Here’s What You Should Do for the Planet This #EarthDay

Listen, change ain’t easy. I know that. But if it’s for the planet, you should be all in. So here’s what I’m doing this Earth Day, and you should join me.

1. Litter less, and work more on #2minutelitterpick. I’ve been picking up beach litter long before the #2minutebeachclean came around, but now it’s gaining some momentum as a Twitter hashtag (what isn’t these days?). It’s so easy to pick up some trash for two minutes on your way off the beach, down the street, and as you’re heading down the trail (just shove it in your backpack!). But it takes more than that — stop it at the source. Start committing to buying things with less packaging, and if you have to use plastic, PLEASE recycle it. A little goes a long way, and reduce, reuse, recycle still fits in the motto of Earth Day.

2. Give up straws. I have to admit — I’ve been trying this one, and it is HARD, especially when you’re out at restaurants and they just throw straws at you — literally. But just ask for no straw. Straws (and other plastics) are making their way into our waterways, choking up our oceans and literally choking our wildlife. Plastic is making its way into our food, too. #BanTheStraw is just the latest in the plastic-free movement (even McDonalds is doing it!,), behind the #BanTheBag movement, starring my favorite, the plastic bag. And it’s making waves — in July, Seattle will ban plastic straws and plastic utensils, and Scotland plans to ban plastic straws by 2019.

3. Plant a tree. Ok, people have been saying this for decades, and there’s a reason! Planting trees is one of the best things you can do for climate change, and trees are also just the best in general (I can’t source that information, because it’s just known to be true). If you can’t literally plant a tree because you don’t have the means, have someone else contribute for you! Companies like Tentree plant ten trees (you guessed it!) for every item you buy.

There are also many organizations you can donate to that will plant trees in regions that need it most. To start with a donation — Plant a billion from the Nature Conservancy, One Tree Planted, American Forests, and the National Forest Foundation.

If you need more suggestions, check out more campaigns on Earth Day Network.

Top 10 Climate Stories of 2017 — my first Climate Central byline

I wrote my first story for Climate Central!

Yeah yeah, I know I’m a little slow. Despite being there for 2.5 years writing copy for thousands of tweets and Facebook posts, and now for our newly-launched social videos, I’ve never written a bylined piece. But now I have!

I polled our social followers about what they thought the top stories of 2017 in the climate realm were, and they picked the following — the blockbuster hurricane season, new, terrifying sea level rise projections , the government (and its denial, among other things), Tesla and Elon Musk’s innovative projects across the world, the West’s terrifying wildfire season (which is never-ending, it seems), global heat records continually being broken, the social injustice of climate change, solar energy shining, the shift to transportation pollution being the biggest carbon emitter, and deadly heatwaves.

Read about it right over here. 

The March for Science (and Climate)

2017 marks the first year I marched — starting with the Science March in D.C. on Earth Day and continuing on with the People’s Climate March in New York City a week later.

I’m not the marching type, but all bets are off with our current administration threatening to take away national monuments, removing climate information from various government websites, considering exiting the Paris Agreement…. and the list goes on.

Being a part of the March for Science was surreal. Despite the rain, the streets surrounding the National Mall were flooded with scientists protesting the administration’s threat to science and science funding. And it wasn’t just regular people (like me). Climate Central’s chief scientist, Heidi Cullen, spoke to a soggy crowd about the value of extreme weather reporting and attribution science. Jason Box, climate researcher (and an important part of my favorite climate film), spoke to the importance of melting Greenland on the world’s coastlines (in case you didn’t know, sea level rise is coming for us all, and estimates keep getting more extreme), while Bill Nye stressed to lawmakers that “science is for all.”

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Signs at the March for Science in D.C. on Earth Day, 2017.

The People’s Climate March hoped to continue the momentum of the importance of science, so all over the U.S. (and the world), thousands marched in the People’s Climate March. In Staten Island, a sister march walked along the coast where Superstorm Sandy devastated homes and buildings along the shore.

Signs here overwhelmingly pointed to renewables, rising seas, and the importance of protecting the Earth.

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Activists march on Staten Island

I marched for science and a clean planet, and for everyone in my life who is dedicated to science (including us science communicators!). The March for Science organizers are aiming to make this a movement, and I’ll be there every step of the way.

“Coral reefs are a casualty of climate change” — reflections from Chasing Coral

“If we can’t save this ecosystem, are we gonna have the courage to save the next one down the line?”

Imagine going to your favorite place in the world, only to find it was completely devastated.

That’s what producers, divers, and everyone involved in Chasing Coral found.

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The film Chasing Coral follows the same structure as its predecessor Chasing Ice: a documentary produced to highlight something we’re going to lose (or have already lost) because of climate change.

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After watching Chasing Ice, I felt hope. But after watching Chasing Coral, I feel despair.

In 2012, Chasing Ice made me feel urgency — I knew climate change was real, and this film was made (in my eyes) to show people the effects of this global issue. I felt equipped (with tons of icy ammo) to shout about climate change from the rooftops!

But now, in 2017, Chasing Coral almost made me cry. Because humans have dumped carbon into the atmosphere for so long, and have delayed on climate action, we’re finally losing something we cannot replace — the world’s coral. And the documentary film crew spent months documenting the damage.

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Coral bleaching all starts with the rise in global temperatures, and where that heat is stored. The ocean takes up 93 percent of the world’s heat, and without it, we’d already be fried on land.

Bleaching is a side effect of the ocean’s heat. When the ocean is too hot, corals get stressed out, and the algae living on the coral depart (or are ejected), causing the symbiotic relationship between algae and coral tissue to waste. When the algae is gone, coral loses their source of food, and bleaches. Not all bleached coral is dead, but once coral is bleached, it’s less likely for the coral to return to a healthy state.

This isn’t a “natural” cycle, either. Coral bleaching has been directly attributed to climate change.

The impacts continue on. This week, scientists announced the second coral bleaching event in a row in the Great Barrier Reef. Corals around the globe have been subject to bleaching in recent decades, too, not just in Australia. More heat continues to pile up in the ocean, even turning the Arctic into the Atlantic.

“The ocean controls everything. Without a healthy ocean, we do not have a healthy planet.”

Scientists in the film are concerned that continual bleaching events will wreck coral and their habitats for good — if they always bleach, they will never have enough food, and will just die off. This would lead to an ecosystem collapse, where entire classes of organisms could go extinct.

Ocean scientists are sounding the alarm. And what’s their solution? Stop using fossil fuels now.

Is losing the Great Barrier Reef going to wake up the world?