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Guest Opinion: Fidgeting while budgeting or fudgeting the budget

People equate budget with money. Governments, companies, organizations, families use budgets. Budgeting is yearly financial planning; income and expenses should equal out.

Budgets outline steps needed to make businesses (households) fiscally responsible: highlighting needs versus wants. It’s hard to fudget bottom lines, sometimes these numbers make us fidget. Reaching predetermined goals successfully takes commitment.

Is money the only thing that can be budgeted? No!

What about our global climate pollution budget? This is the amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted and tolerated by life on earth. This budget is scientifically aligned to keep earth livable as we know it today; by limiting the amount of greenhouse gas-induced warming to much less than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.

Bright minds and people’s desires have changed industrial and technological lives. Reasonably, peoples around the world want to copy our way of living: clean water from the tap, indoor heating and cooling, electricity and vacation trips.

However, to keep the earth from experiencing climate change that compromises our way of life, we must contain our climate pollution emissions by reducing our consumption of fossil fuels.

Heard about Earth Overshoot Day, the day in the year when we deplete our allotted yearly budget of natural resources? In 2017 it was Aug. 2 when we used more resources and emitted more Greenhouse Gases (CO2e) than forests and oceans can sequester. We need to reconfigure our economy; we can afford no more business as usual. Normally it would take the earth one year to sequester our emissions. Today, it takes 1.7 earths to meet human demands on earth’s natural resources. We are living on resources borrowed from the future, not within our budget.

Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree we are the cause of global warming (climate chaos). To continue to preserve our home (Earth/Oregon/Rogue Valley), as we know it, we must maintain a reasonable global temperature by keeping the CO2e atmosphere below 450 parts per million. In August it was already over 450 ppm. We do not want our ambient temperature to increase 5-11 degrees by 2080, a figure climate science indicates is possible.

In 1971, Overshoot Day was Dec. 21; in 1981, Nov. 12; in 1991, Oct. 11; in 2001, Sept. 23; in 2011, Aug. 5, and in 2017, Aug. 2. Are you fidgeting? These are not fudged figures! (overshootday.org) Seeing a trend here? Overshoot date keeps advancing backwards; earlier in a calendar year.

Are you fidgeting as you read this? It could be because you feel paralyzed, you don’t know what to do even if you want to do something. Are you tired of fidgeting and fudgeting? After all, talking about a budget for the Earth seems overwhelming and what can one person do. Starting somewhere is easier if one associates with like-minded people.

Find your group, support each other and make incremental changes. A big motivator can be determining the family’s climate pollution footprint. Again, this is easier in a group — especially if one of the members knows the process and can help with the math. We become our own cheerleaders as we see what effects changes in our own water and electricity use, our diet and travel can make. The group becomes the movement for change.

Keep up with what is happening in your town: subscribe to the local newspaper; visit your city website.

You can receive notifications of meetings, read minutes and communicate with department personnel. For example, you can request an electricity and water audit or attend a commission meeting and contribute during a public forum.

Seek out people who seem to be in the know; ask them questions. All of these actions lay the foundation for us to take the necessary steps to make changes in how energy, water, food and fuels are used. Prod your city to move forward. Support Oregon’s Clean Energy Jobs Bill. To learn more, enroll in Southern Oregon Climate Action Now’s Master Climate Protector course (http://socanmcp.eco). Scholarships are available.

We can take baby steps together so we can leap forward to move Overshoot Day back to where it belongs. No more fidgeting while budgeting or fudgeting the budget’s bottom line.

— Louise Shawkat lives in Ashland.