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10 Things Scientists Say we MUST do to Save the World (& the Translations for Normal People)

10 things scientists say we must do to save the world

Did you read the news about the “world scientists’ warning to humanity” a few weeks ago? It came out fairly close to American Thanksgiving as everyone was making pumpkin pie and perusing blogger’s gift guides, so it probably wasn’t at the forefront of conversation, but (in some ways) it deserves to be.

Here’s the summary:

  • 25 years ago, over 1500 scientists signed a “Warning to Humanity” that basically said that “human beings and the natural world are on a collision course.” They predicted that we could run the human race into the ground if we don’t stop abusing the earth.
  • What have we accomplished in the 25 years since? Not much. The human population has only moved the needle in a positive direction on ONE of their recommendations (shrinking the hole in the ozone layer). The others are all still in crisis with many getting worse.
  • So this fall, 16,000 scientists (and almost 4,000 more endorsers and counting) signed a new warning. CNN and the Washington Post covered the story, but I think most people missed it because of the timing…or the doomsday feeling.

In another post soon, I’ll dig into 3 out of the 13 pieces that I disagree strongly with, but today I’m all about unity on the other ten.

If you read the full text of the warning you’ll quickly notice one thing: It’s not practical AT ALL.

My goal today is quite simply to save the world.

I’m going to translate the scientists’ recommendations into actual action steps that the average human being can not only understand, but DO without too much stress.

Scientists say we need to save the earth. Kitchen Stewardship shows you how to actually do it practically.

Ok, now let’s translate some science-speak, shall we?

Here are the 10 Recommendations from the Warning to Humanity:

These are all direct quotes…can you tell? Winking smile  Feel free to skim….

(a) prioritizing the enactment of connected well-funded and well-managed reserves for a significant proportion of the world’s terrestrial, marine, freshwater, and aerial habitats;

(b) maintaining nature’s ecosystem services by halting the conversion of forests, grasslands, and other native habitats;

(c) restoring native plant communities at large scales, particularly forest landscapes;

(d) rewilding regions with native species, especially apex predators, to restore ecological processes and dynamics;

(e) developing and adopting adequate policy instruments to remedy defaunation, the poaching crisis, and the exploitation and trade of threatened species;

(f) reducing food waste through education and better infrastructure;

(i) increasing outdoor nature education for children, as well as the overall engagement of society in the appreciation of nature;

(j) divesting of monetary investments and purchases to encourage positive environmental change;

(k) devising and promoting new green technologies and massively adopting renewable energy sources while phasing out subsidies to energy production through fossil fuels;

(l) revising our economy to reduce wealth inequality and ensure that prices, taxation, and incentive systems take into account the real costs which consumption patterns impose on our environment;

My turn. Let’s take this one at a time, in my own order:

1. Quit Wasting Food

bowl full of beet greens

The scientists says we can save the world by, “reducing food waste through education and better infrastructure.” The average person can only do so much with infrastructure (making sure the food we have gets to where it’s needed), and although we should do everything we can when it comes to politics and big worldwide issues, we can make the most change, the fastest, in our own homes.

Action Steps:

  • Serve appropriate portions to your kids.
  • Tell kids to bring home uneaten lunch, at the very least so that you can tell how much they eat and pack appropriately. (Hot lunch is always a massive food waste issue. I just don’t have my kids eat it, but if you do, see what you can do in your school to serve smaller portions to smaller kids.)
  • Buy what you will eat. Meal planning regularly will help you avoid finding mushy 2-week-old produce in your fridge, and working hard to eat leftovers for lunch or freeze (and eat) them helps too.
  • In restaurants, try to get logical portions. Have your kids share. Bring your own containers to take home leftovers (and eat them).
  • Learn how to preserve summer produce (and keep a list on your freezer so you use it).
  • Lori’s awesome steps to reducing food waste (and a glimpse into exactly what the scientists were talking about when it comes to infrastructure)

2. Appreciate Nature

A man walking in the woods with two small children

This is possibly the easiest one: “increasing outdoor nature education for children, as well as the overall engagement of society in the appreciation of nature.”

Action Steps:

  1. Get outside. Go to parks. Let kids look at bugs.
  2. Donate to local nature centers.
  3. Attend their events with your family!

3. Preserve Nature (Waste Less!)

plastic water bottles in a recycling bin

The scientists call it, “maintaining nature’s ecosystem services by halting the conversion of forests, grasslands, and other native habitats.” Don’t go chain yourself to a tree for this one though. It can be as simple as changing some habits.

Action Steps:

  • Quit wasting paper! Print on both sides. Use your kids’ schoolwork to print recipes on (or just read them off a device). Write notes on the backs of used envelopes.
  • RECYCLE, especially paper.
  • Buy grassfed beef BUT check with the supplier to make sure they’re not cutting down forests in other countries.
  • Try wrapping gifts with reused options (bags that you save each year, packing paper, comics, calendar pages…)
  • End magazine and newspaper subscriptions that you don’t read.
  • Stop junk mail. I just did these 4 efforts because I’m so tired of recycling 90% of my mail before I even get into the house!
  1. FTC
  2. Direct Mail do not mail list
  3. Ecocycle’s ideas
  4. Catalog Choice

On a larger scale, you can be active in your own community when farmlands or other native habitats are changed into subdivisions. Let your voice be heard.

Thinking you’d like to make changes…but need a little help to space it out?

Need More Baby Steps?

Monday Missions Baby Steps Back to Basics

Here at Kitchen Stewardship, we’ve always been all about the baby steps. But if you’re just starting your real food and natural living journey, sifting through all that we’ve shared here over the years can be totally overwhelming.

That’s why we took the best 10 rookie “Monday Missions” that used to post once a week and got them all spruced up to send to your inbox – once a week on Mondays, so you can learn to be a kitchen steward one baby step at a time, in a doable sequence.

Sign up to get weekly challenges and teaching on key topics like meal planning, homemade foods that save the budget (and don’t take too much time), what to cut out of your pantry, and more.

9 thoughts on “10 Things Scientists Say we MUST do to Save the World (& the Translations for Normal People)”

  1. Katie, I love this post. It’s nice to see how simple acts of “kitchen stewardship” and family activities make a difference not only in personal budgets, but also for the planet. I’m embarrassed to say that I missed the article, and I’ll admit that even if I had seen it I probably would have been a bit cynical about the whole thing (as an environmental science professor, I’ve heard it all before). But the fact that you took the time to put the recommendations into practical, accessible life changes warmed my heart! Environmental issues can be really complex, with both the physical science and the social science aspects intertwined. But the steps you list are kind of like eating vegetables–it’s pretty hard to argue with their effectiveness (in this case for the planet’s health instead of the body’s). Thank you so much for raising awareness and empowering your readers to take steps to protect the earth’s resources!

  2. Very interesting, thanks for taking the time to disseminate that.

    Those last two seem pretty evil to me, though. It’s interesting because a lot of places are heading toward population decline on a huge scale that will cause a lot of problems economically.

  3. Kathleen Frasetto

    Katie – I wish you would have posted those steps without the scientists dire warning attached to it. I would have shared the steps on social media because I think your steps are awesome and I think they are things everyone should do to preserve the earth and protect the environment. But I think climate change / global warming (or whatever they are calling it today) when attached to dire warnings, has become more politically charged then science based. And when they say the science is settled, I believe it less because science is never settled. There are so many variables to all of this and there are many scientists who do not support the dire predictions. I wish it could be about doing what is right, not being wasteful and protecting our beautiful planet! Your steps are about that and I will be following them. If you ever post an article with just those, I will also share and give you the credit you deserve for putting such great information together in a post! Thank you!!!

    1. Kathleen,

      I appreciate your comments on the “dire warnings.” I am an environmental science professor, and when my students use alarmist language (“dire consequences,” “imperative to survival of the planet”) I call them on it. I believe in being honest about what we don’t know as well as what we know, and I think a lot of climate scientists agree with this (the Sierra Club may not…).
      While it is a shame that the issue has been so politicized, it would also be a shame to ignore calls to be responsible stewards just because we disagree the way the message is presented. It’s true that we don’t know what the outcome of global warming or other resource use issues will be, but the wise choice would probably be to err on the side of caution. And, like you said, there are moral reasons to take actions to live less resource-intensive lives. Conservation can be done with a spirit of generosity–toward future generations and current populations who have trouble meeting their basic needs–rather than out of fear of dire consequences.
      I think it would be awesome for you to share Katie’s post on Facebook, with a little disclaimer that clarifies your views on it. As a scientist who has seen and thought about the data, I appreciate any participation in less resource-intense living, whatever the motivation!

    2. Hi Kathleen,
      I do think it’s kind of hooey the way they went about it – you might like part 2 better. 🙂 But also, maybe this top 10 list will be something better to share?

      kitchenstewardship.com/overwhelmed-start-here

      Thanks so much for your kind words about my work!! I appreciate it!!
      🙂 Katie

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