Dear Umbra,

I love the scientific ins and outs, really I do, but what oh what can we do about global warming? And I mean us ordinary folks with a house and mortgage and some percentage point of kids and a few compact fluorescents and maybe even a hybrid in the driveway. We’re right there with you, so please don’t leave us hanging.

Peter Kelley
College Park, Md.

Dearest Peter,

Right. Sorry. I got frowny last month, and forgot to put a “we can do it!” sheen on everything. (Which reminds me — has anyone else noticed that everything in mainstream grocery stores looks shellacked? The food, of course, but especially the magazines. They use some new super-shiny cover paper, and it’s creeping me out.)

Make yourself heard.

Photo: iStockphoto.

Basically, all the activities we are advised to do, and which I earnestly pass on to you in various witty or boring ways, are related to global warming. Things like driving less, driving efficient vehicles, replacing light bulbs (this truly does make a difference, it’s not just thrown in as a less-overwhelming choice), buttoning down the house, and replacing appliances are our household-level choices if we own homes and cars.

But we should also get politically active. We can write to government officials and to companies — letters such as, “Dear Power and Light Company, I wish I could buy green energy from you and I know 200 friends who feel the same way,” or “Dear Representative Smooshbug, you can be assured that no one in my precinct will vote for you unless you work to improve CAFE standards this year, with love, your newly appointed precinct officer.” If you’re not sure what to say, check out the letter-writing campaigns run by local and national organizations. Most states, including yours, have a League of Conservation Voters, or a local group dedicated to climate-change issues, such as your Chesapeake Climate Action Network. The national organizations from which I constantly steal data — the Union of Concerned Scientists, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Environmental Defense — all have “action” areas on their sites, and will gladly welcome you to their ranks. You know other groups, too, I’m sure.

Same old, same old, right? Here’s one more: the workplace. No, two more: the workplace and the municipality. Workplace energy efficiency will help with carbon emissions if you are at a traditional office. If your business involves making objects or driving places, there’s even more room for improvement. No advice will fit all workplace situations, but volunteering to lead a team-based energy audit of the office and propose efficiency (read: money-saving) improvements should be met with gladness in most businesses. The feds offer tips at their energy-efficiency and Energy Star sites.

Also, as you may have read, our Emerald City of Seattle is leading a Kyoto-inspired greenhouse-gas reduction effort at the city level. Municipalities across the country have joined the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, and perhaps you can goad yours to join too. Scope it out. Power to the people.

Seattlely,
Umbra