Soon To Be Carbon Free, by Sheldon Cohen

Hello, dear UU sisters and brothers my name is Sheldon Cohen. I am a long-standing member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Silver Spring in Maryland. I have been working in the environmental conservation field all over the world for over 35 years. I’ve witnessed, firsthand, the destructive impacts of climate change on the natural world. Recently, a cancer diagnosis changed my life. Climate change is now one of my life’s top priorities, and I am developing various ideas around harnessing the power of compassion more effectively in the fight against climate change.

As one step in this journey, I recently wrote and recorded a climate change anthem song entitled “Soon To Be Carbon Free.” My wife sings the harmonies, members of my UU family to contribute instrumentals, and my son has produced this music video—a true family collaboration. This song is a heart-based alarm bell, call for action, and message of hope.

For 35 years, with The Nature Conservancy and other organizations, I have worked to protect and conserve the natural environment all over the world. I have witnessed, firsthand, dead coral reefs, burnt-over forests, and dried up lakes—due in part to climate change. And I’ve witnessed people suffering from the early impacts of climate change. When I was diagnosed with cancer (leukemia) three years ago, I started to look deeply at my own life. I thought about the people in my life who I love so dearly—my family, my friends. I thought about my 25-year old son and the kind of life he and his children will have if we continue down this suicidal path of climate disruption.

I also spent months learning more about just how grave this problem is, and how little time we have to act. I learned that the world’s leading climate scientists, with one voice, recently warned us that we have only 11 years left—until 2030—to reduce by half the current emissions of carbon and other pollution that causes climate change. 11 years left! If we fail to act, we risk an irreversible climate catastrophe that would devastate humanity and other life on Earth.

I’ll be completely honest. In many ways, I have been a climate hypocrite. For years, I have been concerned about climate change yet mostly sitting on the sidelines. I’ve driven an SUV, eaten my share of red meat, and frequently flown all over the world. But recently, I decided to make dramatic changes in my life. I have taken a “Carbon-Free Pledge”—a solemn commitment to make climate change one of my life’s top priorities. Here are some of the actions I’m taking:

  • I am reducing my personal carbon footprint: For example: (1) All of my home energy now comes from wind power; (2) I have sold my gas-only SUV and purchased an electric plug-in hybrid vehicle; (3) I have eliminated red meat and dairy from my diet; (4) I have dramatically reduced my air travel.
  •  have created a new Facebook platform for catalyzing climate action: The focus of this platform will be harnessing the power of compassion more effectively. Please join and follow this new page at Catalyzing Climate Action.
  • I am writing climate change anthem songs and helping to produce music videos. In addition to “Soon To Be, Carbon Free, I am currently working on another song/music video focused on the Youth Climate Movement and designed to help boost their inspiring and growing efforts. I am about to release two new videos centered on A Call to Action, including four concrete steps everyone could take right now to combat climate change.

I also plan to speak out publicly and—working with others in the climate change movement—I intend to contribute to new types of creative, compassion-based strategies designed to help catalyze meaningful climate actions by governments and companies. Such strategies could involve, for example, other cancer survivors, the youth, and those already experiencing the impacts of climate change and climate injustice. Finally, I intend to get more involved in local climate issues in the Washington, DC/Maryland region. Stay tuned.

Sheldon Cohen
Sheldon Cohen