Coaching for Climate Change

As I was doom-scrolling the other day, I stumbled across an article about a pact to improve climate change. I hadn’t read many articles like this previously and, as I read this one, I imagined myself applying each of these recommendations in my life.

I can’t find the article now and I won’t be able to remember all five recommendations exactly, but you can Google the words “climate change things you can do” and come up with similar lists.

  1. Eat a mostly vegan diet, with a high number of vegetables.

I would have very little problem with this. Although we are currently pizza-terians most weeks, I am a vegetarian already and trended vegan a few years ago. While I eat a lot of yogurt and cheese, and some eggs, if those things disappeared from the shelf, I would miss them, but I would survive.

2. Give up your personal car.

This would, again, be easy for me. I live in a city where having a car is an expensive pain in the neck and I don’t own a car. In fact, I mostly walk places. Sometimes I take the bus or – if I’m going to the airport – the subway. Even less often, I take a cab or a ride-share. Even when I visit my sister who, when she complains that Walmart is “all the way across town,” means that it is a 10 minute drive, I have survived an entire trip without a car. She, however, would say that it is a necessity with the weather and hauling groceries and all. I mostly have my groceries delivered – the only thing I have regularly delivered – but I just as easily carry them home from a grocery store .25 miles away.

3. Buy fewer than 3 pieces of clothing a year.

This one made me pause but it would certainly get easier if I ate a full vegan diet with a reduction of grains. This year alone I’ve purchased more than 3 items, even if you don’t count underwear. This made me realize that I have a clothing purchase problem. I buy a lot of clothes. And then I don’t wear them. And then I give them away. Right now I’m staring at a box of mostly-unused suits and dresses that I was going to drop off at a local organization that helps women recovering from abusive relationships get jobs. But then Covid hit and now they only take monetary donations.

4. Fly less.

I can’t remember what the recommendation was – something like 2 short-haul flights per year and 1 long-haul flight. Right now, this is less of a problem since my husband rarely leaves the house. We’ve cut back on the vacations we’re taking and I see my family maybe once a year and we mostly rent a car when we go see his family. But, the last time we flew, we both realized how much we miss traveling. I’ve taken Amtrak a lot and it’s just not a replacement for flying in it’s current format. So now what I’m thinking is that we fly somewhere and stay there, venturing out on trains or driving (with an electric car) to tour about. I’d like to think that we could do this while working remotely and my husband probably could. My own company is starting to push for back to the office at least two days a week – we’ll have to see where this goes.

5. I can’t remember what #5 was.

Maybe I’m blocking it out because it was too close – or maybe I just said, Oh that would be impossible, or even, Oh, I’m already doing that. As I searched for the article online, I encountered a number of other articles that recommended limiting food waste, saving water, holding onto your electronics for 5-7 years before replacing them, participating in the democratic process, “making your voice heard”, and a whole host of things you can do to improve the energy efficiency of your home (solar panels, insulation, replace windows, eliminate lawns, etc.). The recommendations range from the conservative to the crazy-left depending on who was writing them.

Overall, what this article made me think of was the reaction many older Americans have when their doctor tells them that they have a health problem that will require them to lower their cholesterol, reduce their diabetic risk, lose weight, exercise more, etc. They stare in stunned silence, internally thinking that’s never gonna happen. They don’t know where to begin, it all feels overwhelming, and they are surrounded by family, friends, and institutions that support their current lifestyle and don’t see a need to change.

Which is what has spawned the whole health coaching industry. Health coaches – the good ones – work with you to help you figure out, through a combination of education and support, how to start to integrate the changes that your doctor recommends or that you want to make, to live a happier, healthier lifestyle.

It feels like what we need now is a coach for climate change. Our doctors – the climate change scientists – are telling us that our lives are in danger and we need to make changes. We are still sitting in denial, thinking “3 pieces of clothing per year – huh, that’s never gonna happen” while our planet’s blood pressure goes up and arteries shut down. And all around us, our friends, our family members, our colleagues at work, and all those people on Instagram look awesome in that new pair of shoes that they bought in Portugal last year.

All the pressures are there to continue our pizza-terian diets.

We just need someone to help us figure out how to make this new lifestyle work.

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