Our Club Supports the Environment
Welcome to the environmental awareness corner! The Rotary Club of Livermore Valley will provide information to raise awareness of the ever-growing climate issues that threaten our planet and our future generations. None of us feels that we can solve the problems by ourselves, but, as with other Rotary initiatives, we can be part of the solution and even spark non-Rotarians into positive action. We believe that this effort will grow over time and make more and more of a difference as we focus on what we can and should do.
Please feel free to share suggestions for this webpage and for our club's activities to increase environmental awareness with James Hays.
Why are We Concerned about the Environment?
In 2020, 51 billion tons of CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) and other greenhouse gases were released into our environment by human activities (1). At the same time, major deforestation of rainforests is occurring (trees help remove or sink CO2). The combined one-two punch is expected to increase in subsequent years. CO2 is the main offending greenhouse gas (meaning that it traps reflected heat back to earth rather than allow that heat to go into space). Some CO2 is good and necessary for earth’s temperature health, but too much will cause the earth to heat up. Presently, there’s too much. We don’t want to be another Venus (similar orbit and size to earth but due to its high CO2, is 800 degrees F).
CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas being released. Nitrous Oxide and Methane trap 80-280 times the reflected heat per ton than CO2, and they too are being released at an alarming rate. The net result: Earth is heating up. Surprisingly, we have been aware of the potential problem since the 1950’s, and it was even postulated in 1824 by Joseph Fourier, but we have only begun to adopt plans to reduce these gases. It’s not too late, but much damage has already been done. We need to reduce those gases as much as possible. Even better, we need to “sink” or remove some from the atmosphere all together. Note that CO2 can stay in the atmosphere for up to 10,000 years (1), so reducing the sources of the gases and even removing those gases is an imperative. There is NO scenario where we add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and the earth doesn’t heat up. It’s a cause/effect situation. A one or two degree Celsius increase in the worlds’ mean temperature is considered to be a disaster. Presently, at the current pace, we will see a two-degree increase by 2040 and a five-degree increase by year 2100.
There is a point of no return, meaning that, at the basic level, the heat causes ice/glaciers and snow (also referred to as the cryosphere) to melt; in turn, those locations stop reflecting sunlight back into space but instead the now exposed ground absorbs sunlight. Further, as the cryosphere disappears, the trapped eon-old dead vegetation will release its own methane gases, which will heat up the earth more and so on. In just the last 20 years, we’ve seen massive glacier retreats, ocean ice pullback and higher elevations for snow fall (4). Further, we see sea levels rising, increased wildfires, increased hot days, increased and more severe hurricanes, flooding, etc. Some say that there’s no scientific consensus that the cause is greenhouse gases, but trends are correlating proportionally to an increase in these natural disasters as the greenhouse gases are released (4). Note that the biggest changes to the temperatures are being seen at the two poles, where we depend most on the snow/ice. Sadly, this recent July 3rd, 2023 saw the HOTTEST worldwide mean temperature ever recorded since records have been kept. The prediction is that this record will be surpassed in the coming days. Action is imperative.
Greenhouse gases are the more immediate emergency, but there are other pollution issues, such as plastics/microplastics in our ecological food chain, chemicals in our groundwater and smog (we breathe this too). Existing animal species extinction is happening at an alarming rate affecting biodiversity. The food chain depends on each rung of the ladder so breaking a rung will affect other species. For example, pollinating insects are seeing drastic reductions in numbers (3). The human species depends on plants that depend on these pollinators. We will be directly affected, as will other animals. As the heat increases in existing food belts, the farming regions will have to shift to more northern locations(4) (they already are) where the sun doesn’t shine the same amount as where the plants developed, so the crop yields are expected to shrink, causing hunger in many parts of the world. The oceans are bifurcating (meaning oxygen is greater in some places and less in others), causing fish to die (1). A two-degree rise in world temperature may kill all the coral reefs (4), starving more fish and causing human food insecurities in the countries that depend on this food source. It’s all interconnected so we have to stop the cause to stop the negative effects. So much more can be said but it is not the intent of this “corner” to write a full assessment of the negative effects of climate change. Rather, we encourage you to review other sources (some listed below). 
Ever wonder where the pollution is coming from. Here's a CNN breakdown detailing countries and amounts: <Pollution sources>
This is harsh stuff to consider and to talk about, but it’s necessary if we’re going to be spurred to action. It won’t be easy to substantially lower emissions, but it is vital. And fortunately, we have much of the technology to do it, we just need the will and action. This environmental awareness corner is not intended to solve the huge problems facing the planet, but awareness helps us make changes. Changes are what’s required to fix the problem. Our members can only do what little we can do, but our actions help a little and maybe will encourage others to do the same. In a perfect world, if all eight billion of us earnestly worked towards this goal, we would answer the problem. 
(1) How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, by Bill Gates
(4) Wonderium video; Earth’s changing Climate
What we do today
will make a difference
for tomorrow.
Recent Project: We successfully removed many pounds of Lithium Ion material from potential landfills.
*Note, we're working with ACE hardware to establish a permanent battery collection site at their facility. Stay tuned.
Held on Date: September 24, 2023
Active Projects:
As an individual action, you can review and implement the following ESRAG Carbon calculator to view your own carbon footprint. If you believe your footprint is too significant, there are some suggested mitigations further on this page:
We are building on Rotary International's newest area of focus - Supporting the Environment - by launching  the Rotary Club of Livermore Valley Climate Action Group. We invite you to peruse our newest website section, The Environmental Corner, where you will learn about the importance of environmental awareness and find numerous resources to increase your own commitment to keeping Earth a healthy planet for current and future generations.
We Can Make a Difference Today
Food consumption:
  • Reduce meat consumption, or even cut it out altogether: for example, if the human race eliminated eating cows, pigs and chickens, it would almost equate to removing the same amount of pollution as if we removed all the internal combustion engines (ICE); cars, trucks and planes. Cows create a tremendous amount of Methane and Nitrous Oxide which is 80-280x worse than CO2. Further, some countries are chopping down rain forests, such as in the Amazon (the lungs of the planet), to make room for grasslands to feed the cows. As a sustainability note: Chickens require two calories of feed to produce one calorie for human consumption. Pigs three and Cows five. 3Note: There’s a video in this “corner” to offer compelling rational for a plant-based diet …if you have an interest see file  https://youtu.be/VAMPpwrK2wg 
  • Buy organic when possible: Organics are “supposed” to avoid pesticides (which are also killing the unintended good insects such as bees and birds, etc. up the food chain)
  • Buy locally produced foods (when there’s a choice): This reduces the CO2 footprint created by transporting products from outside the area and is often a healthier choice
  • Throwing away uneaten food has a surprisingly significant and negative effect on the environment. Discarded food creates measurable methane and other gases. Purchase only what you need and try to use it all. If you can’t, compost when possible, or feed to animals, etc. If you have too much food that you don’t think you can eat, but it’s still good, contribute it to “2nd Harvest” or other such charities. Note, there’s now a law (Senate Bill 1383) that requires you compost (using your green waste bin is ok)
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
  • Recycle cans, bottles, plastics, papers. When we reuse and recycle, we reduce the need to use new resources.
  • Re-purpose working appliances, clothing and other items by donating to charitable organizations.
  • Keep what you need and donate the rest to others who may be able to use it.
Plant & Use "Pollution Sink" Methods
  • By planting vegetables, trees, and flowers, we help remove pollution from the atmosphere - these use more carbon than they emit. Our club has already contributed by planting trees and cleaning creeks in Livermore. Let's do more! Consider growing native plants that encourage pollination and reforestation. Learn more about Project Drawdown that showcases opportunities to sink carbon rather than produce carbon gases.
  • Here’s the good news: forests managed by Indigenous people in Amazonia served as life-saving carbon sinks from 2001-21, removing the equivalent of the UK’s annual fossil fuel emissions each year, according to a new study by the World Resources Institute. WRI’s data show similar success for forests managed by Indigenous, Afro-descent and other peasant communities around the world. And here’s the bad: “Deforestation, degradation and other disturbances, however, have already turned some of the world’s most iconic forests into carbon sources and threaten to convert others,” the WRI report continues. Read more about these challenges – and why Rotarians are well positioned to help meet them – in ESRAG’s Feb. 1 blog "Saving Forests to Save Ourselves."
Monitor Your Thermostat
  • Keep house temperatures within reasonable ranges so that you don’t waste heat during cold months or spend extra energy on air conditioning during the warmer months. Wear a sweater, close your blinds, double pane your windows, insulate the structure, ... or just embrace the season!
Monitor Home Lighting & Electrical Use
  • Turn off lights when not in use.
  • Change all your lights to LED (most efficient and will save on CO2 emissions which total an average of 0.4 tons per year per a four-person household). Besides reducing CO2, this will save you money in the long term despite the high initial cost of installation.
  • Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) also offer improved efficiency and savings over incandescent bulbs.
  • Vampire plugs (electrical devices that are always connected and active such as TVs, razors, computers, microwaves, etc) can account for a significant percentage of electricity usage. Try to avoid leaving too many on if they’re not necessary. Simply unplug when not in use.
Stop Using Plastic As Much As Possible
  • Avoid purchasing items with plastic. They all get into the environment. (Over time, the companies that produce them will get the message and will give us alternatives).
  • Throw-away plastic water bottles are the worst - they get into the ocean and create micro-plastics that get into the food chain (that we also eat). Use reusable water bottles when possible or, at the least, recycle.
  • Single-use plastic bags contribute to plastic pollution, too. Try bringing your own reusable bags at the grocery store or, if you end up with plastic bags, make sure to recycle them.
Go Solar & Cut Down on Electric and Natural Gas Consumption
  • Go solar on your house. There are now numerous incentive programs to help with the costs. The less electricity we use from the grid the better our carbon footprint.
  • Check your home insulation: Double pane glass windows, quality insulation material in your attic and walls, etc.
  • DO NOT use gas powered mowers, air blowers and other such appliances. They are, pound for pound, the greatest CO2 polluters on the planet.
  • Don’t burn wood in your fireplace. Unfortunately, though comforting, this throws a lot of particulate pollution into the air.
Reduce Water Use
  • If you need to run the shower to get warm water, save that initial cold water in a bucket for use with dishes, or watering plants, etc.
  • Don’t run water while brushing teeth or even when doing dishes (turn on when needed but off while brushing or cleaning a dish).
  • Install low water usage toilets (Some cities’ water departments provide financial assistance or even FREE toilets to convert from older, high-flow toilets).
  • Capture water run-off (i.e., capture house gutter run off into a barrel instead of the sewer so that you can water plants with it later in the year).
  • Water lawns less, and think about replacing with low or no water gardens. (Some cities’ water departments provide financial assistance to convert from turf to drought-tolerant landscaping.)
  • Reuse composted material for your garden and grow some veggies. It’s easy, fun and grows better gardens. [Link to Composting 101]
Rethink Your Transportation
  • Fuel Cell (Hydrogen powered) cars are the most beneficial for the environment, though scarce and difficult to charge in these early stages of their release - but if you have the means, for sure worth it.
  • EV (Electric Vehicles) are the second most beneficial for the environment (the EV charging profile is improving daily). They are much better than internal combustion engine/ICE cars. However, electricity generation does create a measurable amount of greenhouse gases so it’s not a total solution.
  • Drive high mileage (ICE) cars (30+ MPG or better)
  • Drive less. (Combine errands to be more efficient.)
  • Carpool.
  • Take public transportation when possible.
  • Biking is good for you. If possible, do small trips on your bike instead of the car.
  • Take train instead of planes when possible.
Encourage Biodiversity
  • ESRAG has a great overview of pollinating insect drop-off, such as bee populations that have lost 40+% of their former numbers, Also, butterfly populations have declined even more, etc… Maybe consider a backyard bee-hive to encourage more bees, grow native flowers that attract pollinators, etc. See attached link for ESRAG biodiversity information https://esrag.org/biodiversity/
Be an Engaged Citizen
  • Write your Senator or Congressman (or even your local mayor) to encourage programs that help the environment. Groups like the CCL make this easy: when they’re championing a cause that is hitting the floor (example; The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, H.R.2307), they write the script for you, give you the names and emails of the Senators and Congressmen so that you only need to include your pertinent information to be counted as a concerned citizen that they should pay attention to. This works. Also, note that the City of Livermore has a very detailed plan (just ask, we can forward to anyone interested in receiving a copy). They have voted to adopt the plan this year.  Further information on Carbon taxes/credits (this program works) Carbon Taxes/credits
  • Vote. Vote for like minded government representatives. This sounds so simple but often it’s overlooked. There are many officials that don’t think about the environment and many that do. Make this a priority when voting next time. Remember, when the climate is in crisis, all other issues can easily become moot. This could be the biggest contribution we make to solving the crisis since governments will need to be onboard if changes are going to be made on a mass scale.
  • Contribute to environmental groups’ causes, and even join the groups: i.e., the Citizens Climate Lobby/CCL, Environmental voter league, Environmental Sustainability Rotary Action Group, ESRAG (this is an especially good and relatable group to join ESRAG.ORG), others.
  • Track and work with companies that are environmentally conscientious. If you have a choice, pick the better environmental company. i.e., Subaru says they recycle 100% of all their materials. Tesla sells only EV cars. If looking to make a purchase (not just for cars), make this kind of information part of your decision tree.
  • Volunteer to help with causes that improve our environment: Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL), ESRAG (the Environmental Sustainability Rotary Action Group - through Rotary International) or other groups.
  • Talk to your friends to get them on board with these and other suggestions: The more people involved, the better our impact. Who knows, maybe one of these friends will have a great community service project idea to improve the environment or become a leader for the cause.
  • Potential personal or business Action*. "One percent for the Planet" is a global movement inspiring businesses and individuals to support environmental solutions through annual business memberships and individual engagement opportunities. We advise businessess on giving strategies, we certify donations and we amplify the impact of our network. We offer individuals guidance on giving, the ability to join Giving Circles, and the opportunity to give. Link https://onepercentfortheplanet.org/join 

Confusion and inaction:
Why is it so hard for the human population to move quickly and effectively towards creating solutions NOW; there can't be anything more important than preserving our one and only planet? Hard to say, but there are probably many reasons; maybe lack of interest in mankind's future, maybe lazy, maybe not paying attention, maybe intimidated by the enormity of the task, and maybe misinformation by those who want to maintain the status quo that is presently their livelihood. The latter has some serious backing. For example, the coal and oil industries have used their extensive PR machines to sway the audiences' attention away from the disastrous effects of climate warming and nudge them towards confusion over the issue. They have even published a sophisticated campaign (cleverly using scientist from different disciplines and not experts in climate change) suggesting that the CO2 is helping green the earth [Link to the greening of the earth, produced by the Oil and coal industries].  Since both industries produce copious amounts of CO2, they literally claim that all the CO2 will only contribute to the health of the plants. After all, who can argue that CO2 is necessary for plant life...so it's easy to believe the story. However, CO2 doesn't just contribute to plant health, it also migrates into the atmosphere, engulfing the globe in a kind of blanket. The blanket retains heat by stopping the earth's heat from exhausting to space. So, no matter the benefit to a plant, the entire planet will heat up. The plants that may have benefited from the CO2 will find the environment too hot, causing that plant to die anyhow.
Resources: Books of Interest
  • How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, by Bill Gates [Link HERE to a summary and review of the book] *
  • Climate Cover-up by James Hoggan (details how PR firms are funded by Oil, Coal and other industries concerned about their profits and not about the well documented threat to life on earth)...  [Link HERE for a summary and review of the book]
  • The Climate Book, by Greta Thurnberg (Swedish environmentalist who has gained prominence challenging world leaders to action)
  • The Uninhabitable Earth, by David Wallace-Wells (scary stuff!) [Link HERE for a summary and review of the book]
  • Climate in Crisis; Changing Coastline, Severe Storms, and Damaging Drought, by Carla Mooney
  • All We Can Save, by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katherine Wilkinson
  • Climate Action Challenge, by Joan Gregerson
  • The Decade We Almost Stopped the Climate Change, by Nathaniel Rich
  • The New Climate War, by Michael Mann (specifically focused on companies that have an interest in maintaining our present "no-environment friendly" consumption status quo
  • * = Note, i didn't want to include too many links to all the book reviews, but each are easily found on the web
Resources: Videos and Programs of Interest
  • Our Planet, on Netflix
  • Commercial TV: Planet Earth series by David Attenborough
  • Wonderium (subscription service of $150/yr for Apple TV or Apple phones) offers very informative programs with a classroom/lecture style presentation of the information (i.e., “Earth’s changing Climate” is a 10part series that analyzes the climate) or secrets of the Universe – Dynamic Earth...etc
  • Forks Over Knives, on Netflix; shows the logic for a plant-based diet
Resources: Websites of Interest