039 Climate Change and Be-cycling With Peter Kalmus

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Our guest this week is Peter Kalmus who is, among many things, a physicist, a climate scientist, a gardener, a beekeeper, a cyclist and the father of two boys. In our conversation he discusses his “Be-Cycling” response to climate change. Through a series of lifestyle changes he has reduced his personal CO2 emissions from 20 tonnes a year–which is about the US national average–to two tonnes. And he says he’s had a great time doing it. During the podcast he also touches on:

  • His transition from astrophysics to climate science and why he made the switch.
  • The carbon footprint of climate science.
  • Not giving climate skeptics any more airtime.
  • The disconnect between evidence and action.
  • Meditation.
  • Techo-fixes vs. “pulling back.”
  • Figuring out your carbon footprint.
  • Avoiding flying.
  • The carbon footprint of food.
  • Becoming a vegetarian.
  • Dumpster diving.
  • Growing food.
  • RIPE Altadena.

You can find out more about Peter through his be-cycling website. You can also download an excerpt of his book-in-progress (pdf) and see slides from one of his talks (pdf).

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. Additional music by Rho. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

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  1. Fantastic talk! I love the concept of be-cycling and am anxious to learn more. It seems as though the more we do to lessen our impact, the more we learn about how deep our impact is. Layers upon layers of lessons and adaptions still need to be uncovered, and I am excited for the intentional change and am so glad to know that Peter and his family are out there sharing their stories and encouraging us along.

  2. I find living this style of life very attractive and satisfying, although this podcast has smugly labeled me a “denier” not merely someone who is not sure what is causing global warming/climate change or whether using up the rest of the oil quickly or slowly is even an option.

    • Hi Sean, it may be time for you to finally do your homework and make up your mind. There are many good, unbiased (that is, based on all available data) resources available to you. For example, I’ve heard good things about “The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change.” There are also a couple of introductory books by David Archer.

      I would say that a “denier” is someone who has cherry picked data, misinterpreted data, or perhaps not even looked at data, and has concluded that either global warming isn’t happening or isn’t caused by humans.

  3. So much about this podcast resonated with me. Especially the bit about changing the lightbulbs, which is a good idea, but just one tiny tool in the enormous kit of solutions that we have to use in dealing with climate change.

    I’m getting really discouraged with otherwise excellent books/articles/movies that do an amazing job of laying out problems and then offer maybe a paragraph or a sentence about solutions tacked on at the end. Thom Hartmann’s “The Crash of 2016” comes to mind as an example.

    We need to encourage the messengers to think as much about solutions as they do about the problems. One of the reason I enjoy your blog (and your books!) so much is that they are full of solutions and tools.

  4. One thing I was wondering about the calculations with food is, what about a carnivorous diet that includes meat exclusively from local and sustainably raised farms? My understanding is that if the animals are raised right its possible that they sequester carbon (think I heard that from Joel Salatin). Is anyone familiar with the research with this?

  5. Thanks so much for all that you publish, in particular this interview. Like Dr. Kalmus, I spent a lot of time being angry about the catastrophic changes we have collectively forced on our planet, all the while living my own life out of alignment with my deepest values. Changing what I can helps so much on a personal level.

  6. What credibility does a climate scientist have who talks about changing behavior yet has 2 children?

    • Hi ET! This is a valid point, thanks for bringing it up as we didn’t have time to touch on it in the podcast. Overpopulation is one of two primary drivers of global warming.

      In my defense, first, we wanted to have three children, and overpopulation was the major factor in staying with two. So my two children actually represent a deep change in behavior, not the reverse as you imply. Second, two children is below the replacement rate. If no person had more than two children global population would be in steep decline. Third, my two children were born before I began going down my very gradual path of personal change (although I’m profoundly grateful that they are in my life, and I can’t say I’d have decided not to have them!). Fourth, they are absorbing the skills and the attitudes of resilient biospheric living down to their bones. Fifth, the other major driver of global warming is consumption of fossil fuels. As I discuss in the podcast, we use a fraction of the US average in our household, and we’re always finding ways to decrease this even further. In other words, if you have kids, and they don’t run on fossil fuels, they aren’t necessarily a horrible “environmental” decision!

  7. Pingback: Peter Kalmus Talk: Low-Energy Living is Fun! | Root Simple

  8. Pingback: Transition Towns Maroondah Inc » Be-cycling With Peter Kalmus – Astrophysics to Climate Science

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