Syrian refugee crisis is peanuts to looming climate refugee crisis. 27 million people in Bangladesh are predicted to be displaced from rising waters.When I first started Southeast Green, I started off each year with a list of New Year’s Determinations (The idea of resolutions drives me crazy). I intentionally chose determinations because by golly, I was going to do them! Maybe not perfectly but I was going to do them. For the most part I did instill those small changes and they have stuck.

I stopped doing the determinations because I felt like I had incorporated everything I needed to. Hubris! As COP21 started, I started reflecting on what more could I do. I preach the message of sustainability wherever I go, but what else could I do?


Do you remember the movie Schlinder’s List? There’s a scene at the end where Oscar Schlinder, played by Liam Neeson, makes this moving speech about what could he have done more to save one more life? He is racked with guilt that one more gold ring could have saved one more person. Ben Kingsley, who plays the leader of the Jews Schindler saved, says to him Oscar you did enough. The question remains for me, am I doing enough? Is there one less mile I could drive, one less straw I could use, one less item of CPJ (Cheap Plastic Junk) I could purchase? The answer of course is yes!

But beyond one less for me personally, can I encourage others to adopt the message of one less? Of course I am surrounded with people who are doing many acts of one less but there is so much room for all of us to do one less of many things.

Syrian refugee crisis is peanuts to looming climate refugee crisis

As we have been faced with the crisis of Syrian refugees pouring out of Syria and watching the battle of where to place them, all I could think about was what happens when we see real shifts in the climate and the Syrian refugees of tens of thousands becomes tens of millions of climate refugees. To the casual observer this might sound inflated and sensational numbers but for those of us deep in the community of sustainability, we know these are real numbers.

I was at an event a few years back where the speaker told the audience that if sea level rise continued at the rate we were experiencing, that 27 million Bangladesh residents would be displaced because they live on a great river basin that was already seeing water levels rise. What do you do with 27 million people? Do you think its exaggeration? The New York Times did a piece recently on The Marshall Islanders who were already seeing their islands shrink. Where will the citizens of the Marshall Islands go? 

So what do we do?

Well the good American in me chooses to remain positive and do what Americans do, work harder at doing one less and encouraging others to do the same. Supporting companies working on solutions and technology to solve these issues, and choosing to work with non-profits that are not only protecting the environment but focusing on the rights all humans to have access to clean water, land and air.

And of course, take a page from Ed Begley who tirelessly quotes Gandhi “Live simply so others can simply live,” is always running through my mind.  

When one less becomes one more

Of course the idea of one less becomes one more. What if this year we paid ourselves for the idea of one less? When I say pay I mean save. So for example every time you choose to not take disposable plasticware with carry out you paid yourself something? Say 50 cents. Every time you take public transportation instead of using the car or walking or biking to the store, church, or to get coffee another 50 cents? Instead of pocketing that change, what if you put that change in a jar and what if you challenged your family members to do the same thing? What would that jar look like at the end of the year? It might look like several jars! At the end of 2016, what if you took all that money and donated it to an environmental non-profit. What would that look like?  So that’s my challenge. Do acts of one less, so others can have one more. Will you join me?