So I’ve been chatting every day with Chat GPT (that mind-blowing AI bot currently pilot-testing for free) about a wide range of things. This morning, I asked it: What are some environmental statistics since 1963? That’s when I was born, by the way. I’m a 1960s/70s child pedaling my way to age 60 this year (final stop on Round America with a Duck). I was wondering:
- How have things on earth changed since when I was born the week of Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream speech?
- What destruction have I knowingly and unwittingly been a part of?
- As a hands-on experiential journalist and storyteller, how can I ensure I’m covering the most pressing news of my lifetime in our country-at-a-crossroads and world-in-crisis?
- And how can I personally, in my own rubber-hits-the-road reality, do better?
I already use my bike (often in combination with buses and trains) as my main form of transportation (despite the glacial pace of change in our cities to make it safely accessible to do so for more people), and I’ve been a vegetarian (mostly vegan) for fifteen years (easiest thing I ever did, if it’s something you are considering). Note: I typically ride my bike between five and twenty miles a day as a direct replacement for car travel. I see, on average, zero other people on bikes where I live.
My landscape is almost 100% organic, and I’ve grown food for my personal/family and community consumption since the tragedies of 9/11/01. Note: I used to produce $2500 worth of organic food every year on my suburban property, not to mention the community, food pantry, and school gardens where we were growing food — there’s lots about that in my book, Food for My Daughters. A clearly-noticeable 95% elimination in pollinators and other beneficial insects in the past five-to-ten years, however, has significantly altered my family’s and community’s food resiliency. (I’ve been posting about the pollinator crisis since 2007 — see We’re All in This Together.) Fun fact: most people don’t care about this when I share this lived reality.
I’m currently trying to retrain my body — partly in preparation for long bus rides on my Round America with a Duck journey (stay tuned: the next pilot trip is January 30th and it involves Greyhound) and partly to be a better water steward in general — by only washing my hair twice a week and using dry shampoo on the other days. A little tiny container such as in the unboxing TikTok below should last me months as you use just a dime-sized amount at a time. It apparently takes about a month for something called sebum production to reduce and I’m on week two.
This simple action shortens my showers from ten minutes to four minutes on five days a week, saving 30 minutes of running water at an EPA-estimated average-shower-head output quantity of 2.5 gallons per minute — for a total water savings of 75 gallons a week/300 gallons a month/15,600 gallons a year. A tanker truck typically holds between 5,000-11,000 gallons of water, so the amount I save would equal more than one tanker truck. In the United States, a water unit, such as on a water bill, typically refers to 100 cubic feet, which is roughly equal to 748 gallons, while in the UK, a unit of water is typically equal to 1 cubic meter, which is equal to around 1000 liters or 264 gallons. So, for me here in the USA, I would be saving about 21 units of water. So, there’s that.
Here are the fun statistics from my friendly Chat GPT bot, with its disclaimer that these are rough estimates and actual statistics may vary slightly depending on the source of data:
- Global temperature: The Earth’s average surface temperature has risen by about 1.2°F (0.7°C) since the late 1800s, with the majority of this warming occurring since the mid-20th century;
- Carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration: The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has risen from about 315 parts per million (ppm) in 1963 to over 414 ppm in 2021. This increase is primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and land-use changes;
- Ozone depletion: The ozone layer, which protects the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation, has been depleted by human-produced chemicals, particularly chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The Antarctic ozone hole, which forms each spring, has grown larger in area and longer in duration over the past few decades;
- Biodiversity loss: Many species of plants and animals have become extinct or are at risk of extinction due to human activities such as habitat destruction, pollution, and climate change. According to World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Living Planet Report 2020, the world has lost around 68% of the world’s wildlife since 1970;
- Deforestation: Large areas of forest have been cleared for agriculture, urban development, and other human activities, leading to loss of biodiversity and carbon sequestration, as well as increased greenhouse gas emissions. Since the 1960s, an estimated 5.2 million square kilometers (2 million square miles) of tropical forests have been destroyed;
- Water scarcity: Many regions around the world are facing increasing water scarcity due to over-extraction of groundwater, pollution, and the impacts of climate change;
- Plastic pollution: Plastic waste is a serious problem, affecting the oceans, marine life, and coastlines around the world. An estimated 8.3 billion tons of plastic has been produced since the early 1950s, with about 60% of that plastic ending up in landfills or the natural environment.
If you are interested in learning more about climate impacts, there are many excellent documentaries, books, and astounding art exhibits such as from Art Works for Change (where I served as a pro bono writer for a year). Here is the trailer for the documentary I just viewed (while making my BikeBloom upcycled bike tube earrings):