking and skiing in the Rocky Mountains and is passionate about preserving our public lands for posterity. She can often be found outdoors protesting, photographing, or simply photosynthesizing. 

NOTE: THIS IS AN EDUCATED OPINION PIECE. As with all resources on Outdoor Advocacy Project, there is always room to continue the conversation, add a new perspective, bolster the resources, and share new findings. Got something you want to add, challenge or amplify? Let us know in the comments, or e-mail team@outdooradvocacy.com to write your own ed-op on this topic.