Alarmed by drastic changes in the Earth’s systems, Dr. Peter Kalmus
, a climate scientist and suburban father of two, embarked on a journey to change his life and the world. He began by bicycling, growing food, meditating, and making other simple, fulfilling changes. He stopped flying
and he dramatically curtailed his usage of fossil fuels, ultimately slashing his climate impact to under a tenth of the US average, and became happier in the process. "I became grateful for every moment and more aware of how my thoughts and actions in this moment connect to other moments and to other beings. I began to experience that everyday things are miracles …. Now, I feel more connected to the world around me, and I see that fossil fuels actually stood in the way of realizing those connections.”
An Earth scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech, in Pasadena, California, Kalmus at work uses satellite data, in situ data, and models to study the rapidly changing Earth with a focus on boundary layer clouds. At home, he explores how dramatically reducing carbon emissions can lead to a happier, more connected life. His new book, Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution,
explores the connections between our individual daily actions and our collective predicament. It merges science, spirituality, and practical action to develop a response to global warming.
Kalmus stopped trying to convert climate change deniers with facts and figures and instead embarked upon a mission to become the change he wanted to see in the world. Along the way, he shows how he brought together his head (the science), his hands (food growing, bicycling, and lifestyle change), and heart (meditation and community building), to find new direction in his life.
"With the world population approaching 8 billion, my reduction obviously can’t solve global warming," he acknowledges. "But by changing ourselves in more than merely incremental ways, I believe we contribute to opening social and political space for large-scale change. We tell a new story by changing how we live."
Kalmus now does everything he can to spread this message and to help humanity transition away from fossil fuels. He believes that the problem is not only technological or scientific, but also spiritual
: it calls humans to set aside the notion that we are exceptional within the web of life, and instead to live, gratefully, in alignment with the biosphere.
Dr. Kalmus received his undergraduate degree from Harvard, and doctorate from Columbia – both in physics. He lives in suburban Altadena, California with his wife and two children. He volunteers with Citizens’ Climate Lobby
, a group focused on implementing carbon fee and dividend. He enjoys orcharding, beekeeping, and backpacking. (Peter speaks purely on his own behalf, not on behalf of NASA or Jet Propulsion Laboratory.)
Five Questions with Peter Kalmus
What Makes You Come Alive?
Deepening my understanding of science! Science is profoundly spiritual. Meditating an hour in the morning and an hour at night! If I go less, I become anxious. This cause and effect relationship is quite clear.Going on a 10-day meditation retreat! It feels like I clear out all the cobwebs in my mind and come back down to Earth. It feels wonderful and makes me much more effective in the world.Coaching soccer and watching my sons do their thing! It's such a beautiful dance.Hearing my wife, Sharon, laugh and sing out loud from joy. Seeing my sons be kind to each other.Playing music. Backpacking in the mountains, and especially swimming in a frigid alpine lake or stream!Sailing. Being on the ocean.
Pivotal turning point in your life?
The two most pivotal: going to my first 10-day vipassana retreat in 2003, and when my first son was born in 2006.
An Act of Kindness You'll Never Forget?
It's not so much a single act, instead it's a feeling I get when I'm across from someone with sympathetic joy, deep compassion, and an ability to focus their entire attention with the energy of loving kindness. This beams out of certain people and feels just like a psychic sunbeam. It brings me the deepest inspiration to be a better person. My first meditation teacher had this quality, and so does Pancho Ramos! Thich Nhat Hanh was able to bring this quality into his writing. Seek out these people, and do the work to become one yourself.
One Thing On Your Bucket List?
I just thought about this a few days ago, what if I only had two years left to live? A dear friend of mine was diagnosed with terminal cancer a few months before my Awakin call. Two things came up: write my second book, with the working title "How to Talk to Your Parents About Climate Change." And spend as much time playing soccer with my kids as possible.
One-line Message for the World?
Exploring life with much less fossil fuel and meditating seriously will bring deep meaning to your life and make you happier. For so many reasons.