August Challenge: Learn

I consume a lot of eco content, partially for research for this newsletter and to stay informed on the most pressing issue of our time. But perhaps the most important reason of all is a kind of conscious reprogramming.

So much of our world has the wrong message: to live like there’s no climate crisis, to buy like everyone’s watching. We’re bombarded with propaganda to shop, compare, consume, barraged with temptation and insecurity, whether it’s the images in magazines or, you know, most of Instagram.

Sometimes, too, it can feel lonely to be a person who cares when it seems like everyone is living like there’s no tomorrow. Books and podcasts and documentaries remind me there are other people out there, fighting the fight, finding more in less, leading with their values. This kind of information reorients my compass, which can drift a bit with the strong magnetic currents of the dominant culture.

Not all of this content is depressing, either. Don’t think this challenge to learn more is dooming you to gloom. Those bummers exist (maybe skip The Uninhabitable Earth), but there are so many other resources that are encouraging, uplifting, fascinating, and enlightening. No book or film about the environment is going to be all good news, but none should be without it, either.

We are shaped by where we place our attention. It not only fills our days but guides our lives. Let’s pay attention with intention using these August challenges:

Read one eco book.

I know a book about climate change or plastic pollution or farming doesn’t scream beach read, but sometime this month, choose a book that will take your knowledge deeper.

FMFP reader Caroline has told me that she likes when people recommend one thing over a list of them, so if that’s you, I’m choosing one book that conveniently just came out in paperback:

  • All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, eds. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson: Another book that makes me feel hopeful as hell. Johnson and Wilkinson have curated an amazing collection of essays and poems from over 50 women at the forefront of the climate movement — and we know women are vital to a sustainable future. This is a diverse group of scientists, journalists, farmers, lawyers, teachers, activists, innovators, policy wonks, and designers who are making shit happen, and it’s full of amazing reminders that society can change. These women are changing it already.

All We Can Save is also available in audio, where the pieces are read by celebs like Julia Louis-Dreyfus, America Ferrera, Janet Mock, Ilana Glazer, and Jane Fonda.

If you’d like more recommendations, you can check out my round-up of books (as well as podcasts, documentaries, and newsletters) here.

Come to the FB group and tell us about the book you’re reading or that you really enjoyed in the past. I’ll also try my hand at some eco-book matchmaking if you’re interested in a particular issue. Right now I’m reading J.B. MacKinnon’s The Day the World Stopped Shopping, which traces the social, economic, and planetary impacts of our obsession with material things — both now and if we abruptly started buying 25% less. As stores reopen and I find myself with a consumer itch, it’s a good reminder of my values and the reasons for them. But it’s also an interesting exploration of how a growth-based system is hard to curtail without big repercussions.

If committing to a book is not your thing, find a way of learning that works for you: listen to a few episodes of a podcast or find a documentary. But come back and tell us what you learned.

Green your feed.

If you’re a social media user, add a few more eco accounts into the mix to do some learning in bite-sized chunks. Actually read the posts, don’t just scroll by, and help these accounts boost their visibility by liking, leaving a comment, or bookmarking posts.

Since Instagram is my last remaining socials vice, I can really only recommend accounts from there. I benefit from the work of:

  • @zerowastechef

  • @plasticfreeto

  • @junkyardjournals

  • @blackforager

  • @ayanaeliza

  • @intersectionalenvironmentalist

  • @climate_science

  • @projectdrawdown

If you have your own favourites on any network, click reply or come to the Facebook group to share them.

Reader wisdom

After the last newsletter on certifications, Duncan wrote about his experience in the coffee business:

In the coffee space another one that has weight is:

Most of the earliest fair trade coffee companies truly dedicated to ethical and climate buying have switched from fair trade international to this label.

In Canada, Santropol and Just Us! Coffee Roasters Co-op, in the U.S., Equal Exchange Co-op.

When I was at Just Us! Coffee Co-op we switched because of the reduction in representation of producers in Fair Trade and the changes in allowances for companies to get fair trade certification. It used to be that a large percentage of your products had to be fair trade to get fair trade labelling on your product, but the U.S. Fair Trade diluted this for financial reasons, allowing Cadbury to get it on their chocolate bars.

As always, I welcome your experience and expertise! Don’t hesitate to hit reply.

Wins of the Week

“We live because everything else does.” — Richard Wagamese, Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations

Your actions add up all the time, and this week, I’m giving three cheers to these eco actions:

  • My grammy operates a contact-free puzzle lending library in her condo building. (Apple, tree, etc.) People write their initials on the back of a puzzle they borrowed so the librarian can assure they get fresh puzzles each time.

  • Emily had a friend getting rid of a bunch of clothes so she asked her to drop them off at her place, and she’s taking the stuff in good condition to New Circles later this week. (I love this be cause it’s a creating a mini system that is more efficient and also does more good! More on decluttering responsibly here.)

  • Rachel and Joel bought a hybrid car (a Volvo XC90 for people who don’t just identify cars by colour). Since they use it mostly for city driving, they almost never have to fill the tank, but it has the range they need for the occasional long distance drive. (More on the eco impacts of driving, including electric and hybrid cars, here.)

If you have a recent win, write me or let us know in the FMFP FB group. Even the smallest green action is helping co-create a brighter future.



P.S. Speaking of learning, this month, if people are interested, I’ll teach a live water bath canning class (with replay options). Canning doesn’t have to be scary! I learned from a Master Canner and have been preserving food without poisoning people for a decade. If you’d like to join in and you’re not in our FB group, hit reply and let me know.

Five Minutes for Planet is written by me, Jen Knoch, and edited by Crissy Calhoun. Opening photo by Fabiola Peñalba on Unsplash.