The Power of Stories

Stories have a remarkable power to shape our perceptions, beliefs, and behaviors. They are a fundamental part of human culture, passed down through generations, and have played a crucial role in shaping societies. When it comes to addressing global challenges like climate change, stories have the potential to inspire and mobilize individuals, ultimately helping save humanity from its self-inflicted harm.

First and foremost, stories have the ability to evoke emotions and empathy. Climate change, with its complex scientific and technical aspects, can often feel distant and abstract to many people. However, stories have the power to make it relatable and personal by highlighting the experiences of individuals and communities affected by climate change. By connecting on an emotional level, stories can generate empathy and compassion, motivating people to take action and make a positive impact.

Stories also have the capacity to inspire hope and optimism. Climate change can be overwhelming, leading to feelings of despair and powerlessness. However, stories that showcase innovative solutions, resilience, and collective action can instill a sense of hope and optimism in individuals. By portraying a vision of a sustainable future, stories can motivate people to believe in their own ability to contribute to positive change and create a better world.

Furthermore, stories are a powerful tool for education and awareness. They can simplify complex concepts, making them more accessible and understandable to a wider audience. Climate change is a multifaceted issue with various interconnected dimensions, and stories can help break it down into compelling narratives that resonate with people from diverse backgrounds. Through stories, individuals can gain knowledge, challenge preconceptions, and develop a deeper understanding of the urgency and importance of addressing climate change.

Stories also have the capacity to challenge the status quo and promote alternative narratives. They can highlight the consequences of unsustainable practices and encourage individuals to question existing systems and behaviors. By presenting alternative visions and possibilities, stories can ignite creativity and encourage individuals to seek innovative solutions and adopt sustainable lifestyles.

In short, stories have a transformative potential in the context of climate change. They can evoke emotions, inspire hope, educate, and challenge existing norms. By harnessing the power of storytelling, we can engage and mobilize individuals, fostering a collective consciousness and action toward creating a sustainable future. Ultimately, stories can help save humanity from itself by shaping our values, influencing our choices, and guiding us toward a more sustainable and harmonious relationship with the planet.

Why people aren’t acting on climate change—and how we can change that!

Despite its pressing urgency and potential devasting consequences, we are still not acting fast enough on climate change. One significant factor is the complexity and magnitude of the issue. Climate change is a global problem that requires collective action and long-term solutions, making it difficult for individuals to perceive their individual impact or feel empowered to make a difference. The consequences of climate change are often seen as distant or abstract, making it challenging to motivate immediate action.

Another reason is the existence of misinformation and climate skepticism. Some individuals or interest groups may downplay or deny the scientific consensus on climate change, leading to confusion and doubt among the public. This skepticism can be fueled by political and economic interests, as taking action on climate change often requires significant policy changes and shifts in the status quo.

Additionally, there is a psychological aspect to the lack of action on climate change. Humans are prone to cognitive biases, such as optimism bias and present bias, which make it challenging to prioritize long-term issues over immediate concerns. Climate change requires sacrifices and lifestyle changes that may be perceived as inconvenient or threatening, leading to resistance and a reluctance to act.

Economic considerations also play a role. Transitioning to a sustainable economy often requires significant investments and may disrupt certain industries and job markets. This can create resistance from individuals and communities reliant on fossil fuels or other environmentally harmful practices.

Furthermore, there is a lack of global coordination and political will to address climate change effectively. International agreements, such as the Paris Agreement, provide a framework for action, but the implementation and enforcement of policies often fall short. The absence of strong leadership and cooperation between nations hinders progress and discourages individuals from taking action when they perceive their efforts may not be matched by others.

The complex nature of climate change, misinformation, psychological biases, economic concerns, and inadequate global coordination all contribute to the lack of action on climate change. Overcoming these barriers requires raising awareness, promoting education, addressing misinformation, providing incentives for sustainable practices, and fostering international cooperation. Only through collective effort and systemic change can we effectively mitigate and adapt to the challenges posed by climate change. And we still think a good story that unites people is a great place to start.

Join us at the Hollywood Climate Summit

Game On!

Climate Change? It’s not Game over. It’s Game On!

Facts, fear, personal actions, and even policy only get us part of the way in curbing the climate crisis. Another important aspect is addressing our underlying cultural norms. The pervasive American cultural norms of individualism, consumption, and instant gratification are causing massive damage to all of our natural systems. And humans are, for the first time ever, the prime driver of large-scale climate change. In just the last fifty years, we have catapulted humanity and the planet out of the Holocene era into the Anthropocene era—a new geological period where biogeochemical conditions are dominated by the impact of human activity, not natural processes. 

The great news is that communication is humans’ superpower and the reason we wield this much power over the planet. From building ancient temples to combating COVID-19, compelling narratives unite people to achieve seemingly impossible tasks. With today’s climate emergency posing an existential threat to humanity, new narratives of resilience, prosperity, and health associated with a carbon-neutral economy are needed to replace negative climate narratives that it’s too late or too complex. While we are certainly living in challenging times, this is also an incredible time in history to be alive and embrace the unique opportunity to help shape the future of all life on earth. In short, it’s not game over, it’s game on! 

“Game On” TV Pilot!

It’s a bit like “Abbott Elementary” (serious issues presented in a mockumentary style) meets “The Breakfast Club” (a diverse group of teenagers who end up being unlikely friends)

Meet Ivy Hart and her ragtag climate club members. They’re only in middle school and don’t know exactly how the adult world works, but they do know that the world needs to cut climate emissions in half by the time they graduate. And they have everything to gain by breaking a few rules to make that happen.

Why a TV pilot?

While climate change is certainly no laughing matter, we think approaching this serious topic with a little levity helps us confront it. Of course, documentaries are the typical method for delivering climate content. But we realize that’s not always what we feel like binge-ing on. Furthermore, documentaries reach an already interested audience. So, we’re creating a show that still presents real climate change solutions—but in an off-beat, funny style that appeals to a wider audience. Teaming up with Global Cooling productions, we seek to reshape popular culture through scientifically sound, mission-driven entertainment that informs the viewer. 

Talking about climate change is hard and perhaps even scary. But no problem can be solved without people talking about it. Despite climate experts agreeing that climate change is real, caused by humans, and poses a threat to our children’s ability to live out their natural lives to old age, there is currently shockingly little action—or even conversations. As climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe says, “If no one is talking about it, how important can it be?” Furthermore, Yale Climate Communications confirms that 72% of Americans realize climate change is happening, and only 36% of Minnesotans occasionally discuss climate change, which is a bit higher than the nationwide average of 35%.

We All Need Food and Water’s innovative climate solutions-centered programming harnesses the joy and excitement of working together to create a better world through family-friendly, community-building events. This unique approach helps shift the pervasively negative climate change narrative that is often shrouded with doom, distance, distraction, fear, and helplessness to clarity, engagement, hope, and action. 

Change Social Norms & Social Diffusion

(i.e., sharing first-person perspectives or experiences)

Individuals tend to adopt the behavior of others because we are social animals. Social diffusion is based on the premise that behavior change in a population can be initiated and then will diffuse to others if enough natural and influential opinion leaders within the population visibly adopt, endorse and support an innovative behavior.

Expected Outcomes of the TV Pilot 

Planting Seeds of Cultural Change

Compelling stories connect us to diverse characters, make us experience the world through a new lens, and make us feel. Neuroscience indicates that emotions are a signal to the brain that whatever we are experiencing is important. So, the brain carefully stores emotionally charged information in deeper parts, such as the cerebellum, which improves information processing and makes it easier to retrieve the data later. The more we relate to a narrative, the more likely we will be able to recall the information presented in a story and improve the odds that we will act on the information shared. 

Project Benefits

THE FUTURE IS NOW. Our actions today will greatly benefit today’s youth and future generations. Without action, our planet is estimated to be 6.4 °F warmer by the time today’s babies turn seventy-seven. What would a 6.4 °F degree temperature increase mean? On a daily basis, a several-degree change is normal. But on a global scale, the last time the planet experienced a similar temperature difference was the Ice Age when it was five to nine degrees cooler! The changes the environment, our farming systems, and available fresh water will undergo are mind-boggling. No aspect of life will go unchanged.

Minimum reach of 15,000 people, with a potential reach of millions. Today’s shifts will help today’s children and future generations avoid the worst effects of climate change.

We realize that making it big onto prime-time TV or Netflix and being in the households of millions is a long shot. However, we see a niche and believe it’s worth the effort to try something new and courageous. At a minimum, we estimate our education and outreach about this unique project will easily reach 15,000 individuals. Outreach avenues we will use include presentations to local civic clubs (e.g. Rotary), press releases to news outlets, social media campaigns, representatives we pitch to, and participants of the Hollywood Climate Summit.


We All Need Food and Water’s educational climate programming aims to jumpstart and help normalize difficult-to-start climate conversations because our warming planet poses grave and immediate health and economic threats to humanity, with the most severe harm from climate change falling disproportionately upon underserved communities. These communities are often the least able to prepare for, and recover from, heat waves, poor air quality, flooding, food insecurity, and other impacts. Our goal is to influence positive behaviors and motivate the broader community to talk about the climate crisis. Other programs we have are family-friendly FUN (Future Unfolds Now) events to gather groups doing a fun activities and holding informational sessions while we have people there. 

Extreme weather events such as flooding, tornadoes, and heat waves are becoming more frequent and intense due to rising temperatures, which are likely to increase even further over the coming years. Disadvantaged communities are often among those most affected by these changes. Furthermore, people living in these communities often lack access to resources like healthcare and education that would help them prepare for and recover from extreme weather events.

In addition to poor air quality, disadvantaged communities may also face additional challenges when it comes to combating pollution. For example, these communities often lack the resources and political influence needed to push for effective pollution reduction policies. As a result, it is especially important for community groups such as We All Need Food and Water to work alongside activists and policymakers to find creative solutions that can benefit these neighborhoods.

10 Steps to Solving the Climate Crisis

Addressing the climate crisis requires a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach that encompasses various sectors and levels of society. While the steps to solving the climate crisis are complex and interconnected, here are some key elements that should be considered:

  1. Transition to Renewable Energy: One crucial step is to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and geothermal power. This involves investing in renewable energy infrastructure, incentivizing clean energy technologies, and phasing out subsidies for fossil fuels. Transitioning to clean energy not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions but also creates jobs and promotes sustainable economic growth.
  2. Energy Efficiency and Conservation: Improving energy efficiency is another critical aspect of addressing the climate crisis. This includes adopting energy-efficient technologies and practices in buildings, transportation, and industrial processes. Encouraging energy conservation through public awareness campaigns and incentives can also significantly reduce carbon emissions.
  3. Sustainable Transportation: Transforming the transportation sector is essential. Promoting the use of electric vehicles (EVs) and developing charging infrastructure helps reduce reliance on fossil fuels. Expanding public transportation systems, supporting active transportation (cycling, walking), and implementing carpooling initiatives can further reduce emissions and improve air quality.
  4. Conservation and Reforestation: Protecting and restoring natural ecosystems, including forests, wetlands, and oceans, is crucial. Forests act as carbon sinks, absorbing and storing carbon dioxide. Implementing sustainable land management practices, promoting reforestation efforts, and preventing deforestation are vital for mitigating climate change.
  5. Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems: Shifting towards sustainable agricultural practices is essential. Encouraging regenerative farming techniques, reducing food waste, and promoting plant-based diets can significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions associated with agriculture. Sustainable farming practices can also enhance soil health, increase resilience, and improve water management.
  6. Circular Economy: Adopting a circular economy approach focuses on reducing waste, reusing materials, and recycling. Encouraging product design that minimizes resource consumption, promoting responsible consumption, and supporting recycling initiatives can reduce emissions and limit the extraction of raw materials.
  7. Policy and International Cooperation: Strong policies and international cooperation are crucial for effective climate action. Governments need to implement robust climate policies, such as carbon pricing mechanisms, emission reduction targets, and regulations promoting sustainability. International collaboration and agreements, like the Paris Agreement, foster collective efforts and ensure global cooperation in addressing the climate crisis.
  8. Education and Public Awareness: Raising awareness and educating the public about climate change is vital for generating a widespread understanding of the issue and fostering individual and collective action. Education initiatives at all levels, public outreach campaigns, and media engagement play a crucial role in mobilizing society toward climate action.
  9. Innovation and Research: Continued investment in research and development is necessary to drive innovation and develop new technologies that can further advance climate solutions. This includes advancements in renewable energy, energy storage, carbon capture and storage, and sustainable materials.
  10. Equity and Social Justice: Climate action should prioritize equity and social justice to ensure a just transition for all. Efforts should address the disproportionate impacts of climate change on marginalized communities and involve inclusive decision-making processes that consider diverse perspectives and voices.

Addressing the climate crisis requires a holistic approach involving renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable transportation and agriculture, conservation, circular economy, policy measures, education, innovation, and social equity. These steps, when implemented collectively and supported by individuals, communities, businesses, and governments, can contribute to mitigating climate change and creating a sustainable future.


CHAPTER 8 OF EJECTED: Stop the Bleeding

Keith learned on his tour that being one of the Ejected gave him the ability to travel anywhere, but he was still figuring out the details of how to be visible or invisible and heard or muted. Keith decided he should practice since he clearly didn’t have the settings optimized when he visited Ivy. 

Keith reviewed his plan. The National Green Energy Policy bill had gone through the House and the Senate and was waiting to be signed into law by the president. He was going to sneak into the Government Printing Office that night and revise this energy policy to include a carbon tax. He needed to make sure he had the settings correct before then.

He looked around for Salomon or one of the other Ejected to help him figure out the settings in the realm, but he didn’t see anyone, so he decided he’d try to figure it out himself. He cautiously entered the control panel room and read the settings aloud to himself, “Location. Hmm. I’ve always wanted to visit the Eiffel Tower.” So, he typed in Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

“Auto-think location,” read Keith next. “That sounds handy. Let’s go with that,” and he turned that setting on. The next setting was “Visible.” Under this setting, there were scores of other settings. Since he wasn’t quite sure what they did, he decided to just switch them all on. Then he closed his eyes and envisioned standing beneath the Eiffel Tower.

When he opened his eyes, he was thrilled to see the Eiffel Tower in front of him. He started to turn in a circle so he could take it all in. As he made a quarter turn, he realized that he must be visible because people were watching him, and they looked as excited as he was. He beamed at the crowd who couldn’t seem to take their eyes off him and proudly used his limited French to cheerfully say, “Bonjour!” to the people who were within earshot. As he gazed at the Eiffel Tower, he felt so alive that his skin tingled. 

Suddenly, his elation turned to horror as he realized why his skin felt so tingly and why he was Mr. Popular. Somehow, Keith had transported himself sans clothing. Naked as a newborn, he stood beneath the most romantic icon in the world like some creepy exhibitionist. 

He searched for a place to hide, but there were people in every direction. Throughout his life, he’d had a recurring nightmare that he would show up on the first day of school without clothes on. Only this time he wasn’t dreaming. He was actually naked in France! 

He knew all he had to do was think of another location to get out of there since he had the “Auto-Think Location” setting turned on, so he closed his eyes and wished to be anywhere else. Apparently “anywhere” wasn’t specific enough because he remained beneath the symbol of love, drawing a growing, curious crowd that opted to stay a safe distance away. 

All his panicked brain could think was, Oh, my God, oh, my God, oh, my God! School nightmare, school nightmare, school nightmare! Apparently, that was enough to transport him to Roosevelt Senior High. Fortunately, it was evening, so there weren’t people around to see his naked self. His mind was a little clearer now, and he realized that where he needed to go was back to the control room to figure out the sub-settings under appearance. 

As Keith paced around the realm trying to calm himself, he recognized that he knew all of the arguments about why a carbon tax supposedly wasn’t good for the world, but he also knew that all of those arguments were deliberate deceptions motivated by greed. Since over eighty percent of U.S. energy consumption comes from natural gas, oil, and coal,27 the fossil fuels industry has it in their best interest to keep the country hooked, thought Keith. 

Keith figured out using the model on his tour that a well-designed carbon tax could capture about ninety percent of U.S. emissions by taxing only several thousand taxpayers who could easily afford it.28 It’s beautiful. This way, the carbon tax doesn’t increase the cost of goods and services because the higher energy prices wouldn’t need to be passed on to consumers. But, even if prices increased, he didn’t see it as a negative outcome anymore. The increase would push markets and consumers to reduce their consumption, find alternatives and support renewables very quickly.

Keith reflected on how he used to argue that carbon taxes weren’t a “market-driven solution,” but he’d known all along that the true cost to the planet of extracting resources from the Earth, as well as the cost of shipping, processing, and the burning of fossil fuels, wasn’t being accounted for. Adding a carbon tax to reflect how much of an impact fossil fuels have on the world would be justice finally being served. It’s true that a few of his friends would lose a bit of money, but the smart ones would see the truth and invest in renewables. The fossil fuel industry is most definitely a huge problem, but it could also be the solution if they were to use their power for good. He had always thought that.

An argument that Keith knew was full of holes was that a carbon tax would damage American economic competitiveness by making it too expensive for companies to produce in this country. But, in reality, thought Keith, if we ruin our natural resources—upon which our personal health and economy are completely dependent—and live the nightmare I just experienced on the tour, that will be much worse for business.

 Even if it did take the rest of the world a while to transition to a renewable economy, everyone would be forced to do so. Plus, if we propose border taxes for imports from countries without a carbon tax, Keith thought, that should take care of the economic competitiveness problem.

 He decided that he wanted to be invisible and have his voice turned off so he didn’t  accidentally cough or anything. After playing cupid in France without even the dignity of a diaper, Keith sought out Salomon to help him with his settings. Salomon also helped him figure out the building access logistics and accompanied him on the journey. They waited for nightfall so the Government Printing Office would be empty. 

They successfully revised the energy bill to include an enormous carbon tax and also composed job transition plans so workers employed in fossil fuel industries could be retrained into clean energy jobs. He made the language clear that the revenue from the carbon taxes would be used for reducing greenhouse gases through energy conservation and creating clean energy infrastructure that included solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources, as well as car-charging stations spread across the country. Finally, the climate crisis was declared a national emergency which required nationwide mobilization to fight—similar to the WWII war effort.

Luckily, this president isn’t big on reading, thought Keith. He knew this president would just rely on an aide to tell him whether he should sign it. The aide will think she knows what’s in the bill, so she will advise him to move forward with it.

 And so, it came to pass. A carbon tax was quietly slipped into law. No lawmakers complained because they didn’t want to admit that they hadn’t read the bill and didn’t know the carbon tax was in it. The carbon tax law took effect the next day. To the legislators’ surprise, the voters were in favor of the carbon tax. There was a refreshing feeling of solidarity to get the Ejected back home and most people realized that a carbon tax would help achieve this goal. So, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle claimed victory. It was beautiful.


Ivy already knew quite a bit about environmental issues. Since her mom worked in the renewable energy industry, Ivy had grown up discussing carbon dioxide equivalents, alternating current, and gigawatts at the dinner table. She went to work researching sustainable lifestyles in her mom’s sunny and spacious office. It was a wonderful space to spend time, with large windows on three sides and French doors that connected to the kitchen on the fourth side. Best of all, the windows looked out onto native gardens that hummed with pollinator activity. Ivy’s mom always said she never had to work a day in her life because she was passionate about her job. And it never really felt like work—especially when she got to spend her days in such a lovely environment. 

First, Ivy needed to figure out what the end goal was and what “sustainable” meant. She had an inkling already that the U.S. and China were the largest greenhouse gas emitters. She searched several reputable websites that had similar information, but the graph on the Union of Concerned Scientists website made it crystal clear that the weight was definitely on the shoulders of China and the U.S. to reduce emissions. China was responsible for about twenty-eight percent of the world’s emissions, and the U.S., for fourteen percent. Just two countries are responsible for nearly half of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions.20 That’s disgusting, she thought.

 She dug deeper and found out that the U.S. had contributed the most global CO2   emissions overall—about 25 percent of the world’s total emissions to date.21 Great, thought Ivy, the U.S. is the biggest carbon dioxide polluter in history, and we are home to only 4.25 percent of the world’s population.22 That’s not just disgusting, that’s immoral. 

She was hoping that this information was wrong, so she kept searching. Unfortunately, she kept finding similar numbers. She also found that the average Chinese person contributes a relatively modest 7.5 metric tons of CO2e per year, whereas the average person in the U.S. contributes a sickening 16.5 metric tons.23 She saw other figures that estimated Americans contribute as high as 28 metric tons per person. She hoped that was wrong. From what she could find, the global average seemed to be about 4.5 metric tons of CO2 per person each year.24

 Her dad said that “we” needed to cut emissions in half. But how does that work? Should everyone on Earth reduce their footprints by half? She wished she would’ve asked her dad that question. Some countries barely contribute any greenhouse gas emissions to start with. Or maybe the biggest polluters should reduce their footprints by more than half so everyone is on a more level playing field? After some thought, she decided that the second option would be the right thing to do. Americans should feel duty bound to cut their egregious levels by more than half, since they are so much higher already. 

Next, Ivy looked into where the emissions were coming from. She looked by economic sectors first, but didn’t know how that translated to individuals, so she found information about where the average American’s carbon emissions were coming from. She found that:

1. Home energy use was 32%, with over half (17%) for heating and cooling

2. Transportation, with gas-powered vehicles accounts for about 28%

3. Stuff we buy is 26%

4. Food is 14%25

This list seemed pretty straightforward, so she started a new Google doc and brainstormed a list of ways to bring down the consumption in each area.

Zeroing Out Home Energy Use

-17% Heating and Cooling

“To eliminate the need for heating and cooling systems, we need more  passive buildings,” muttered Ivy to herself. Ivy knew a little about hyper-insulated “passive” houses, because she lived in one with her mom. Visitors were typically shocked to find out they didn’t have—or even need—a furnace or an air conditioner despite living in their extreme Midwest climate where annual temperature differences can span a hundred degrees. She and her mom also had rooftop solar, so they consumed no energy from the grid and actually sold their excess energy back to the local energy company. She knew that building passive houses costs more upfront because they have thicker walls and way better windows, but they paid  for themselves in energy savings. Now let’s look at the remaining fifteen percent of the energy used in homes.

-15 % Misc. 

The biggest home energy uses are water heaters, lighting, and inefficient appliances. Reducing energy consumption wherever possible would be the first thing to do by installing LED lighting and more efficient appliances, thought Ivy. Then the rest of the energy use could be supplied by renewables. 

Implementing passive building design, energy efficiency, and renewable energy could essentially zero out the home energy use sector. Of course, renewable energy sources have a footprint to build and install, but in the long term, and certainly in comparison with coal, the impact is minimal.

OK, Ivy thought, this isn’t so hard. Why don’t adults sit down and solve the climate crisis? It’s obvious that the solutions exist. So, adults just don’t think the future is worth protecting? Or all they care about is making money at the future’s expense? Or they can’t stop arguing about inconsequential details and get over their egos to do something for the common good? Ivy didn’t understand adults and how illogical they are. She felt the climate crisis was like everyone’s house was on fire, and all of the adults were still sitting on the couch eating potato chips watching their favorite show, not bothering to evacuate or call 911. 

Tackling the 28% from Transportation

Ivy was a born list maker, so she started with what came naturally to her by making another one.

– Reduce need for transportation by slowing down the pace of life, using video conferencing, working from home.

Switch to electric vehicles, add a lot of charging stations to make it convenient for people.

– Make communities more walkable and bike-able.

– Promote carpools and hourly electric car rental systems.

– Build mass transit

– Eat food that is locally grown.

Ivy wondered if this last item should be in this transportation category or in the food category. She figured she might as well put it in both since it fits in both. 

Well, look at this, Ivy thought as a tiny smile appeared for an instant, this area could also practically be zeroed out, too.

To use stuff and eat food is essential for survival, so we are clearly not getting this forty percent of the carbon footprint to zero. But, we can do a lot better than we are. She couldn’t find exact numbers for these items, and it would never be the same for each individual, but she found various online carbon footprint calculators and found out that most people could probably cut their footprints in half without compromising their comfortable lifestyle and modern conveniences. 

Ivy recognized that this area was going to look different for everyone. The main thing is, since we cannot tackle such massive problems alone, everyone needs to do what they can in whatever way they can. She knew there needed to be tolerance of different ways of going about things. Different people have different needs and skills, after all. For example, a person who needs to be gluten and dairy-free might need to eat quite a bit of meat, which generally has a larger carbon footprint. That’s fine. A person with a special medical need might use a whole lot of plastic medical supplies to aid with his or her condition. Of course, plastics in life-saving medical supplies and devices had to be seen as a free pass. No one was going to fault a person for needing to use inhalers, sterile tubing, or a pacemaker with plastic components. Again, all totally necessary. It would have to be up to people to do their very best and for other people not to pass judgment on others. That was the tricky part. It’s so easy to pass judgment.

Ivy recognized that many people around the world don’t have their basic needs met and could never make the decisions to live a more environmentally conscious life without support, because they are just trying to survive however they can. She thought about a Mexican village she and her extended family had visited while on vacation. After visiting some local 4,000-year-old petroglyphs, her family had eaten lunch in a tiny village about an hour outside of Mazatlán, where they got to know a few of the villagers. Ana was the village teacher and had helped prepare their meal over a wood-fire stove. Whereas the tortillas tasted amazing cooked that way, Ivy recognized it wasn’t the healthiest for the air and for Ana and the other women cooking on the stove breathing in all that soot. There also weren’t many trees around, so it didn’t seem like it would be very easy to find sustainably-sourced wood for the stove. But what other stove choice did they have?

 Ivy’s youngest cousin, Sam, befriended Ana’s son Santiago. They were both seven years old, and it didn’t take long for the two seven-year-old boys to go off and play together. When Ivy found them playing at Santiago’s house, she noted that the family owned about as much stuff as her family traveled with. She was ashamed that just her mom’s house alone had more in storage than this family had in their entire house. Then there was her dad’s house, which was full of stuff, too.

Ivy quickly decided that her lifestyle influencing wasn’t going to be directed to people who weren’t in the economic position to make long-term decisions that were best for sustainability. Her aim was to reach the people who had the ability to make those decisions—and knew it was the right thing to do—but chose not to live more simply because they just didn’t want to be inconvenienced.

Cutting Stuff in Half

The goal would be to reduce consumption by half, bringing the CO2e footprint to around thirteen percent. Of course, this would be accomplished by reducing consumption first, reusing next, and recycling if nothing else can be done with an item. Voluntary simplicity—or living a simpler life not centered on possessions—would be key to move the needle on reducing the stuff in people’s lives.

Ivy reflected on the steps her grandma always walked her through before Ivy made a purchase with the birthday money she would get from her grandma. “Do you really need it?” Grandma Ethel would ask, “Could it be borrowed, rented, or purchased secondhand instead?” Then Grandma would also ask probing questions like where it was made and how far was it shipped to get to her. Were the materials used sustainable? Was the product or toy durable? How long would she use it? Could it be recycled?

This line of questioning talked Ivy out of buying many fad toys. Her grandma never actually told Ivy what to do; she would just ask Ivy these questions before they got to the check-out register. It seemed that nine times out of ten, Ivy would decide that she either didn’t need the cheaply made toy or that she could get it used. 

Food Footprints

As with the “stuff” category, Ivy’s goal was also to cut this in half—not by eating half of the calories, but by reducing packaging and “food miles.”

Cook your own meals based on locally-grown, seasonal food to minimize “food miles”

Eat less processed or packaged food

Eat a more plant-based diet whenever possible. Just changing from a meat-lover diet to a no-beef diet nearly cuts greenhouse gas emissions in half.

Avoid ruminant animals, like sheep and cows, because their multiple stomachs and the way they process their food makes their methane contribution crazy high. 

Ivy thought this fact was a little funny. Cow and sheep farts are actually a serious planetary problem! Sustainably raised fish, poultry, and even pork have much lower footprints.

Something Ivy found super interesting is that local pork had a lower footprint than an American vegan’s jackfruit shipped from Asia. She determined that it was less about what a person ate (you don’t need to be a vegan) and more about where their food comes from.

Whoa, she thought. She re-added the totals and realized this scenario would reduce CO2e footprints by eighty percent and bring footprints to nearer to a 3.3-ton lifestyle, instead of a 16.5-ton lifestyle. Making a short list for each of the four items made solving the climate crisis seem manageable. It’s not rocket science. Why are people acting like this is such a mysterious problem to solve? She had a plan, but how was she going to get people to go along with the it?

Ivy looked at the clock in the corner of her computer screen and realized that it was 5:00 p.m. No wonder she was starving. She’d never even eaten the toast she’d put in the toaster that morning, and she was still in her pajamas. Light-headed from hunger, Ivy went to the kitchen, opened the fridge, and searched for food that didn’t require preparation. Quick was pretty much her only criteria. She gobbled down cold leftover vegetarian lasagna, followed by grapes, a hard-boiled egg, and crackers by the handful from the pantry closet. Crumbs flew everywhere as she shoved them into her mouth.

Ivy contemplated her plan of action as her blood sugar stabilized. She decided that instead of tackling individual behaviors and a giant list of “101 things you can do to reduce your footprint,” it was time to bring about a cultural and moral revolution where people bonded and acknowledged the peril they were in together instead of just ignoring it. In order to get people to work together, she thought, we need to heal the division in our country. People need to feel accepted by the other side. And we all need to stop taking sides. We are one humanity that needs to unite against a common threat. That’s a pretty tall order for a 14-year old, she thought, I need Jayla.

She texted her best friend, Jayla, who lived three doors down, and asked her to come over ASAP. Jayla and Ivy had met in pre-school, when they traded pastel-colored marshmallows for pastel-colored dinner mints at snack time. They both vividly remembered this calculated trade that sealed their friendship and they’d been inseparable ever since. 

Ivy barely put her phone down before Jayla knocked and then let herself in, like she always did. Even though Jayla knew everything about her, Ivy was a little nervous that Jayla wouldn’t believe that her father had appeared to her as a pebble-throwing ghost, then communicated with her through Morse code to tell her she needed to help save humanity by changing consumptive culture. It was more than a little out there! Ivy recognized that she’d have a hard time believing the story if she heard it from someone else, but if there was anyone in the world that might believe her, it was Jayla. 

Jayla was super smart, not just book smart—although she was that too—but also intuitive and wise. Ivy called her an old soul because she always seemed to know what to do in any situation and seemed wise beyond her fourteen years of age. One time when they were swimming at a crowded beach, and the lifeguard hadn’t noticed their friend Kris flailing because the area around the bulkhead was so crowded, Jayla jumped in, brought Kris to shore, and calmly cleared her airways. It was as if saving drowning victims’ lives was something she did every week. Ivy remembered that she’d just stood on the bulkhead, frozen in terror. Yes, there was certainly much more to Jayla than met the eye. She wasn’t just a skinny kid. She was a brilliant hero. She always felt a little awe-struck by her and felt blessed to be able to call her not only a friend, but her best friend. 

“Hey, Jay,” said Ivy as she greeted Jayla at the top of the stairs. They gave each other a quick hug and Jayla perched herself on the edge of the kitchen stool and asked, “What’s up? I thought you were with your dad this weekend.”  

Ivy nodded and dove right in, explaining everything so fast that only a best friend like Jayla could keep up. She started with the fact that her dad had never showed up to pick her up. Shocked at this news, Jayla’s already enormous brown eyes widened. Jayla knew Keith was never late, and that this was super worrisome. She didn’t blink and hung on every word. Ivy asked if Jayla had heard the news that people around the world had disappeared. Jayla nodded, with an expression that said, “duh” and replied that it’s all over the news and social media right now. Ivy then explained the whole encounter with her dad, that he was one of the missing people, and what he’d told her to do. Jayla didn’t question whether Ivy was telling the truth, but just asked Ivy what her plan was to get him back. 

Ivy walked Jayla through her research and explained that her goal was to make a 3.3-ton CO2e lifestyle the norm. Jayla suggested that Ivy should keep it simple and stick with 3 rather than 3.3, because 3.3 didn’t roll off the tongue quite as nicely. S-he added that three was a great number to use because it was kind of a magical number representing the past, present, and future; faith, hope, and charity; mind, body, and soul; the holy trinity; birth, life, and death; the beginning, middle, and end, and so on. Ivy was baffled by how Jayla could just rattle that knowledge off without hesitation.

 Jayla pointed out that bringing the number down to three was reducing the American carbon footprint by a little over eighty percent, but she agreed with Ivy that Americans should finally set a good example of what was possible—especially since Americans were, per person, the Earth’s biggest culprits for environmental destruction. She also pointed out that many environmentally-friendly lifestyle choices were expensive and that not everyone could afford to switch—at least not without some help. 

Then Jayla proceeded to school Ivy about environmental justice. Now it was Ivy’s turn to listen intently. Jayla explained, “Environmental justice is about treating all people fairly and involving all people in developing, implementing, and enforcing environmental laws. Currently black and brown-skinned people are much more likely to live in polluted neighborhoods and their rates of asthma and a bunch of cancers are much higher because of this pollution.”

Stunned, Ivy asked, “Why?”

And Jayla responded in typical Jayla fashion with facts and references, “The EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment released a study showing that people of color were much more likely to live near polluters and breathe polluted air. Specifically, people in poverty were exposed to more fine particulate matter than people living above poverty—and this is at national, state, and county levels.26 

“Where is all that fine particulate matter coming from, Jay?” asked Ivy.

“Like car fumes, smog, soot, oil smoke, ash, and construction dust,” Jayla explained, “and polluters and pollution are disproportionately located in communities of color. It’s kind of hard to prove, but it seems pretty intentional that so many hazardous waste landfills, coal-burning power plants and hydraulic-fracturing oil wells end up in black and poor neighborhoods.”

Ivy was utterly horrified to learn this appalling information. This calculated racism made her feel despondent, and, once again, ashamed to be white. Yet another example of white people acting like black lives don’t matter. It was incomprehensible to Ivy. Jayla was Black and she meant the world to Ivy. How could anyone ever say people with a certain attribute deserve to be ill-treated? It’s revolting. It’s sinful. It’s inexcusable. It needs to change. Now. She wondered how this behavior could continue and how the people in power who were responsible could live with themselves.

Ivy recognized that even though Jayla was like a sister to her, and she felt like they were practically one, they lived in separate worlds. Never once was Ivy followed around a store with a watchful eye that assumed she might steal something, but Jayla was. Ivy had witnessed it at the drug-store on the corner. That owner had followed Jayla around like an eagle after a mouse as if Jayla would surely steal if she weren’t watched. Seeing the whole charade made Ivy want to pop some stuff into her pocket just so the shopkeeper would rethink her stereotypes. But she didn’t have the nerve to steal anything. When Ivy joined Jayla in the makeup aisle, the worker magically drifted away. Ivy told Jayla she noticed that lady was watching her. Jayla said, “Yeah, I knew it too. Did you see how I was making that dumb lady run all through the store? That’s more exercise than that lady has gotten all week!”

Jayla also told Ivy that her dad had been pulled over multiple times and questioned whether the car he was driving belonged to him. 

Ivy asked naively, “Why would the cop wonder that?” 

Jayla replied, “Because the officer didn’t expect to see a Black man in an Audi.”

Dumb-founded, Ivy shouted, “WHAAAAAT? Your dad is an engineer! Why wouldn’t he be driving a nice car?”

“Right?” Jayla asked rhetorically.

The kicker was that Jayla told Ivy that once a cop questioned her whether she was riding with “this man” voluntarily. At first, Jayla didn’t even realize what the cop was getting at. But she soon realized that the cop thought “this man” might be kidnapping her or something. In response to this insane racial profiling, Jayla had lost it and started screaming at the officer that this was her dad and they were going to a swim meet. Thanks to him, they were going to be late and she’d miss her spot in the starting lineup. 

Ivy agreed with Jayla that they absolutely needed to make environmental justice the basis of their sustainability plan.