Moyers and McKibben: What to Do When Time Is Running Out for the Planet
By Bill Moyers
I wasn't one of the 50,766 participants who finished the New York City Marathon last weekend. Instead, I spent the average marathon finish time of 4:39:07 to read a book—obviously a small book. In the interest of disclosure, I didn't even start the race, but that's another and even shorter story than Radio Free Vermont, the book from which I did occasionally look up and out the window to check on the stream of marathoners passing our apartment, their faces worn and haggard.
A shame, I thought, that I couldn't go outside and hand each one a copy of the book that had kept me smiling throughout the day while also restoring my soul; I was sure the resilience would quickly have returned to weary feet and sore muscles now draped in aluminum foil for healing's sake. I admire those athletes, but wouldn't have traded their run for my read, because Radio Free Vermont is funny, very funny, all the more so considering the author is one of the more serious men on the planet—the planet he has spent his adult life trying to save.
Bill McKibben's calling has been a footrace of its own, not to report to Athenians the victory of Greek warriors over the Spartans, but to wake up Americans to the once creeping, now billowing threat of global warming. For 30 years now climate change has been his beat—first as a journalist, then as an environmentalist and now as the leading activist in mobilizing a worldwide movement to win a race against time. In Radio Free Vermont, his latest book, he turns to humor for inspiration as runners go to bottled water for sustenance, and has us laughing all the way to the finish line. Also in the interest of disclosure, you should know Bill McKibben and I are old friends who sometimes conspire in plotting resistance to—well, read on.
Bill Moyers: Sixteen books of first-rate journalism and now a novel. Your first. Did reality become too much for you?
Bill McKibben: I've been working on this story just to amuse myself over the years, little bits at a time. But this year seemed like the year when everybody else could use a little relief from another of my usual depressing books about the world in the middle of another depressing year. That seemed just too much angst all around, so I thought maybe it would be OK to indulge my funnier side a little bit, in the service of the resistance to all that's happening around us.
Penguin Press, 2017
Moyers: Well, it's a hoot and a romp—and a meditation on the state of the world as experienced in the state of Vermont. Did you have fun writing it?
McKibben: Maybe too much. It's probably not a great sign when a writer sits there cackling at his own jokes while he's writing them. But it cheered me up, anyway.
Moyers: From Concord and Lexington on April 18, 1775—"the shot heard 'round the world"—to Paris, France on July 14, 1789—the storming of the Bastille—it's a stretch to Radio Free Vermont broadcasting on the run from an "undisclosed and double-secret location in Vermont." You give us an opening scene that gets the heart beating and the blood running as hints of secession waft through the globally warmed January Green Mountain air.
McKibben: Vermont has an interesting history. It's the 14th state in the Union, and there was a big gap between [it and] the first 13. It took 10 or 11 years for Vermont to decide that it was going to join the Union and not continue, as it was for a bit, as an independent republic. I'm not actually thinking that we should secede again—at least right now. But man, there are moments this past year when it's been hard not to think that one would want to separate from the United States, if only psychically, at least for a little while.
Moyers: Are you picking up where Edward Abbey left off with The Monkey Wrench Gang—everyday people willing to become outlaws for justice?
McKibben: Ed Abbey—yes. The Monkey Wrench Gang was one of my great delights of any book I've ever read, and Abbey I knew at the end of his life and liked enormously. The thing I liked most about him was that he was funny, and so I hope this is, too. It does seem to me that humor doesn't end up playing as large a role in our literature as it should. We've confined it to the work of late-night comedians.
Moyers: Explaining, perhaps, why you turned not just to fiction but to a fable. Fables are playful.
Moyers: Sometimes the truth goes down easier when it's more playful.
McKibben: Well, Anna Karenina this is not.
Moyers: I don't live in Vermont. You do. But I spend a lot of time there, as you know, and I can swear to seeing people like your characters on the streets, in their pickups, in coffee shops, on the town greens, talking to their neighbors. The characters in Radio Free Vermont are very real.
McKibben: I've spent my life living in rural America, some of it in blue state Vermont, some of it in red state upstate New York. They're quite alike in many ways. And quite wonderful. It's important that even in an urbanized and suburbanized country, we continue to take rural America seriously. And the thing that makes Vermont in particular so special, and I hope this book captures some of it, is the basic underlying civility of its political life. That's rooted in the town meeting. Each of the towns in Vermont governs itself. We have a meeting the first Tuesday in March—
Moyers: In every town?
McKibben: Every town. Everybody comes, sits down in the high-school gymnasium or the church or wherever the meeting happens and spends the day hashing out the budget for the next year and how much the town clerk should be paid and if it's time to buy a new grader for the road. That system has worked well for hundreds of years, but it couldn't work if those meetings were filled with Donald Trumps standing up and insulting people all the time. And on occasion, when someone like that shows up in Vermont, everybody knows to ignore them. One wishes the U.S. had known how to ignore this guy Trump when he stood up and started bellowing.
Moyers: If I were making a movie out of Radio Free Vermont, I would turn to Motown for the score, because Motown songs run through your story—in all-white Vermont!
McKibben: Vermont's great problem, of course, is its signal lack of diversity. It's about as white as you can get. And there's no way to remedy that in fiction, except in this case to suggest that at the very least it could use a better musical score.
Jedidiah Morse, John Stockdale, 'Map of Vermont,' 1794Library of Congress
Moyers: Where did you come up with Vern Barclay?
McKibben: This is the septuagenarian former radio host who's the hero, in a way, of this book. One of the inspirations for it was the man who runs the radio station WDEV. It's the last great independent radio station I know of anyplace in the country. I wrote about it years ago for Harper's. A long piece. It's a radio station that carries the Red Sox, carries all the stock car races from Thunder Road in Barre, carries Amy Goodman's daily broadcast—the only commercial station in America that carries Democracy Now. It has a libertarian hour in the morning. It has its own bluegrass radio band. The biggest draw of the entire week comes Saturday morning, when the man on whom Vern Barclay is somewhat modeled does an hour-long show called Music To Go To the Dump By. What's important about this is the notion that we have lost the ability for civilized discourse, and this fellow who wants to secede from the Union is broadcasting clandestinely, and he's not only nonviolent physically, he's also nonviolent rhetorically. He gives his best shot and then says, "But I may be wrong" as he encourages people to think through what he's saying. And that's the part that feels missing to me most in the world we inhabit right now.
Moyers: And he is broadcasting "underground, underpowered and underfoot," as the state police close in on him.
McKibben: That's it.
Moyers: Why is he fomenting rebellion?
McKibben: The plot device is the fight against Walmart. Vermont was the last state in the Union with no Walmarts at all, and even now we've only got a couple, thank heaven. So he had been sitting there behind the microphone for many decades talking with Vermonters and interviewing them and watching the community start to erode around him, watching as Vermont began to work less well as it began to be overtaken by the forces of bigness. That's obviously not special about Vermont. That's the story of America in many ways over the last 50 years.
Moyers: The folks in Marshall, Texas, my hometown, will be reading Radio Free Vermont, I'm sure. Walmart came in there and you cannot believe the beautiful trees that went down as the huge box store went up.
McKibben: The consumer culture in general has washed over our civilization. And one result is that neighbors like these became optional in America. For the last 50 years, if you've had a credit card and some access to money, you don't really need neighbors around you. And as a result, they dwindled. The average American has half as many close friends as they did in 1950. Three quarters of Americans don't know their next-door neighbor. They may know their name, but they have no real relationship with them. That's an utterly new place for human beings to find themselves in—I mean, we're a socially evolved primate. It wasn't that many generations ago that we were sitting on the savannah picking lice out of each other's fur. It's got to be one of the reasons that we're going so crazy right now.
Moyers: And this is why your hero—
McKibben: It's why he gets angry at certain things and starts down particular roads without thinking very far [ahead] about where they're going to take him.
Moyers: I understand that. I was sad when those trees disappeared in Marshall.
McKibben: Sad is appropriate as well. And I think for those who've lived through these changes, there's a certain amount of just plain puzzlement, too. How did this happen? How did the world that we knew so quickly dissolve into the kind of froth we see at the moment?
Moyers: So I'll give away a few details of your story—of where Vern Barclay's little rebellion takes us. Your characters hijack a Coors beer truck and fill it with local beer, of which there's plenty in Vermont. They hack into a Starbucks sound system to announce that Vermont still has coffee shops actually owned by Vermonters, and the money stays in the state. And this is my favorite: They stage a walkout of middle-school students in honor of Ethan Allen Day. Ethan Allen is one of my favorite figures in American history.
McKibben: Ethan Allen, the great Vermont progenitor. And not an entirely admirable character in every way, a kind of real estate speculator and—
Moyers: Part theologian, part businessman, part philosopher, part politician. But in his own way—
McKibben: A great man. A great man.
Moyers: Many parts a patriot.
McKibben: Absolutely, a great character—
Moyers: Founder of the Green Mountain Boys. Hero of Ticonderoga—
McKibben: Yep. The cannon that he liberated from Fort Ticonderoga was the cannon that drove the British out of Boston.
Moyers: And when the British general surrendered the fort to him, he accepted it "in the name of the great God Jehovah and the Continental Congress."
McKibben: The Continental Congress. I forgot that line. He had a good self-dramatizing sense. Absolutely.
Moyers: If you're lucky, you'll get Lin-Manuel Miranda to produce Radio Free Vermont on Broadway.
McKibben: I'm afraid rebellion comes naturally to me. You mentioned Concord and Lexington in Massachusetts. I grew up in Lexington. And I used to give summer tours of the Battle Green, the "birthplace of American liberty." Really, Lexington marked the start of the worldwide battle against imperialism and colonialism, and I would put on my tricorn hat and go out and tell tourists about the beginning of that fight. So I've never in my life confused dissent with a lack of patriotism. Just the opposite, in many ways.
Moyers: You've written how those Minutemen "fought against the unpredictable, unrepresentative and unaccountable power that the king represented. They felt they had no more voice in the central government than many feel right now."
McKibben: No taxation without representation! How many of us feel truly represented? One of the ironies of this book is that Vermont in some ways should be the last place to secede from the Union. We come closer to having an effective democracy than anyplace. There's 600,000 of us and we have two senators—Sanders and Leahy—and we can see them in the grocery store and call them on the phone. I can't imagine why California settles for only two senators. It's the sixth-largest economy in the world. It's got 40 million people. And two senators, just as we have in Vermont. The idea of one man, one vote is increasingly crazy in this country, and so is the malignant effect of money on our political life, as you have been reporting a long time now.
Moyers: Fiction doesn't always have a moral, but fables always have a moral. What do you want us to take away from this one?
McKibben: Not that we all should secede from the Union. Instead, let's resist. I really wrote this as a love note to the resistance—the resistance that's been happening over the last 10 years. I've been a part of it with the organization 350.org, fighting global warming, and now in the resistance that's sprung up in the last year since Donald Trump took over. That's been the one heartening thing about this year: the antibodies have assembled themselves to try and fight off the fever that America's now in. I'm no Pollyanna, so I don't know if it's going to work or not. Sometimes the antibodies don't get there in sufficient quantity or in sufficient time, and you end up amputating.
Moyers: Let's pause right here and talk about this present moment as reality, not fable. Here's what your story prompts me to ask: When people realize the current order of things no longer works and the institutions of government and society are failing to fix them—failing to solve the problems democracy creates for itself—what options do they have?
McKibben: Well, I don't think we're in a place where rebellion in the sense of the American Revolution works anymore. One of the reasons that I'm a big advocate of nonviolence is that it's the only thing that makes sense. Taking up arms against a government that has the world's biggest supply of them is just a bad idea right from the start. But that doesn't mean there aren't other ways to resist, and we're seeing more and more of it coming from all directions. There are lots of lawyers testing what we can still do with the courts. There are demonstrators in the streets reminding us that when people rise up in large numbers, it makes it more difficult for the government to do bad things. There are people on social media and people jamming the switchboards on Capitol Hill, and there are people by thousands getting ready to run for office in this country, and people trying all kinds of different routes. To me, the thing that activists work for more than anything is not a new law. It's a change in the zeitgeist.
Moyers: The spirit of the times.
McKibben: Yes. That's the end result of most really big campaigning, and once you get that change in the zeitgeist, then the change in laws and legislation comes relatively easily. But it's winning that battle in the culture, in the atmosphere around us, as it were.
Moyers: For example?
McKibben: The great example in recent times is how effectively people organized around gay marriage. Now, you and I are both old enough to remember when that seemed like an utterly impossible ideal. In fact, five years ago Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were still dead set against it because it didn't poll well. But people changed that. Activists managed to change the zeitgeist around those questions to the point where others began to realize, "Hey, we like people falling in love. Falling in love and getting married is a good thing. We should have more of it and not less." And the minute that that line was crossed, then the battle was for all intents and purposes over.
Moyers: Climate change hasn't been so easy.
McKibben: It's harder with many other things. The fight around climate change, which I've spent my life on, is somewhat more difficult because no one makes trillions of dollars a year being a bigot, and that's how much the fossil-fuel industry pulls in pumping carbon into the air. But the principle is the same, I think.
Moyers: For me the question now is how much time do we have? When it comes to global warming, all signs suggest we are running out of time.
McKibben: The question of time is the question that haunts me. I remain optimistic enough to think that in general human beings will figure out the right thing to do eventually, and Americans will somehow get back on course. Of course, there'll be a lot of damage done in the meantime. But with climate change in particular—the gravest of the problems we face—time is the one thing we don't have. It's the only problem we've ever had that came with a time limit. And if we don't solve it soon, we don't solve it. Our governments so far have not proven capable of dealing with this question. They simply haven't been able to shake off the self-interest and massive power of the fossil-fuel industry. It's going to take a lot of work and a lot of effort to get us onto renewable energy quickly and everywhere. It's doable technically; the question is whether it's doable politically or not. There I don't know.
Moyers: You've said that winning slowly in this fight—
McKibben: Winning slowly is another way of losing. Look, we're screwing up our health care system again right now. That's going to cause grave trouble for people over the next five, 10 years. There are going to be lots of people who die, lots of people who are sick, lots of people who go bankrupt. It's going to be horrible. But 10 years from now it will not be harder to solve the problem because you ignored it for those 10 years. It won't have changed into some completely other problem. With climate change, that's not true. As each year passes, we move past certain physical tipping points that make it impossible to recover large parts of the world that we have known.
Moyers: Just last week we got the National Climate Assessment Report, which says we're now living in the warmest period in the history of modern civilization, and that the average global concentration of carbon dioxide has surged to the highest level in approximately three million years. Three million years!
McKibben: Three million years, and the last time there was this much CO2 in the atmosphere, the temperature of the planet settled several degrees higher, which results in approximately a 20-meter rise in the level of the oceans. Times Square is 16 meters above sea level, just to give you a little bit of reference. We're playing with forces so enormous now. As you know, I wrote the first book about climate change almost 30 years ago—
McKibben: When I started writing about it, climate change was still theoretical and abstract. Now it bludgeons you weekly. Think about the last eight weeks and confine yourself to the small percent of the planet that's covered by the United States. We had the greatest rainstorm in American history. Hurricane Harvey came ashore in your old state of Texas and dropped 54 inches in parts of Houston. That's more rain than we've ever seen at one time in the United States. Hurricane Irma, on its heels, is the longest ever recorded on the planet—longest storm with a wind speed above 185 miles an hour. Maria comes to Puerto Rico 10 days after that, it knocks an entire island 30 years back in its development. It's going to be that long before they get back to where they were in August. And then look at what happens in California after the hottest and driest summer ever recorded there. Napa and Sonoma, which are as close as you get to our definition of what constitutes the good life—you know, prosperous beautiful communities, surrounded by big buckets of wine—Napa and Sonoma burn in the course of hours. People flee for their lives and the people who are slow don't make it.
Moyers: We are divided, it seems to me, between the passionately ignorant and the passively informed. And therefore paralyzed.
McKibben: We have to take some percentage of the passively informed and make them into the actively engaged. That's what movement-building is about. And we don't have to get all of them. There's a wonderful new book by the Engler brothers called This is an Uprising. It's an impressive history of nonviolence, a great sort of accounting of what we know from the last 50 or 75 years of nonviolent resistance. One of the things they find—and I think they're quoting an academic named Erica Chenoweth—is that if you can get 3.5 percent of the population actively engaged in some fight, then you usually win. That makes intuitive sense to me. What it means is that apathy cuts both ways. If you have a largely unengaged population, then some people getting engaged can move it in big ways. We saw that with the tea party quite effectively.
Moyers: They took over the Republican Party.
McKibben: That's right, and now we need to see it from the other direction.
Moyers: Standing against the tide of movement that you and others are creating is something you haven't really faced before. A president as defiant as you, who insists that climate change isn't real. He and his cronies are twisting themselves into pretzels to justify blocking efforts to reverse global warming.
McKibben: Absolutely. We may well run out of time. Part of me has never been particularly optimistic about the fight. The name of that book that I wrote back in 1989 was The End of Nature—not a very cheerful title. So we may well run out of time. But at the very least now, the one heartening thing is we are not going to run out of fight. It's going to be a battle. It's being engaged every day all over the world. And that at least is some consolation.
Moyers: Are there other consolations?
McKibben: It's not an impossible battle, because the engineers have done their job too. The last 10 years, we've watched the price of a solar panel fall 80 percent. That means there is no longer any mystery about what we do. If we were serious, we would put up a lot of solar panels.
Moyers: As the Chinese are doing.
McKibben: The Chinese are rapidly doing it.
Moyers: I saw some news footage the other night: hundreds of acres in China—thousands—covered with solar panels.
McKibben: The Chinese are trolling us. They're building hundreds of giant solar parks in the shape, from the air, of pandas. You look down and there's a panda's face composed entirely of solar panels. I think they're just making fun of us.
Prototype of Chinese wind farm in the shape of a panda.UNDP
Moyers: I don't think any reader who knows you will put this book down without asking what does Bill McKibben think we can do now, given the folly of our government? What can we do about the fate of the earth as the planet gets hotter and the United States turns thumbs down on responding. As you just said, you spent the last 30 years trying to warn us about the threat. You've written important books, you've produced stellar journalism, you've traveled and lectured, protested and petitioned. You've organized and led marches and got yourself arrested outside Barack Obama's White House. Indeed, it wasn't until things like that happened that Obama finally woke up and started coming up with policies to fight global warming. It took that long to move a progressive Democrat. Now we have a president surrounded by like-minded cronies and supported by a Congress controlled by Republicans, a party that seems absolutely willing to let the earth burn for profit. What would you have us do against such—such counter-resistance?
McKibben: You're right; we can't make any progress in DC, at least for now. One of the things that we have to do in the moment is make a lot of progress in the places we can: in local communities, in states and cities where we have enough political purchase to get things done. And really that's a larger span of places than you would think.
Moyers: That's what you and several thousand other people were doing the other night here in Carnegie Hall, wasn't it?
McKibben: We had a great gathering here in Carnegie Hall. We were kicking off this 1,000 Cities Campaign. Between the Sierra Club and a bunch of other allies we've been asking cities in the last year to commit to 100-percent renewable energy, I think there's 47 major American cities that have done that now. At first it was the obvious ones—Berkeley, California, and Madison, Wisconsin—but now it's Atlanta and Salt Lake City and San Diego, among others. You'll recall that when President Trump pulled us out of the Paris Climate Accord—by the way, just think about that for a minute: a truly shameful thing to say that America, which has put more carbon in the atmosphere than any other country, was going to go back on its word, break its word, walk away from its commitments to an international body—he said, "I was elected to govern Pittsburgh, not Paris." That afternoon the mayor of Pittsburgh announced, "We're going to make our city 100 percent renewable energy, thank you very much," which was at the moment the best response you could give Trump. Bill, we have to believe that some combination of events, and we can see some of them forming, may cause the fever in Washington to break. But we can't sit around just hoping for that to happen and nothing else. Our job in the meantime is to take on as many places as we can and start making them work again. Not just on climate, although that's really key, but on 100 other questions as well from voting rights to fair taxation to all the other things that are being suppressed on a national level.
Moyers: What specifically did you ask that packed house at Carnegie Hall to do?
McKibben: At this point I'm much more of an organizer than a writer, I guess, and I couldn't stand the thought of just getting up and giving a speech to 2,500 people without asking them to do something. We inserted a blank sheet of paper in their programs. In between listening to Joan Baez and Patti Smith and Michael Stipe and many other great heroes, I asked them to write Scott Stringer, the comptroller of the city of New York. Now, that's not a job that necessarily gives you a lot of latitude to fight climate change, except that he's ultimately the guy in change of the hundreds of billions of dollars in pension funds from New York City. And believe it or not, a bunch of that is invested in fossil-fuel companies. That makes no financial sense, as the fossil fuel guys have lost more money than anybody else over the last five years—that's why people like the Rockefeller brothers, for heaven's sake, divested. It makes no moral sense. These are the guys who gamed our political system—as Eric Schneiderman, the New York attorney general, is demonstrating daily as he goes after ExxonMobil. It makes no practical sense, Bill—New York City is going to spend billions upon billions building seawalls to try and protect Wall Street. Why would you be investing the city's cash in the companies that are making that work necessary?
Moyers: But of course like many politicians, the comptroller and the mayor of New York have been better at talking about this than doing anything about it. And they're saying, "Well, we'll take this slowly, we'll have some more studies."
McKibben: We've run out of years in which to have studies. This stuff comes at us now so fast that we need change in real time. So, I hope that Mr. Stringer, who may well be a good progressive, will decide this is within his ambit, that he'll be able to take this step and take it soon.
Moyers: You mention ExxonMobil. I have to pinch myself to see if I am awake in the real world when I am reminded that Donald Trump made the CEO of ExxonMobil the U.S. secretary of state. This is the company whose chief scientist told senior management in 1979 that the temperature would rise at least four to five degrees Fahrenheit and that it would be a disaster. And what did ExxonMobil do?
McKibben: They did two things. Here's the real horror. They completely believed it. They went and built all their drilling rigs to compensate for the sea level rise they knew was coming. But they didn't tell any of the rest of us. Instead they spend hundreds of millions of dollars building the architecture of deceit and denial and disinformation that's kept us locked in this 25–year debate about whether global warming was "real" or not, a debate that both sides knew the answer to when it began. It's just that one of them was lying about the answer.
Moyers: What kind of capitalism is it that puts everyone on earth at risk and lies about it for the sake of profit?
McKibben: I'm afraid it's Ayn Randian capitalism—the elevation of the rich to a point of such incredible power that no one can question them. And the only way to deal with that is to build collective power in response. This is the perfect example of the fight of the many and the small against the few and the very big. Hey, there's a great picture on my wall from a couple of summers ago. Shell wanted to go drill in the Arctic.
Moyers: Shell Oil?
McKibben: Yes, Shell Oil. It was insane. Scientists had said, "If you keep burning coal and gas and oil, you will melt the Arctic." And then the Arctic melted just as they had predicted. Did Shell Oil look at the melt and say, "Huh, maybe we should go into the solar-panel business instead?" No, Shell Oil looked at that and said, "Oh, well, now that it's melted it will be easier to drill for more oil up there." That's enough to make you doubt about the big brain being a good adaptation, no? But when they started to take their giant—and I mean giant—drill rig up there to the Arctic from the harbor in Seattle, thousands of people in small craft came out on the water to block it. We called them kayaktavists. And they did so much brand damage to Shell that before the summer was out, Shell threw up its hands and said, "You know what? We're out of the Arctic drilling business," and walked away from their $7 billion investment. Sometimes people can stand up to the monolith. We just better figure out how to do it effectively and fast.
Moyers: Has there been a corporate crime greater than the fossil-fuel industry's propaganda against the truth of global warming since—well, since German industry became part of Hitler's killing machine?
McKibben: Philip Morris took us down one smoker at a time, but Exxon's going one planet at a time. These guys are setting all kinds of records.
Moyers: But it's not just industry that is undermining our efforts to cope with global warming. It's not just those moneybags at the oil companies and the utilities that are engaging in predatory delay. It's a whole lot of folks. Scenery lovers who try to block windmills on the grounds that they will kill birds. Labor unions that try to build pipelines—you've written about how the AFL/CIO came out for building the Dakota Access Pipeline, even after the company sicced German shepherds on peaceful indigenous protesters. Then there are all us urban liberals who resist denser populations in the centers of our cities.
McKibben: Sure, there's a part of all of us whose impulse is to say, "Let's keep everything the same until I die and then you can do whatever you want afterward." [laughs] And that's a difficult part. But Bill, most people don't spend their lives hiring lobbyists to make sure that that happens, don't have the trillions of dollars to spend to make sure that the political system obeys their impulses. So that's why at places like 350.org we look first to the biggest players and try to exert as much leverage as we can there.
Moyers: Just as you say in Radio Free Vermont, movements are the heart of resistance, of change.
McKibben: They're what we've got. Look, do I think that people should in the best of all possible worlds have to go to jail for wanting our government to pay attention to the warnings of scientists about climate change? Not really. I mean, in a rational world, if all the scientists said, "The worst thing that ever happened is about to happen and here's what you should do to stop it," you would expect any rational system to say, "Oh, sure, OK, let's do something about it." But that's not the world we live in. In the world we live in, you do need people willing to stand up, fight, march and sometimes go to jail.
Moyers: But let's take a concrete reality. There's one guy in Washington who has more power than your movement—or so it would seem—and his name is Scott Pruitt. He's the guy Donald Trump has turned loose to destroy the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt thinks climate science is a hoax. He's a hack for the energy industry, a tool. He's shredded the budget for global warming. He's making it impossible for us to get from the EPA the science we need to know about climate change. He's stripping independent experts from the EPA Science Advisory Board so he can replace them with representatives of oil and gas companies. He's a fanatic—including a religious fanatic, to be frank—he even quoted the Bible last week to justify what he's doing to the Science Advisory Board. He protects himself around the clock with an 18-man security detail. He even has a soundproof booth built near his office so nobody can hear him colluding with corporate lawyers. Scott Pruitt has a killer's instinct, and he's clearly prepared to see the earth burn up and people with it as long as his enablers can make money. What do you do about a Scott Pruitt, firmly ensconced in office, backed by the Trump White House, willfully, even cheerfully, doing everything he can do every day to impede the fight against global warming and environmental destruction?
McKibben: In the very short run, there's nothing we can do. This was the Koch brothers' fantasy come to life. This is what they've worked for all those years that you've covered what they've been doing. In the slightly longer run, we do what we can within the electoral system to try and rein them in. If we get to the 2018 congressional races and the Democrats take back either the Senate or House, there will be at least some check on what Trump and the Republicans can do, or at least some ability to investigate and subpoena what they are doing. In the longer run, though—the slightly longer run, because we don't have a great deal of long run—what we have to do is what I said earlier: not be content merely with playing defense, but with really changing the zeitgeist. Because it's important to remember that wonderful as he looks in retrospect, Barack Obama wasn't solving this problem either. In Obama's time, and with his blessings, the U.S. passed Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the biggest producer of hydrocarbons on the planet. I like Barack Obama and I voted for him twice, and if he were still president, I'd be outside his door again the next day demanding that he actually do something about these problems. And that's the work that goes on. It's not going to be pretty in the short run, Bill. We're getting routed. But we better take that as the reminder not to give up our game but to change as best we can the places where we're fighting. That's why this move toward smaller and more local fights is imperative right now.
Moyers: Global warming may be the most immediate and biggest problem we face, but there's a deeper reason we're not confronting it than Trump, Pruitt and the Republicans. It's what moved Vern Barclay and his co-conspirators to think about secession. Let me read you these headlines:
Do you think it could happen here—that enough people stop caring about democracy and give up doing what is necessary to save it?
McKibben: I think it definitely could. It causes me to lose sleep at night. It's one of the reasons I like living where I live, because I'm convinced that we'll reseed that democracy from the bottom up, from the town meetings of the world, from people organizing and coming together. But whether we can do it in time or not is absolutely an open question, and it's the most trying and vexing open question that we face.
Moyers: Is it possible that we're approaching the limits of our ability to govern as a democracy?
McKibben: It's possible that we're approaching the limits in terms of size. Three hundred million people are a lot to govern at once. It's possible that we're also approaching it in terms of concentrations of wealth and power, which make our system unstable and erratic. When we've reached the point where 10 or 20 Americans have as much wealth as half of their countrymen, it's a little much to expect that our system's going to work very well. Yes, we're clearly at the limits of something systemic, and if we cannot figure out how to make democracy work, then not only are we in trouble, but the planet is in a great deal of trouble, too. Always before, when governments collapsed or civilizations have gone under, the damage has been somewhat limited to the geographic proximity of that place. But because of climate change, we're now at the moment where what happens in a place as big and important as the United States happens everywhere. And that's what keeps me up at night. That's what makes it necessary to have some good local beer from time to time and dream the occasional dream about what a different future might look like.
Moyers: Thank you, Bill McKibben.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Moyers & Company.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By James Shulmeister
Climate Explained is a collaboration between The Conversation, Stuff and the New Zealand Science Media Centre to answer your questions about climate change.
If you have a question you'd like an expert to answer, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
What was the climate and sea level like at times in Earth’s history when carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was at 400ppm?<p>The last time global carbon dioxide levels were consistently at or above 400 parts per million (ppm) was around <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nature14145" target="_blank">four million years ago</a> during a geological period known as the <a href="http://www.geologypage.com/2014/05/pliocene-epoch.html" target="_blank">Pliocene Era</a> (between 5.3 million and 2.6 million years ago). The world was about 3℃ warmer and sea levels were higher than today.</p><p>We know how much carbon dioxide the atmosphere contained in the past by studying ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica. As compacted snow gradually changes to ice, it traps air in bubbles that contain <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/annals-of-glaciology/article/enclosure-of-air-during-metamorphosis-of-dry-firn-to-ice/09D9C60A8DA412D16645E6E6ABC1892F" target="_blank">samples of the atmosphere at the time</a>. We can sample ice cores to reconstruct past concentrations of carbon dioxide, but this record only takes us back about a million years.</p><p>Beyond a million years, we don't have any direct measurements of the composition of ancient atmospheres, but we can use several methods to estimate past levels of carbon dioxide. One method uses the relationship between plant pores, known as stomata, that regulate gas exchange in and out of the plant. The density of these stomata is <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/095968369200200109" target="_blank">related to atmospheric carbon dioxide</a>, and fossil plants are a good indicator of concentrations in the past.</p><p>Another technique is to examine sediment cores from the ocean floor. The sediments build up year after year as the bodies and shells of dead plankton and other organisms rain down on the seafloor. We can use isotopes (chemically identical atoms that differ only in atomic weight) of boron taken from the shells of the dead plankton to reconstruct changes in the acidity of seawater. From this we can work out the level of carbon dioxide in the ocean.</p><p>The data from four-million-year-old sediments suggest that <a href="https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2010PA002055" target="_blank">carbon dioxide was at 400ppm back then</a>.</p>
Sea Levels and Changes in Antarctica<p>During colder periods in Earth's history, ice caps and glaciers grow and sea levels drop. In the recent geological past, during the most recent ice age about 20,000 years ago, sea levels were at least <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/292/5517/679.abstract" target="_blank">120 meters lower</a> than they are today.</p><p><span></span>Sea-level changes are calculated from changes in isotopes of oxygen in the shells of marine organisms. For the Pliocene Era, <a href="https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2004PA001071" target="_blank">research</a> shows the sea-level change between cooler and warmer periods was around 30-40 meters and sea level was higher than today. Also during the Pliocene, we know the West Antarctic Ice Sheet was <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nature07867" target="_blank">significantly smaller</a> and global average temperatures were about 3℃ warmer than today. Summer temperatures in high northern latitudes were up to 14℃ warmer.</p><p>This may seem like a lot but modern observations show strong <a href="https://journals.ametsoc.org/jcli/article/23/14/3888/32547" target="_blank">polar amplification</a> of warming: a 1℃ increase at the equator may raise temperatures at the poles by 6-7℃. It is one of the reasons why Arctic sea ice is disappearing.</p>
Impacts in New Zealand and Australia<p>In the Australian region, there was no Great Barrier Reef, but there may have been <a href="https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/BF02537376.pdf" target="_blank">smaller reefs along the northeast coast of Australia</a>. For New Zealand, the partial melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is probably the most critical point.</p><p>One of the key features of New Zealand's current climate is that Antarctica is cut off from global circulation during the winter because of the big <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3402/tellusa.v54i5.12161" target="_blank">temperature contrast</a> between Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. When it comes back into circulation in springtime, New Zealand gets strong storms. Stormier winters and significantly warmer summers were likely in the mid-Pliocene because of a weaker polar vortex and a warmer Antarctica.</p><p>It will take more than a few years or decades of carbon dioxide concentrations at 400ppm to trigger a significant shrinking of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. But recent studies show that <a href="http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/521027/" target="_blank">West Antarctica is already melting</a>.</p><p>Sea-level rise from a partial melting of West Antarctica could easily exceed a meter or more by 2100. In fact, if the whole of the West Antarctic melted it could <a href="http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.695.7239&rep=rep1&type=pdf" target="_blank">raise sea levels by about 3.5 meters</a>. Even smaller increases raise the risk of <a href="https://www.pce.parliament.nz/publications/preparing-new-zealand-for-rising-seas-certainty-and-uncertainty" target="_blank">flooding in low-lying cities</a> including Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington.</p>
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By Jo Harper
Investment in U.S. offshore wind projects are set to hit $78 billion (€69 billion) this decade, in contrast with an estimated $82 billion for U.S. offshore oil and gasoline projects, Wood Mackenzie data shows. This would be a remarkable feat only four years after the first offshore wind plant — the 30 megawatt (MW) Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island — started operating in U.S. waters.
Corporates Shift<p>Helping to drive offshore growth, U.S. corporate buyers <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/cities-leading-the-transition-to-renewables/a-42850621" target="_blank">are increasingly relying on wind energy to power their businesses</a>. Walmart and AT&T are the two top corporate wind buyers, while 14 newcomers entered the wind market in 2019, including Estée Lauder and McDonald's.</p><p>"Oil and gas companies have jumped into the U.S. offshore wind market, where they can transfer expertise in offshore fossil fuel development to clean energy investments," says Max Cohen, principal analyst, Americas Power & Renewable research at Wood Mackenzie. Many international oil and gas companies have already recognized this huge potential and entered the US offshore wind market, including Orsted, Equinor and Shell.</p><p>"Given the recent tumult in oil prices, fossil fuel companies may more and more be looking to diversify their portfolios, particularly with assets that are contracted or offer returns uncorrelated with oil and gas," Cohen says. "Offshore wind is an area where they may have a comparative advantage, and they can then leverage the experience with that technology to make the leap to onshore wind, solar, and other renewable technologies," he says.</p>
East Coast leads the way<p>"There is enormous opportunity, especially off the East Coast, for wind. I am very bullish," said former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. "Market excitement is moving towards offshore wind. I haven't seen this kind of enthusiasm from industry since the Bakken shale boom," he said.</p><p>Offshore wind initiatives require excessive upfront spending: a 250 MW venture costs about $1 billion, based on International Energy Agency data, but as costs fall the tipping point after which costs fall faster gets nearer</p><p>"The opportunity has been created by Northeastern states seeing the large price declines for offshore wind in Europe," says Cohen. Onshore wind is historically the lowest cost renewable resource, but is at its most expensive in the Northeast, he adds. "But costs are falling slower than for other technologies," he says.</p>
Jobs and Coastal Revitalization<p>U.S. wind energy now supports 120,000 US jobs and 530 domestic factories. A study by the University of Delaware predicted that the supply chain needed to build offshore turbines to feed power to seven East Coast states by 2030 would generate nearly $70 billion in economic activity and at least 40,000 full-time jobs. An American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA's) March 2020 report estimated that developing 30,000 MW of offshore wind along the East Coast could support up to 83,000 jobs and $25 billion in annual economic output by 2030.</p><p>Having said that, not all of the jobs are American jobs. The offshore wind developers with commercial leases in the US are all foreign companies. There is growing interest from the shipbuilding sector in the Gulf of Mexico in partnering with offshore wind companies to provide services. As a result, some of the US oil trade associations have submitted comments supporting certain aspects of offshore wind. "However, it is unclear to what extent offshore wind developers plan to use US vessels and crew, and the existing projects did not incorporate US vessels or labor at all," Hawkins says.</p>
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The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed both the strengths and limitations of globalization. The crisis has made people aware of how industrialized food production can be, and just how far food can travel to get to the local supermarket. There are many benefits to this system, including low prices for consumers and larger, even global, markets for producers. But there are also costs — to the environment, workers, small farmers and to a region or individual nation's food security.
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By Joe Leech
The human body comprises around 60% water.
It's commonly recommended that you drink eight 8-ounce (237-mL) glasses of water per day (the 8×8 rule).
1. Helps Maximize Physical Performance<p>If you don't stay hydrated, your physical performance can suffer.</p><p>This is particularly important during intense exercise or high heat.</p><p>Dehydration can have <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-tell-if-youre-dehydrated" target="_blank">a noticeable effect</a> if you lose as little as 2% of your body's water content. However, it isn't uncommon for athletes to lose as much as 6–10% of their water weight via sweat.</p><p>This can lead to altered body temperature control, reduced motivation, and increased fatigue. It can also make exercise feel much more difficult, both physically and mentally.</p><p>Optimal hydration has been shown to prevent this from happening, and it may even reduce the <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/oxidative-stress" target="_blank">oxidative stress</a> that occurs during high intensity exercise. This isn't surprising when you consider that muscle is about 80% water.<a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19344695" target="_blank"><span></span></a></p><p>If you exercise intensely and tend to sweat, staying hydrated can help you perform at your absolute best.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Losing as little as 2% of your body's water content can significantly impair your physical performance.</p>
2. Significantly Affects Energy Levels and Brain Function<p>Your brain is strongly influenced by your hydration status.</p><p>Studies show that even mild dehydration, such as the loss of 1–3% of body weight, can impair many aspects of brain function.</p><p>In a study in young women, researchers found that fluid loss of 1.4% after exercise impaired both mood and concentration. It also increased the frequency of headaches.</p><p>Many members of this same research team conducted a similar study in young men. They found that fluid loss of 1.6% was detrimental to working memory and increased feelings of anxiety and fatigue.<a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/mild-dehydration-impairs-cognitive-performance-and-mood-of-men/3388AB36B8DF73E844C9AD19271A75BF/core-reader" target="_blank"></a></p><p>A fluid loss of 1–3% equals about 1.5–4.5 pounds (0.5–2 kg) of body weight loss for a person weighing 150 pounds (68 kg). This can easily occur through normal daily activities, let alone during exercise or high heat.</p><p>Many other studies, with subjects ranging from <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/signs-of-dehydration-in-toddlers" target="_blank">children</a> to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/symptoms-of-dehydration-in-elderly" target="_blank">older adults</a>, have shown that mild dehydration can impair mood, memory, and brain performance.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Mild dehydration (fluid loss of 1–3%) can impair energy levels, impair mood, and lead to major reductions in memory and brain performance.</p>
3. May Help Prevent and Treat Headaches<p>Dehydration can trigger <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/dehydration-headache" target="_blank">headaches</a> and migraine in some individuals.<span></span></p><p>Research has shown that a headache is one of the most common symptoms of dehydration. For example, a study in 393 people found that 40% of the participants experienced a headache as a result of dehydration.</p><p>What's more, some studies have shown that drinking water can help relieve headaches in those who experience frequent headaches.</p><p>A study in 102 men found that drinking an additional 50.7 ounces (1.5 liters) of water per day resulted in significant improvements on the Migraine-Specific Quality of Life scale, a scoring system for <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/migraine-symptoms" target="_blank">migraine symptoms</a>.<a href="https://academic.oup.com/fampra/article/29/4/370/492787" target="_blank"></a></p><p>Plus, 47% of the men who drank more water reported headache improvement, while only 25% of the men in the control group reported this effect.<a href="https://academic.oup.com/fampra/article/29/4/370/492787" target="_blank"></a></p><p>However, not all studies agree, and researchers have concluded that because of the lack of high quality studies, more research is needed to confirm how increasing hydration may help improve headache symptoms and decrease headache frequency.<a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26200171" target="_blank"></a></p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Drinking water may help reduce headaches and headache symptoms. However, more high quality research is needed to confirm this potential benefit.</p>
4. May Help Relieve Constipation<p><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/constipation" target="_blank">Constipation</a> is a common problem that's characterized by infrequent bowel movements and difficulty passing stool.</p><p>Increasing fluid intake is often recommended as a part of the treatment protocol, and there's some evidence to back this up.</p><p>Low water consumption appears to be a risk factor for constipation in both younger and older individuals.</p><p>Increasing hydration may help decrease constipation.</p><p><a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mineral-water-benefits" target="_blank">Mineral water</a> may be a particularly beneficial beverage for those with constipation.</p><p>Studies have shown that mineral water that's rich in magnesium and sodium improves bowel movement frequency and consistency in people with constipation.<a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5334415" target="_blank"></a></p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Drinking plenty of water may help prevent and relieve constipation, especially in people who generally don't drink enough water.</p>
5. May Help Treat Kidney Stones<p>Urinary stones are painful clumps of mineral crystal that form in the urinary system.</p><p>The most common form is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/kidney-stones" target="_blank">kidney stones</a>, which form in the kidneys.</p><p>There's limited evidence that water intake can help prevent recurrence in people who have previously gotten kidney stones.<a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD004292.pub3/full" target="_blank"></a></p><p>Higher fluid intake increases the volume of urine passing through the kidneys. This dilutes the concentration of minerals, so they're less likely to crystallize and form clumps.</p><p>Water may also help prevent the initial formation of stones, but studies are required to confirm this.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Increased water intake appears to decrease the risk of kidney stone formation.</p>
6. Helps Prevent Hangovers<p>A hangover refers to the unpleasant symptoms experienced after drinking <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/alcohol-good-or-bad" target="_blank">alcohol</a>.</p><p>Alcohol is a diuretic, so it makes you lose more water than you take in. This can lead to dehydration.</p><p>Although dehydration isn't the main cause of hangovers, it can cause symptoms like thirst, fatigue, headache, and dry mouth.</p><p>Good ways <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-ways-to-prevent-a-hangover" target="_blank">to reduce hangovers</a> are to drink a glass of water between drinks and have at least one big glass of water before going to bed.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Hangovers are partly caused by dehydration, and drinking water can help reduce some of the main symptoms of hangovers.</p>
7. Can Aid Weight Loss<p>Drinking plenty of water can help you <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-lose-weight-as-fast-as-possible/" target="_blank">lose weight</a>.</p><p>This is because water can increase satiety and boost your metabolic rate.</p><p>Some evidence suggests that increasing water intake can promote weight loss by slightly increasing your metabolism, which can increase the number of calories you burn on a daily basis.</p><p>A 2013 study in 50 young women with overweight demonstrated that drinking an additional 16.9 ounces (500 mL) of water 3 times per day before meals for 8 weeks led to significant reductions in body weight and body fat compared with their pre-study measurements.</p><p>The timing is important too. Drinking water half an hour before meals is the most effective. It can make you feel more full so that you <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/35-ways-to-cut-calories" target="_blank">eat fewer calories</a>.</p><p>In one study, dieters who drank 16.9 ounces (0.5 liters) of water before meals lost 44% more weight over a period of 12 weeks than dieters who didn't drink water before meals.</p>
The Bottom Line<p>Even mild dehydration can affect you mentally and physically.</p><p>Make sure that you <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-much-water-should-you-drink-per-day" target="_blank">get enough water each day</a>, whether your personal goal is 64 ounces (1.9 liters) or a different amount. It's one of the best things you can do for your overall health.</p>
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By Michael Svoboda
The enduring pandemic will make conventional forms of travel difficult if not impossible this summer. As a result, many will consider virtual alternatives for their vacations, including one of the oldest forms of virtual reality – books.
Watchdog Accuses Trump's NOAA of 'Choosing Extinction' for Right Whales by Hiding Scientific Evidence
By Julia Conley
As the North Atlantic right whale was placed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's list of critically endangered species Thursday, environmental protection groups accusing the U.S. government of bowing to fishing and fossil fuel industry pressure to downplay the threat and failing to enact common-sense restrictions to protect the animals.
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By Beth Ann Mayer
Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
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