Another InkPrepNoWriCember update, this time about environmental stuff!
Here, I’m making a drawing for a collaborative art project I’m doing with an environmental group. The drawing is about ways to be strategic about environmental action, and new metrics we can use.
Specifically, alternatives to the idea of our individual carbon footprints.
A lot of people try to strategize their environmental action by minimizing their carbon footprint. And this isn’t bad or anything. They’re basically trying to affect the economy, through their market participation. And the hope is that enough people do this, that the market for environmentally unfriendly products dries up to the extent that companies feel incentivized to make these changes.
The problem is the carbon footprint as a metric leaves out a lot of avenues for action by focusing entirely on your buying decisions. And that is one way to influence our collective carbon footprint (which is what actually matters).
But it’s not the only way. And arguably, it’s not even the best way.
The other problem with optimizing your personal individual carbon footprint is that beyond a point, any action you take is just a form of perfectionism without making much of a difference to our collective carbon footprint.
As you probably know, the changes we make as individuals have a much smaller impact than changes made by governments and corporations. So our individual choices in consumption only matter to the extent that they affect governments and corporations.
Our perfectionism about our carbon footprints is awfully convenient for big corporations.
Researchers Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes write: ‘The very notion of a personal “carbon footprint,” for example, was first popularized in 2004–2006 by oil firm BP as part of its $100+ million per year “beyond petroleum” US media campaign.’
So the overemphasis of personal carbon footprints has basically been a way of deflecting focus from the parties really responsible.
And the changes that we need need to come from governments and corporations, among other entities.
And we might be thinking, Well, I’m not a government or a corporation. So what can I do?
And what I’m trying to express here is that there’s actually a world of possibilities of things we can do. We have influence over governments, corporations, culture, or social groups. And we knew that we had influence on them through our buying actions. But there’s also other ways.
For example, companies care about their brands, and so they care about your opinion of them. So expressing that opinion affects them, and incentivizes them to change. And likewise, voting, speaking to representatives, speaking to other voters, all of these types of advocacy, have an influence on governments and society and culture at large.
So I think a small tweak in how we measure ourselves and what we optimize for when taking environmental action can make a huge difference.
And whatever progress the environmental movement has made, it has been made by groups of individuals working together. If we’re more strategic about it, just imagine how much more effective we could be and how much more progress we could make.
So that’s what I’m trying to convey with this drawing.
Novel update: I finally finished reading my draft. I read it more or less backwards – I started with the last few chapters than the middle at the beginning.
As I got closer to the beginning, the writing got better and better, which was encouraging, because I’d spent a lot of time revising the first portion of the novel. It was so much better than the rest, so now I’m excited to repeat the same process on the remaining chapters.
So that’s what I’ll be doing next. I’ll be reacquainting myself with the editing process I used on the first chapters, and making a plan to apply it again.
For a while now, I’ve been curious about how climate advocacy works at the city level. A city sits right at the sweet spot of being accessible for most of us to talk to, while being able to make impact at scale.
It turns out there is plenty to do in my area of Redondo Beach! (If you’re local to Redondo Beach and want to help out, hit me up at kannapan[at]deeptikannapan.com.)
Here is a brief timeline of my explorations so far:
Jan – Mar 2022: As part of my first Research Quest, I read about the city-level intiative of pledging and tracking emissions reductions called Race to Zero, and got curious about Redondo Beach was part of it. It wasn’t.
June 2022: I started calling and emailing my city council members to ask if we wanted to join Race to Zero.
August 2022: While waiting for replies to my emails, I wrote letters to the editor to my local newspaper, urging all the neighboring cities to join Race to Zero. While doing this, I got a series of introductions to my local climate advocacy groups. My calendar started filling up with meetings with them – it was like getting the co-curricular fever in freshman year.
By this time, I had found and started reading the Redondo Beach Climate Action Plan that was adopted in 2017. I started pivoting my goal away from Race to Zero and toward looking for ways to help with the climate action plan.
So I started enquiring with the city about how progress with the plan was going, and I also finally worked up the courage to go to a city council meeting. I wrote about it here.
October 2022: From my enquiries, I learned that there had been no action to speak of on the Climate Action Plan. Hoping to help that change, I started reaching out to contacts at the climate advocacy groups I joined.
Everyone I spoke to was super-encouraging and bursting with tips and knowledge. So [after a brief interlude to freak out about the US midterm elections], it’s time to put all of those ideas into action!
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This page will be where I post updates on this project as it continues!
Once again, the third quarter blends into the fourth, and my projects have been inching along chaotically. I’ve been behind on updates, so I will share the outputs I’ve hoarded these past few months in bits and pieces from now.
Here are some topics that have been on my mind these past few months.
US Midterm Elections
Participating in election campaigns is a natural extension to environmental advocacy in my opinion, since politics has become increasingly entwined with environmental action. It’s natural that politicians would disagree on what environmental actions the government should take, but in the US, climate change is politicized far beyond that.
The environmental groups I participate in all pivoted to ‘getting out the vote’ (GOTV) efforts to encourage climate-conscious voters to go to the polls this midterm. If you’ve been following the election news, you know it’s been an existential-for-democracy nail-biter, and women and young voters stepped up to the quest. We environmentalists are pretty relieved with the results.
So the lead-up was quite a frenzy for me, writing postcards, phone-banking, making media, and trying to freak out as productively as possible.
I took a much-needed vacation to Scotland and Ireland to visit friends.
I returned refreshed and with plenty of sketches and vacation photographs to make art from. I’m excited to dust off the inks! My library of landscape references was running low.
Organizing my research
For a while now, my research and other notes have been exploding out of my organization systems. I mainly relied on indexes (BuJo style) at the beginning of my notebooks and the occasional spreadsheet to track the writing I produced.
Recently, I’ve gotten on the ‘second brain’ train. (If you haven’t heard, the book Building a Second Brain by Tiago Forte has been taking nerd circles by storm. It’s a book about note-taking, and it was very relevant to my situation.)
I made an organization system in an environment called Obsidian. The main advantage of Obsidian is it enables you to link notes together and manages the links when you move or rename files. There’s other handy functionality from plug-ins and add-ons.
So far, I’ve added about 800 notes about various topics in the last few months, and organized them into a loose structure. I think I’ve finally found a system that can keep up with the bouncing-jumping-skipping way that I work.
I think of it as an extension of my notebook index. I effectively made a map to my notes across all notebooks, hard drives, and cloud accounts, so I can cross-reference them.
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So that’s what being going on under the surface! As for the actual projects, I will summarize briefly and post more details soon.
Research quest: My advocacy goal was to have an op ed accepted (continuing to build on the foundation of comments and letters to the editor). I’ve gotten in the swing of writing and submitting them, with no luck so far. As for reading and blogging, I have some updates to share soon. [Update: Redondo Beach Climate Action]
Novel: I’ve consolidated my manuscript, and there’s a chunk of editing to do. Somehow, every winter I get a burst of writing productivity [Update: the plan for December]. I’m hoping the pattern will hold in the months ahead! I have some concept art to share as well.
Art: I’ve been working in digital illustration mostly! Pictures (and a bit of video) coming soon! [Update: picture]
So, there it is. More of a trailer than an actual update, but I’m glad to be back to sharing some writing and art!
I’ve written recently about the varioussustainabilityskills I’m trying to build: mostly writing and advocacy. The next skill is advocating for change at the city level. This is a project I’m still working on, so there won’t be a “Success! Huzzah!”-type of ending to this post.
As I wrote in my recent letter to the editor, cities need to set science-based targets to work toward net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. I think setting targets is the most basic step toward making any progress.
Redondo Beach, where I live, is a pretty forward thinking place, but they haven’t joined the Race to Zero initiative (which involves making a net-zero pledge and setting science-based targets), unlike several nearby cities. So I started by writing to my council member to ask if the city would consider it.
While waiting to hear back, I also used my city’s customer service portal to get some information. Redondo Beach adopted a climate action plan an few years ago, and I wondered if maybe they were way ahead of me, in terms of planning.
I read the plan itself, and it was pretty solid. Lots of good ideas of measures to look into, including encouraging electric vehicles, greening the city, and the typical measures recommended by the UN and other bodies.
So I asked the city how implementation was going. And…
It hasn’t been going anywhere. See the public comment I made on a City Council Meeting agenda for details:
Deepti Kannapan Location: Submitted At: 6:20pm 08-09-22 At the end of the 2017 Climate Action Plan (https://www.redondo.org/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?BlobID=35593), the next steps were listed as setting up a Climate Action Team and designating an Implementation Coordinator. Per some information I received via customer service request, the Community Development Department is not aware of a Climate Action Team having been formed, and the Community Development Director doesn’t believe any further action was taken other than adopting it. I am waiting for similar information from the City Manager’s office. I wanted to ask how we can follow through on the good foundation set in 2017, and see the proposed measures come to fruition.
So… the plan was made five years ago, and then no action taken on it. I’m hoping that will change soon.
These city council meetings are hybrid in-person/virtual, so I made an eComment and then Iurked on Zoom. I guess I could have spoken my comment if I wanted. They read my comment aloud during the meeting! You watch the video here (just the few seconds where they read it). And kudos for a reasonably good pronunciation of my name.
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I’m pretty new at this advocacy thing, so I’m reaching out to local environmental groups for help.
Some suggestions if you’re curious about trying this:
Did you know cities had customer service portals? Mine turned out to be pretty responsive! You need to check your city’s official site (which may be clunky and old-fashioned).
Here’s an article I read before going, to learn about why going to council meetings is a good idea for being civically engaged in general.
This is a late start to the quarter, since I gave myself an extra month to work on my Q2 goals. I spent today assessing where my projects were at and what they needed most. Without further ado, here is what I’d like to get done in the next couple of months!
Over the past two reading projects, I got the foundation of sustainability knowledge that I’d felt I was missing. There’s always more to learn, of course, but my focus is going to be on output – writing about what I’ve learned, and picking up any additional research I need as I go.
I still have a few blog posts pending from the first reading project, and books to read (that I’m looking forward to) from the second. And most recently, I’ve been experimenting with writing public comments and letters to the editor (LTE).
So my goals are:
Write the last few blog posts from reading project 1,
Read the books from reading project 2,
Continue to write public comments and LTE,
Try to get to the next sustainability skill: writing op-eds! I took a cool class by the OpEd Project last year about how to do it, and I’ve made one submission so far…
YA Fantasy Novel
I have a fairly consolidated draft that needs more detailed editing. I don’t think I can get done with a full edit in the next two months, so my goals are:
edit half the novel,
post regular writing updates and spoiler-free ‘concept art’ (I’m using drawing to help me visualize parts of the story) over on the Fiction page.
I had such a blast doing a 10-day drawing challenge a few months ago that I definitely want to do another one. I have two ideas I just can’t choose between! Maybe I’ll leave it open, and decide when I’m ready. It’ll be a surprise, to me as much as anyone.
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And that’s all! Setting goals after I’ve started – I guess that’s one way to do it.
Are you in the thick of your projects? Do you find it useful to re-evaluate in the middle of them?