My Eight Startling Facts in 2023

Sustaining a decent climate might seem overwhelming, but with the Earths population, we can make it happen.

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Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of educational columns about fostering environmental stewardship and leadership coordinated by ACES — The Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards

The NY Times recently had an article listing their 72 favorite facts for 2023! I enjoyed reading it because with so much going on either effects our climate or is affected by our climate and 8 of their facts give me perspective on the range and overall complexity and connectivity of these climate and environmental issues. The more I thought about it the more I focused on eight of the items on their list. So please consider the following as a kind of ‘cliff notes’ version of their perspective. With the NYTimes number indicated here are my curated eight:
3. The world produces about 400 metric tons of plastics waste each year, according to the UN. About half of it is thrown away after a single use. So, let's stop using as much throw away plastics!
14. According to a 2020 study by the sustainability consultancy Edge Impact, the average American wedding emits 57,152 kilograms or 125,660 pounds of CO2! You would need to plant 2,722 trees to offset that amount. 
23. The rate of suicide amount farmers is three and a half times larger than among the general population according to the National Rural Health Association. Are crop losses and resulting financial pressures due to climate induced drought and storms a factor in the disturbing statistic?
37. Landscape equipment emits nearly 27 million tons of pollutants a year, according to estimates, Just one gas powered leaf blower used for just one hour generates the same amount of emissions as a gasoline powered car driving 1,100 miles. Yikes! Why are we still using them when there are other options? 
44. The ocean which covers about 70% of the earth has absorbed 90% of the heat unleashed by burning fossil fuels, deforestation and other human activities. That heat is the engine that spins up hurricanes and storms bigger and faster developing than ever during the human era.
48. There are more than 20,000 species of wild bees in the world. They don’t all produce honey, but they are indispensable pollinators of plants, flowers, and crops. 
53. A study led by scientists at Monash University in Australia found that each year between 2010 and 2019, every person worldwide on average was exposed to almost ten days of wildfire smoke exposure.

60. According to the World Resource institute, the top three GHG emitters — China, the United States and India — contribute 42.6% total emissions, with China alone accounting for 33%. The bottom 100 countries only account for 2.9%. 
Not wanting to leave our readers with just the bad news, it’s important to note that there are solutions being actively worked on to help remedy the problems.
For instance, creating habitats to support more bees is being championed by ACES Pollinator PowerWorks gardens in the greater Newburyport area. And let’s not forget all those folks in our region who have or are switching to hybrid and all electric cars, or putting solar power on their roofs, or opting for green energy sources. And what about our champions in the Massachusetts legislature who are working to improve our bottle return laws.
It’s a lot to take in but if we all work together, we can begin to push back on climate change and the long journey toward healing the earth.

John Elwell is a Retired High School Principal, Maple Crest Farmer, and ACES Board Member who may be reached at . So please consider signing up for ACES; months newsletter at and join our community of environmentally minded neighbors. Let's make next year’s list a little bit more benign. Please share any sustainability -oriented ideas you would like to have ACES promote in 2024 by writing to

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John Elwell

John grew up in nearby Byfield, attended GDA, and then received his BA in Economics and Masters in Mathematics Education from Catholic University in Washington, D.C. His career in education was significant as he then taught mathematics for 10 years at Dunbar High School in the District of Columbia. In 1979, he became Assistant Principal at Hamilton-Wenham and 3 years later, became Principal. After 19 years as Principal at HWRHS he pro-tired and immediately became the interim Principal at Newburyport High School from 2001 to 2003. From 2003 to 2017 he ran workshops for teachers and administrators in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, and New York City.

A founding member of the Newburyport Education Foundation, John continues to educate others whenever there is an opportunity. In 2002 John and his wife, Carol, bought the Elwell family farm in West Newbury. An ACES Ally, Maple Crest Farms serves as a learning center for other educational entities and John, a member of the BOD, mentors Youth Corps interns whenever possible.  

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