Laundry lists of the Bush administration’s misdeeds aren’t hard to come up with nowadays, but one particular bit of willful negligence could potentially be the most catastrophic. Global warming has received less attention in the US than Judith Miller’s notepad or Nick and Jessica’s breakup, with the recent post-Kyoto conference of world leaders in Montreal only garnering lukewarm public interest. But there is good news, as those New Yorkers who wish to forestall the coming apocalypse now have something they can (cough) warm up to.
To their credit, the bureaucrats in Montreal did conclude that something needs to be done. Just not, like, right now. If we continue to wait, the consequences of collective inertia will be pretty damning for New York. Increasing temperatures in the city will be reciprocated with increased energy demands, and by the 2020s daily peak loads are expected to increase between 7-10 percent, exerting greater demand on the grid and emitting further greenhouse gases. Remember the blackout? Next time you’re on the FDR, gazing at the lovely coastline of Queens, make sure and take a mental snapshot: there could be a sea wall around Manhattan by the time your grandkids are grown. These aren’t your parents’ glaciers.
Doomsday scenarios aside, there is much that we, as New Yorkers, can do in the interim to stave off the end times. Little things that don’t involve you selling your car (not that you have one).
1) Sign up for one of Con Ed’s green energy plans that supports renewables. The cost varies depending on which plan you choose, but most won’t run you more than $5 extra a month. You might actually feel good about getting your energy bill! Residential, commercial, and small business customers sign up at
2) Get new eco/compact fluorescent light bulbs. Conventional light bulbs suck a lot of energy out of your walls (probably coal, CO2, mercury — wrongness). Eco bulbs cost about $7, last for around seven years, and come in all sorts of varieties. According to the Federal Energy Star program, if every house in America changed five bulbs, 24 power plants could be shuttered. So if you’re scared of Indian Point, stop cowering. The lighting store at 35 W. 14th St. has a nice selection. Your new lights will also give those buckets of homemade tofu in your closet a numinous veneer. Smaller things like recycling, minimizing plastic bags at the bodega, insulating your windows, using energy efficient appliances (refrigerators and air conditioners suck the most juice), turning AC’s and fridges on to as low as possible, and installing low-flow shower heads also save energy. If we all unplugged our appliances when not in use we’d save five percent of America’s energy.
3) All Key Food and Pathmark haters take note: Keep hating! Buy local food! Supporting farmer’s markets does more than just support your local farmer, it also saves copious amounts of energy. Conventional food usually travels more than 1,500 miles from farm to plate, wasting fossil fuels and emitting greenhouse gases en route. Other reasons to support the little guy: New York State has lost over 70 percent of its farms in the past 50 years, and unsold produce from local greenmarkets goes to feed the hungry. Find out more about New York’s greenmarkets at www.cenyc.org.
Now for the harder shit.
4) Eat less meat. Luckily, New York is one of the easiest cities in the world to do so. One of the leading sources of methane emissions worldwide is animal agriculture (almost 20 percent), and methane traps heat 20 times more efficiently than carbon dioxide. Feedlots that house thousands of cattle in cramped conditions are now the norm, as are the stink bogs of untreated cattle waste that emit further methane (not to mention a stench that will napalm your nose hairs, while also posing a constant threat to our water supply). Livestock production also releases carbon dioxide through the destruction of rain forest, where a lot of our fast-food beef comes from (yes, a lot of it’s imported). As if you needed more reasons not to eat a triple whopper
5) A hydrogen infrastructure is still a decade away, but if you have a diesel in New York you’re not totally fucked. According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center, there aren’t any biodiesel pumps in New York State. There are a few E85 (85 percent Ethanol, 15 percent gasoline) stations around the city, but the website claims they are for government use only. Rudolph Diesel invented the diesel engine to run off vegetable oil, so all this hippy-speak of running cars off veggie grease was actually what the original engine was designed for (the grease in question is now made mostly from soy and canola). You can make your own biodiesel at home, but it’s kind of a bitch (www.biodieselcommunity.org/howitsmade). You can also pour straight vegetable oil (SVO) into your diesel, but a conversion kit can run you a couple grand. If your non-diesel isn’t a flexible fuel vehicle (FFV), then just break down and buy a damn hybrid already.
6) Next time you’re on the subway, give your fellow commuters a high five, as taking public transport is still the most environmentally friendly method of travel (actually, it’s New York, so you probably shouldn’t try high-fiving strangers). However, if you are thinking about purchasing a car but your greenhouse guilt is overwhelming, car sharing should work. Each Zipcar (zipcar.com) replaces about 20 privately owned ones, with 40 percent of their members deciding against purchasing a car or selling the one they already own. Total individual car usage is reduced by 50 percent, with the rates relatively similar to most rental agencies. For those that just need an occasional lift, try ride sharing. Craigslist,
erideshare.com, or commuterlink.com will get you started.
7) Green your roofs or install solar panels. It’s not illegal if you’re cutting greenhouse gases! You’ll throw better parties, your roof will smell better and look prettier, be warmer during winter and cooler during summer, retain rainwater, create wildlife habitats, and save enormous energy. Visit greeninggotham.org for more.
So though the end may seem nigh, despair not New Yorkers, there’s a lot you can do.