Adam Ruins Going Green

Dec 25 2016

In this episode, Adam turns our world upside down as he reveals why the famous “Crying Indian” PSA wasn’t quite what we thought, explores the surprising history behind the concept of “litterbugs” and examines why electric cars and green produces don’t make the positive impact they’re supposed to. Below are his sources, along with an important and timely message.

A Call to Action for Viewers

Despite support from a majority of Americans, the Trump administration has vowed to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, the landmark international accord negotiated by nearly 200 countries. Without the agreement it’s unlikely we will be able to reduce our carbon emissions enough to prevent the most devastating effects of climate change.

Here’s what you can do:

1. Speak out. Before we can address climate change, we need to spread the word about it. Tell your friends and followers on social media why the Paris Agreement is important, and how it’s our best chance to slow climate change. You can even use social media to speak your mind to our president about the Paris Agreement!

2. Contact your elected officials. Tell your representatives in Congress this issue matters to you. But don’t stop there: tell your state and local elected officials, too. State laws like California’s SB 32 can help pave the way for national legislation. Find all of your elected officials at — and remember: calling works better than writing.

3. Give what you can. Organizations like the National Resources Defense Council and the Union of Concerned Scientists do important work. They need your help. In addition to donating money, you can also volunteer your time.

4. Support science journalism. Subscribe or donate to Science News, Climate Central, or one of the many others recommended by the Society of Environmental Journalists. You’ll stay informed, and you’ll help ensure continued coverage of the ongoing climate crisis.

5. Divest. Divestment is the opposite of investment. There’s a growing movement of people working to end financial support of the fossil fuel industry from colleges, religious organizations, and employers. Find out more and join them at Fossil Free USA.

Sources for “Adam Ruins Going Green”

First of all, the man in the ad, Iron Eyes Cody, was actually an Italian man born Espera DeCorti.”

Ryder, Katie. “Hollywood Indian.” Paris Review. The Paris Review Foundation, 1 Aug. 2013. Web.

After people drank their soda, they’d return the empty glass and manufacturers would wash and reuse those same bottles.”

Jorgensen, Finn Arne. “A Pocket History of Bottle Recycling.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 27 Feb. 2013. Web.

TRASH in CAN SKYROCKETS into BAR GRAPH, lid teeters on top. CHYRON: Rate of container use: 221% increase, 1972.”

Rogers, Heather. Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage. New York: New Press, 2005.

The switch caused so much outrage that in 1953, Vermont introduced a law banning disposable bottles.”

Rogers, Heather. Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage. New York: New Press, 2005.

“Our farms are filling up with bottles and our big dumb cows keep eatin’ em and dyin’!”

Fenton, John H. “VERMONT’S SESSION HAS BUDGET CLASH; Taxes Urged in Place of Plan by Gov. Emerson to Balance Costs by Using Surplus.” New York Times. New York Times Company, 1 Feb. 1953. Web.

I know a better word for them -- LITTERBUGS.”
Plumer, Bradford. “The Origins of Anti-Litter Campaigns.” Mother Jones. Foundation for National Progress, 22 May 2006. Web.

These companies popularized the term litterbug, and shifted the litter-blame from themselves onto you. And all this culminated with Keep America Beautiful’s most famous ad, The Crying Indian.

“Pollution: Keep America Beautiful - Iron Eyes Cody.” Ad Council, 2016. Web.

And now, we’re stuck with disposables, and every year over 100 billion beverage containers end up wasted. Either in a landfill, incinerated, or just plain littered.”

“Bottled Up (2000-2010) - Beverage Container Recycling Stagnates.” Container Recycling Institute, 2010. Web.

And if those power plants are coal burning, driving an electric car can actually put more CO2 into the air than a gas car.”

Oremus, Will. “How Green Is a Tesla, Really?” Slate. Graham Holdings Company, 9 Sep. 2013. Web.

According to a study, even if half of all drivers switched to electric cars, the carbon savings would be negligible.”

Babaee, Samaneh, Ajay S. Nagpure, and Joseph F. DeCarolis. “How much do electric drive vehicles matter to future US emissions?.” Environmental science & technology 48.3 (2014): 1382-1390.

In fact, your new Tesla will probably break down before that happens! And either way, you’re gonna be pumping out tons of CO2 from everything that goes into actually making these cars.”

Berners-Lee, Mike, and Duncan Clark. “What’s the carbon footprint of ... a new car?” The Guardian. Guardian Media Group, 23 Sep. 2010. Web.

Building an electric car requires steel, copper, and aluminum, just like a regular car. And the batteries in electric cars are made of rare metals that take intensive mining.”

Wade, Lizzie. “Tesla’s Electric Cars Aren’t As Green As You Might Think.” Wired. Conde Nast, 31 Mar. 2016. Web.

If we all ditched our trusty-old cars in favor of brand new electrics, we’d actually end up increasing our carbon footprint.”

Berners-Lee, Mike, and Duncan Clark. “What’s the carbon footprint of ... a new car?” The Guardian. Guardian Media Group, 23 Sep. 2010. Web.

Look, the efficiency of your car is kinda besides the point! The real problem is that Americans bought 17.5 million cars last year, and drove a total of 2.7 trillion miles. Buying another car isn’t going to fix that.”

U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration. Annual Vehicle Distance Traveled in Miles and Related Data - 2014 by Highway Category and Vehicle Type. 2015. Web.

You have to burn 54 calories of fossil fuel just to make 1 calorie from beef protein. And because we have so many cows and farms, agriculture accounts for up to one- third of all green house gas emissions.”

U.S. could feed 800 million people with grain that livestock eat, Cornell ecologist advises animal scientists. Cornell Chronicle. Cornell University, 7 Aug. 1997. Web.

Put it all together and this fuel can actually have a larger carbon footprint than this fuel. If you’re eating burgers and then walking, you’re not a hybrid. You’re a gas guzzler!”

Berners-Lee, Mike. How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything. Vancouver: Greystone Books, 2011. Web.

There’s a very good chance it was air-freighted a looong distance to get to you. And air freighting produce is 100 times worse for the environment than shipping by boat.”

Charles, Dan. “Top 5 Ways Asparagus, A Rite Of Spring, Can Still Surprise.” All Things Considered. National Public Radio, 13 Mar. 2014. Web.

And out of season, the same is likely true for baby corn, baby carrots, snap peas, small green beans, okra, shelled peas, lettuce, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries.”

Berners-Lee, Mike. How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything. Vancouver: Greystone Books, 2011. Web.

2015 was the hottest year since we started keeping records in 1880. And thanks to rising ocean temperatures, average sea levels have already risen about eight inches.”

National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Global Land-Ocean Temperature Index. 2015. Web.

And right now, companies and countries already own enough fossil fuel in reserves to get us over that limit five times over.”

McKibben, Bill. “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.” Rolling Stone. Wenner Media LLC, 19 Jul. 2012. Web.

Well, it already is! In 2015, nearly every country in the world came together for the first time to sign a treaty to curb carbon emissions. It was called the Paris Agreement.”

“‘Today is an historic day,’ says Ban, as 175 countries sign Paris climate accord.” UN News Centre. United Nations, 22 Apr. 2016. Web.

Unfortunately, even the Paris Agreement didn’t go far enough. It’s non- binding, and even if the nations stick to their word, it won’t prevent us from exceeding two degrees of warming.”

Cassidy, John. “A Skeptical Note on the Paris Climate Deal.” New Yorker. Conde Nast, 14 Dec. 2015. Web.

For More on This Topic

Mike Berners-Lee’s How Bad Are Bananas? explores the hidden carbon footprint of everything from bananas to new jeans.

Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage by Heather Rogers tells the fascinating story of trash and how we handle it.

This longform feature in Bloomberg explores the imminent impact of climate change on Kirbati, a South Pacific island nation which may soon be uninhabitable.

This Rolling Stone feature charts just how urgent a problem climate change really is.