Top Down, Bottom Up Climate Strategies

Addressing Earth’s changing climate is one of mankind’s greatest challenges, and at the same time the biggest development opportunity of this century. We only have one planet to share with 7 billion, all needing food and shelter, many wanting modern appliances, entertainment and comforts. We need to continue to reduce our ecological impacts now (mitigation) and prepare our communities for harsher conditions, less resources, and bigger disasters (adaptation) in the future.

The Risk of Not Taking Action

Military leaders around the world understand the significant risk that climate change poses. Political instability and international conflict stemming from crop collapse, mass migration and natural disasters can lead to war and violence unless the proper aid and support are ready and available. Even without the threat of war, climate disasters, extended droughts and changes in food production opportunities threaten to make many climate refugees. We can’t just wait and see on climate.

Top Down, Bottom Up

The top down strategy is lead by laws and policies that drive low pollution behavior. Humans have been writing environmental law for well over 1,000 years and as we learn more about how our actions impact our ecosystem we will need new laws that protect the ever more scarce wild and pristine spaces on Earth. We also need to plan for human livability as growing global population demands resources from nature beyond the planet’s ability to replenish.

Sensing an urgency to act before national governments can set appropriate policy has spurred the bottom up action. Bottom up is the important work of building grassroots support via local government and using market forces. In many ways the real climate action is taking place at the city level. It turns out that cities are quick to see the impacts of climate change and have been among to first to take action. We must encourage our governments to take action.

Don’t Wait Act Today

You can do your part by working toward low carbon consumption. Farming, transportation and building operations are the biggest climate polluting activities, so look for ways to be part of the solution. One of the easiest strategies for lower carbon living is to just consume less stuff. Planet based diets are climate friendly. If you must eat meat choose chicken and free range animals when possible. Make your next car electric, or better yet switch to a bicycle and public transportation. See that your living space is well insulated and ask your utility provider about clean energy choices. Support renewable energy.

There are many personal actions you can take to reduce your carbon impact and all of them send a signal from “the bottom” that says you support climate action. We must take action as individuals to reduce our carbon output.

Share your actions on social media pages.

Go to Turn21’s Facebook page, YouTube channel or Twitter Page to share videos and pictures of what you did for the 21st!


“Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth… these are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women’s empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.”

~ Ban Ki-moon

21 young people bring climate change lawsuit

Our friends at Culture Change tipped us off about this story. In a complaint filed in United States District Court, District of Oregon, 21 young people (an auspicious number!), along with “FUTURE GENERATIONS, through their guardian Dr. James Hansen”, bring suit over the government’s inaction (and worse, their active encouragement of the fossil carbon industry) in the face of climate change.

So, here’s a suggested small and timely action for the 21st of this month: write a short letter to your local newspaper bringing this story to their readers’ attention.

Notes for a Buddhist Revolution

Yesterday we highlighted the recent papal encyclical; today we point to some thoughts from a Zen Buddhist teacher, David Loy. Our title is borrowed from the subtitle of his 2008 book Money, Sex, War, Karma; you can find the Table of Contents and the first three chapters online here. We especially urge you to read the reworked and updated versions of two other important chapters at The Three Poisons, Institutionalized and What Would the Buddha Do.

If business-as-usual and politics-as-usual are morally unacceptable, we clearly need (some kind of a) revolution. Pope Francis and David Loy are coming from world views that use very different language, and yet it seems that they would both agree with this summation.