Indy Poll Shows Most Fear Climate Change But Are Less Clear About Solutions

Results of Speak Up! Climate Action How? Survey

Participation in our survey on climate change was down with 24 submissions compared with an average of 70 for the four previous Speak Up! opinion polls.  However, the quality of comments shows that there are members of our community who take climate change very seriously, and who are willing to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

Asked to rate the severity of the climate change threat, respondents overwhelmingly support climate action now, as shown in the chart.

Readers reported a wide range of steps they have taken in the past to address climate change.  The most reported actions, ordered by frequency of appearance are

  1. Recycle/reuse (14)
  2. Solar panels (7)
  3. Windows and insulation (7)
  4. Reduce driving (6)
  5. Support political initiatives (6)
  6. Support sustainability organizations (6)
  7. Compost (5)
  8. Drive a hybrid (5)
  9. Avoid plastic (4)
  10. Grow trees (4)

Climate actions planned for the coming year were a little less clear cut. The most frequent responses were

  1. Support political initiatives (11)
  2. Continue past practices (8)
  3. Support sustainability organizations (5)
  4. Reduce travel (4)
  5. Accumulate less stuff (2)
  6. Become more informed (2)
  7. Buy locally (2)
  8. Purchase electric car (2)
  9. Lower thermostat (2)
  10. Install mini split heating and cooling (2)
  11. Support sustainable agriculture (2)
  12. Adopt vegetarian or simple diet (2)

Several survey participants demonstrated a willingness to think outside the box and sacrifice creature comforts to protect the planet.  Creative or thought-provoking measures reported include

  • Use a composting toilet
  • Adopt heat pump technology
  • Commute by bicycle
  • Buy electricity from a renewable source
  • Air dry laundry
  • Employ environmentally friendly lawn maintenance
  • Take fewer showers
  • Advocate nuclear power

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the survey is that people are coming to believe that, while individual steps are critically important, the pathway to mitigating climate change demands collective political and social action on a global scale.  As one respondent put it,

“I think that the new step that we need to take in 2022 is to become involved with a political movement that is actively working on behalf of climate justice and in the service of structural change – something like what Sunrise Movement is doing with young people.  There’s a lot of that work going on in Massachusetts.  We need to join the folks who are doing it.”

Complete comments are posted below, grouped by how serious respondents consider the climate change threat.

No Threat


Steps taken in the past 
Steps planned for 2022This is the whole survey?

• Any climate/warming/carbon action plan that does not center on increasing the use of nuclear energy is fundamentally not serious.  There is simply no way to go carbon-neutral without a massive switch to nuclear as swiftly as possible
• Secondarily, any plan to reduce carbon emissions that does not rely on a pricing market–as has been so successful with sulfur dioxide (–is also fundamentally not serious

On the above bases, I’ve concluded that most people who call themselves climate activists are fundamentally not serious: they are play-acting at trying to improve the world.  They should foster/adopt a child [I have; he’s 10 now] or help a little old lady cross the street, or basically anything that actually does improve the world.  

Needs Watching


Steps taken in the past• Participated in solar hot water systems in the 70’s; most systems only lasted a few years
• Better windows and insulation

Note: Solar systems built in the 1920’s did a better Job in many respects
Steps planned for 2022• Heat pump heaters and air conditioners vs baseboard electric heat and wood
• Thick internal shades to better insulate windows

Each person in the US is responsible for 250 kilowatt-hours of energy use per day if embedded carbon is considered. Household electrical use is small fraction (less than 5%) as is transportation fuel. Renewable energy is not inexpensive relative to dig it up and use it. We have yet to make any kind of significant reduction in fossil fuel use when all is considered. Nonsense accounting and absurd subsidies rule. Not paying for delivery when small scale solar requires 4 times if not more delivery infrastructure. Solar to be fair should be paying triple or more what none-solar user pays for delivery. Direct fuel use is a small part. Compounded human activity is ignored by many as is all the embedded carbon use. Added CO2 in the Atmosphere is good thing. Do your homework. Land is sinking way more so than the ocean is rising. Ocean rise is defined to include land subsidence/sinking. Ice melt so far is basically insignificant issue as is so-called worst-case rain and high temp extremes. We need action; fossil fuel runs out and the economy fails totally. Actions to date amount to nothing and in fact probably hurt more than they fix. Shutting down the Military (small part of one’s embedded carbon responsibility) would save way more than a few solar panels on your roof. In New England you would need one thousand five hundred 200-watt panels per household to meet the total load.

Significant Action Needed


Steps taken in the past• Energy audits on my house
• Converting to LED’s
• Avoid plastic
• Recycle all I can
Steps planned for 2022• Continue above
• Possibly do another audit as I was sent info to do one


Steps taken in the past• I live in a very efficient home, heavily insulated
• Solar roof panels
• I drive Prius
• With colleagues on the Amherst Municipal Affordable Housing Trust, I developed an RFP for a new development that requires the developer to construct sustainable residential units
Steps planned for 2022More of the same!


Steps taken in the pastRebuilt my old windows with double glass and new insulation
Steps planned for 2022I have been looking into alternatives to my 48-year-old (hot air) oil burner. So far, I haven’t found any information on mini split type systems for a large house


Steps taken in the past• Voted to pass the Net Zero Energy Buildings Bylaw.
• Installed solar panels on my roof
• Switched my gas oven to electric induction
• Bought a hybrid vehicle to replace a gasoline-powered car
• Recycle and compost in my home
Steps planned for 2022• Support and vote for progressive candidates for political office
• Advocate for sustainability initiatives in the Town, and in the school and library building projects


Steps taken in the past• Reduce interior temperatures in winter to the minimum
• Reduce auto use by more walking and cycling
• Virtually end air travel (thanks, COVID, for helping with that) …
Steps planned for 2022Invest in offshore wind generation of AC electric energy (much higher efficiency than PV to AC electric energy, both in terms of capital and operation) …


Steps taken in the past• Downsizing in many ways — smaller house, shared automobile
• Serious recycling
• Advocating for less municipal building and support for climate action by council
Steps planned for 2022• All of the above
• Advocacy of more reuse of town buildings and other stuff
• Reduction of accumulation of stuff
• Reduce travel! (painful)


Steps taken in the past• Electric car
• Solar panels
• Mini split heat pumps
• Try to not use plastic bags or plastic bottles
• Recycle all that I can
Steps planned for 2022• Continue minimizing use of plastics
• Keep thermostats down in rooms not being used
• Walk more, drive less

Life-threatening Emergency


Steps taken in the past• I’ve been a bicycle commuter for 64 years
• I’ve dried my laundry outside all my life
• I chose to live in the center of town so that I would not have to taxi my children to their activities or school, and we would not need more than one car
• Of course, I recycle, re-use, and donate usable goods
• Of course, I give $$ to conservation and preservation organizations
• I buy electricity from only renewable sources
• I replaced all my windows
• and my house is fully insulated
Steps planned for 2022• I am installing mini splits at this moment in order to stop burning oil and I keep the thermostat at 66
• I expect to replace my gas stove this year
• And continue with the above


teps taken in the past• I have no car, only bicycles to get around
• I procure all my food locally (no supermarkets, only for sugar, salt and toilet paper) most of them growing myself and preserve for winter
• All LED lighting in the house
• I don’t use the oil furnace, only heat with wood
• I have no lawn to mow, and grow a lot of greens, trees, and bamboo

But the list of selections is not quite adequate. For me it is more like “Do my best, and peacefully accept traveling to climate hell in a handbasket, while I watch all the cars zipping by from my bicycle”. Check!
Steps planned for 2022What else can I do?
• I feed my chickens with discarded food from town dumpsters
• I use a composting toilet, so I don’t waste our waste products if you know what I mean
• Take less showers
• Wash clothes less frequently
• Eat naturally and simply so I smell less
• And I put up with all the flack I get for not having a car, looking like a farmer, and not fitting in as a normal folk
• I am giving the land under my house to Amherst Community Land Trust, so my house may help stabilize the neighborhood, hopefully reducing its carbon footprint a bit 


Steps taken in the past• Vegetarian
• Drive a hybrid
• Recycle paper and plastic
• Supported Amherst zero-energy bylaw
Steps planned for 2022I believe that meaningful climate remediation will require bold measures at all levels of government. I aim to become more informed about green energy policies and solutions, and more committed to the climate action movement.


Steps taken in the past• Home insulation
• Energy efficiency
• Driving as little as possible
Steps planned for 2022Continue these efforts  


Steps taken in the past• Bought energy efficient appliances and insulating window shades in 2009
• Installed rooftop solar panels in 2014
• Upgraded home insulation in 2015
• Installed energy efficient heat pump in 2019
• Eating far less red meat
• Overall: not enough
Steps planned for 2022• Eat less red meat
• Support causes and candidates that protect forests
• Take climate change seriously
• Consider building a higher efficiency smaller home with solar panels that doesn’t use fossil fuel for heat/cooling
• Consider the purchase of an EV vehicle
• Stay open to learning what else can be done on an individual level


Steps taken in the past• Supported resolution re climate change as member of Town Meeting
• Drive a Prius
• Persuaded my husband to buy a hybrid
• Buy all energy star appliances
• Support climate change activist groups
• Led a church service about climate change
• Teach about climate change
• Use cloth napkins
• Buy used clothes
• Support preservation of trees
• E-mail congressional reps
Steps planned for 2022• Might buy an electric car
• Exploring putting a solar roof on house
• Want to start composting
• Give more money to groups fighting climate change
• Contact reps and president about policies to fight climate change


Steps taken in the pastI work with Mothers Out Front locally and on state legislation to transition our buildings to all electric, protect communities from polluting energy emissions, and get environmental justice leaders at the decision-making table.  
Steps planned for 2022• I want to link the energy transition work more to dismantling systemic racism locally and at the state level
• Locally, a multi-town energy aggregation will be starting their Community Advisory Committee. This will be a chance for BIPOC and low-income residents to take a leading role in the just transition to local clean energy choices


Steps taken in the past• Solar panels on our house
• Electric vehicle
• Super-insulation in walls of house
• Air source heat pumps for heating and cooling
Steps planned for 2022• Buy fewer things
• Shop more at local farm stands
• Encourage Town Councilors to push for energy efficiency in town including
o Electric vehicles
o Solar panels on buildings and parking lots
o Making sure all new Buildings are to the highest standards of energy efficiency (not the minimum standards i.e. going beyond LEED standards and more Living Green Building Standards like the Kern Center and the Hitchcock Center)
o Creating walkable greenways between village and around village centers


Steps taken in the past• I belong to a local farm and eat local food
• Try not to buy plastic, non-local items, items with too much packaging.
• I compost
• I have solar panels and have had an EV for 10 years. I don’t buy what I don’t need
• Buy second hand
• Don’t use chemicals in my house or on my lawn
• Legislative advocacy on federal, state, and local level
Steps planned for 2022I want to do more advocacy for zero waste and to help community choice energy get off the ground  


Steps taken in the past• Activism on behalf of the climate
• Composting, recycling, reusable bags, water bottles, etc.
• All electric lawn and garden maintenance
• Planting native plants
• Volunteering to plant over 100 trees in Amherst
Steps planned for 2022• More walking, biking, rather than driving
• Enhancing the steps I’ve already taken
• Shopping more locally
• Finding ways to use reusable energy at my home despite not owning the property


Steps taken in the pastThere is very little I can do that is new. I don’t have the resources for electric car or solar panels so I’m just recycling and buying conscientiously like I always have.  
Steps planned for 2022The real source of potential change is corporations who do much more of the damage than individuals. In that sense I support candidates and political organizations who understand this and work to invest, regulate and make changes there.  


Steps taken in the past• Reduced amount of propane to heat home
• Pay for wind power RECs with electric bill
• Contribute to American Forests (tree planting) and environmental groups,
• Compost
• Recycle
• Eat less meat
• Buy local organic foods
• Own a plug-in hybrid
• Work professionally on transportation electrification
Steps planned for 2022• Same
• Reduce vehicle trip
• Support political candidates
• Anything else we can think of


Steps taken in the pastOur household has taken several “personal choice” type steps, some of which I list below but I understand that we are not going to resolve the climate emergency or head off the apocalypse through personal, lifestyle changes. We need substantial structural changes at a global scale to avert disaster. Changes like dramatically reducing the use of fossil fuels and stopping the pollution of the oceans and shifting to a sustainable rather than a growth-oriented economy. The pressing question for all of us then is not so much about what kind of light bulbs we use or how we conserve energy in our home (though we should do these things) but how we can exercise collective power to force the necessary changes in the economy and in the politics of the environment. Here are some of the major things we do at the household level.

• We endeavor to be purposeful about reducing our household carbon footprint
• We drive and electric car and have installed solar panels on our home
• We are avid recyclers and composters, and are trying to embrace a zero-waste strategy at the household level
• We attempt to use re-usable rather than throw-away containers for food stuffs
• We donate to several environmental organizations
• We have pretty much stopped flying (though that may be more a product of the pandemic)
• We try to increase our understanding of the crisis through education.
Steps planned for 2022I think that the new step that we need to take in 2022 is to become involved with a political movement that is actively working on behalf of climate justice and in the service of structural change – something like what Sunrise Movement is doing with young people.  There’s a lot of that work going on in Massachusetts.  We need to join the folks who are doing it.  


Steps taken in the past• Joined Mothers Out Front
• Signed many petitions
• Attended demos
Steps planned for 2022• Continue with above
• Lower carbon footprint
• Reduce meat in diet


Steps taken in the past• Reduced my consumption by not buying junk
• Reduced buying gas by not driving as much
• Reduced my income by not working so much
Steps planned for 2022Trying to accept that we are too late to save the natural world we used to know  
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