Why You Should Ditch Your Cable Company

Liberate yourself.

Do yourself and the planet a favor by breaking up with your cable TV provider. This simple action could impact your life in unexpected yet positive ways.

Calling the cable company to cancel your service is an easy task. However, if you are a long-term television aficionado, like me, it may be surprisingly difficult to actually do it.

When I signed up for cable TV many years ago, I thought it was a good value. I had the basic package, which did not include movie or sports channels. After several years, my cable company began continually raising prices without providing any additional features or services that appealed to me.

This ticked me off.

Periodically, I called the customer service department threatening to cancel my cable subscription. The company usually responded by giving me a promotional rate for six months or a year, but later my bill would go up again.

The cable box irritated me, too. It was an energy vampire sucking electricity even when I was not watching television.

Double Plug with Switch - Entertainment Center

At one point, I began turning the cable box off at night. The cable company shut off my service. When I called to complain, they told me that cable boxes need to be on standby power all the time to receive system updates.

The poor quality cable boxes required replacement every year or so resulting in excessive e-waste. This could have been avoided if the company had chosen to provide good quality equipment. Televisions and remote controls will become e-waste, too.

I canceled my cable TV service in February 2018.

It took me a few months to realize that ditching cable was having a positive impact on me that went far beyond saving money and reducing e-waste. I hope that after you read this post, you will consider giving your own cable company the boot.

Breaking Up with My Cable Company

I admire people that do not watch television or streaming media but I knew I was not ready to go cold turkey. That meant finding an alternative to cable.

My two parameters were that I wanted to keep the cost low and I did not want to buy any equipment that would later become e-waste. Fortunately, we already had an Internet connection in our living room and a cable that connects my laptop computer with the television.

After researching streaming services online, I opted to sign up for Netflix. This was in September 2016.

I got used to carrying my laptop downstairs, plugging it into the television in our living room, and then taking it back upstairs to my home office.

A year later, I was still paying for cable and Netflix and using both services.

Finally, late in 2017, I decided it was time to get rid of cable.

But I delayed doing it because I wanted to be able to watch Super Bowl LII on cable in February 2018. I cannot explain my fascination with football but I have been a Raiders fan since I was a kid.

My Pink Breast Cancer Awareness Raiders Baseball Hat and Black Coffee Mug
This is my well worn Breast Cancer Awareness Raiders hat and game day coffee mug.

A week or two after the game, I called the cable company and canceled my service.

In the back of my mind, I knew I needed to work on a solution for streaming football games but that was months away so I felt certain I would have it resolved before the 2018-2019 season.

You know where this is going, right? I did nothing.

My Cable-Free Plan Hits a Snag

On Monday, September 10, 2018, I was looking forward to watching the Raiders and Rams on Monday Night Football. I mentioned this to my spouse who replied, “You know you don’t have cable TV anymore, right.”

Oh, no!

I figured it would be easy to find an NFL streaming service. I was wrong.

The NFL channel would allow me to watch all the games—hours after they had been played. Other services offered some games but couldn’t guarantee they would not be blacked out. Plus, I would have to purchase a new electronic device to mediate between the Internet and my television.

Then I discovered that CBS offered an online subscription that would enable me to stream live TV (including football games) and watch previously aired TV show episodes using my laptop and Internet connection.

The CBS service would limit me to games on CBS but I supposed I would get at least one or two Raiders games and probably some good matchups between other teams. The clincher was that Super Bowl LIII would be on CBS in February 2019. I signed up.

I did get to watch the Raiders and some other good games, especially during the playoffs. My sister invited me up to her house for the weekend to watch the Super Bowl, where I consumed my annual batch of onion dip and a bag of Ruffles potato chips.

Unexpected Cable-Free Benefits

It took me several months to realize that not having cable gave me a surprising sense of freedom.

Of course, I could watch Netflix or CBS anytime I wanted, but I only like to sit at my desk to work, read the news, or do research. Even though it takes just a few minutes to hook my laptop up to the television, I found that I did not do it every evening. Somehow, adding that minuscule amount of inconvenience broke my automatic turn on the TV habit.

I was liberated from the constant barrage of television advertising. During football games, I reinstituted my policy of getting up and walking around or doing quick chores during commercial breaks.

iStock/GoodLifeStudio

No more ads telling me what I should look like, what I should eat and drink, or what products I need to buy. I am elated that I am no longer assailed by messages trying to convince me that I need to buy whatever is being advertised to be happy, beautiful, or a good mother. I do not miss the contrived commercial settings that try to make us believe that these are regular people living their everyday lives. I am relieved that I do not know what model of iPhone is currently for sale. I have no idea what products I am missing and I like it that way.

Now that I have the perspective of over a year without cable TV, I have a deeper appreciation of how commercials infiltrate every aspect of our lives and our relationships with other people. The force field of advertising is hard to overcome, especially after decades of indoctrination. However, it is worth the effort.

In addition to the feeling of freedom to be myself, getting rid of cable has given me a boost on my journey to be a minimalist living happily with less stuff. Everything you and I buy, own, and use in our daily lives has an environmental impact so curtailing our possessions helps us each live more lightly on Earth. I think this is a good thing.

It is Your Turn to Go Cable-Free

I do realize that my current streaming services could add commercials in the future. That is what happened with cable TV. If and when advertising starts showing up then I will look for other alternatives. I am also cognizant that things could get out of hand if I decided to add a lot of other streaming services, which would add complexity and cost.

I hope you will at least consider how you might benefit from a life without cable TV and the commercials that come with it.

Who knows, maybe someday I will completely give up television in all its forms.

Featured Image at Top: Birdlike links flying away to freedom through a hole in a chain link fence – photo credit iStock/Eoneren.

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Endangered Species Act and Biodiversity

All life is connected and worthy of protection.

Endangered Species Day on May 17 provides you and me with an ideal opportunity to appreciate Earth’s biodiversity and to do something to protect it.

A notice in my social media feed led me to finally attempt this post about endangered species and the importance of biodiversity. Until now, I had briefly mentioned the Endangered Species Act in a post entitled Green Legislation – Nixon Administration and touched on biodiversity in Deep Ecology Collaboratory – Join the Movement.

Biodiversity is a huge topic that cannot be adequately covered in a blog post so I will only endeavor to spark your interest to learn more and take action.

In short, biodiversity is the wondrous array of different plants, animals, and other organisms (species) that make life on Earth possible.

Humans are not separate from nature we are part of it. What we do to nature, ill or good, we do to ourselves. Regardless of whether we have named it or not or even know of its existence, each species has a part to play in the overall health of the ecosystems in which they and we live. These ecosystems interconnect across the sphere we all call home.

Why Are Species at Risk Infographic

Why Are Species at Risk? infographic courtesy of Endangered Species Coalition.

When I asked Ted, a deep ecologist and a friend, who he thought did a good job explaining biodiversity, he suggested Edward O. Wilson (see the resources section for books).

It is critically important that we protect endangered species and thus Earth’s biodiversity.

Let’s talk about endangered species.

Endangered Species

During the 1960s and 1970s, Americans took to the streets demanding that Congress address smog, water pollution, pesticides, noise, waste, land use, and wildlife preservation.

President Richard Nixon, not necessarily a fan of regulation, got on board. His Special Message to the Congress Outlining the 1972 Environmental Program makes for interesting reading.

Congress did act passing sweeping environmental legislation including laws like the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and Toxic Substances Control Act.

Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973

When Congress passes a law, they state their findings, purpose, and policy at the beginning and then move on to specific provisions of the law. Below are some excerpts from the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (Public Law 93-205).

“The Congress finds and declares that—various species of fish, wildlife, and plants in the United States have been rendered extinct as a consequence of economic growth and development untempered by adequate concern and conservation…”

“The purposes of this Act are to provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend may be conserved…to provide a program…and to take steps…”

“It is further declared to be the policy of Congress that all Federal departments and agencies shall seek to conserve endangered species and threatened species and shall utilize their authorities in furtherance of the purposes of this Act.

Provisions of the Law

The ESA is jointly administered by two federal agencies based on where the endangered or threatened plant or animal lives, in other words, its habitat or range. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) is responsible for land and freshwater species and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), also known as NOAA Fisheries, is responsible for marine (ocean) species and those that migrate up freshwater streams like salmon.

Through a process called listing, a species must be classified as either endangered or threatened to receive protection under the law. The USFWS or NMFS, an organization, or a person can initiate a listing request.

Endangered – means a species in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Insect pests that present a risk to people are excluded.

Threatened – means a species likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

Once a species makes it to the endangered or threatened list, the USFWS or NMFS are required to develop and implement a plan to help the species recover, which includes conserving its habit.

Repairing the Reef - West Hawaii
Click here for a 5-minute video about coral reefs in Hawaii that shows the importance of restoring habitat.

Increased population over its range is an important measure of whether a species has recovered and can be removed from the list. This process is called delisting. The USFWS and NMFS are required to monitor delisted species for five years to ensure they do not become an endangered or threatened species again.

The ESA mandates cooperation with states and allows states to enact their own laws as long as they are not less restrictive than the federal law. It also supports U.S. involvement in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) that aims to ensure international trade does not threaten the survival of wild animals and plants.

The Environmental Conservation Online System (ECOS) is a tool that enables you to create informational tables by selecting parameters and then clicking on the submit button.

I screened for endangered and threatened species in the U.S. and received a table of 1644 species. It included the western snowy plover, which is endangered where I live in San Luis Obispo County, CA (photo Michael L. Baird).


A search for delisted species in the U.S. gave me a table with 64 species. In a few cases, species were removed because of previous errors. Sadly, some species were delisted because they are extinct like the blue pike, dusky seaside sparrow, and eastern puma.

Robbins Cinquefoil (Potentilla robbinsiana)

Fortunately, most of the species were shown as delisted because they have recovered like the gray whale, Robbins’ cinquefoil (photo USFWS Service), Oregon chub (fish), Lake Erie water snake, and the bald eagle.

Let’s take a look at the gray wolf, which is a species currently undergoing the delisting process.

Gray Wolf– Proposed Endangered Species Delisting

To learn more about gray wolves and their plight, I reached out to Holly. She and I first met while pulling invasive ice plant on the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve near my home. I know she is a committed wildlife advocate and she had recently asked me to a sign a petition demanding protection for gray wolves (I did sign it).

Gray wolves are magnificent intelligent and highly social animals. As top-level predators, they play an important part in keeping wild ecosystems healthy.

Gray Wolf (Canis lupus)

Wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park in 1995 producing a ripple of positive impacts. For instance, the wolves keep elk herds on the move and in check allowing willow trees to grow. Beavers build dams with some of the trees creating pools in streams for fish and storing water to recharge the water table. Photo Gary Kramer USFWS.

Even before Holly asked me to sign the petition, I had seen the gray wolf delisting notice in the Federal Register. One thing that I read remains fixed in my memory. The greatest threat to wolves is predation by humans, meaning people killing them out of fear, ignorance, or for sport.

I fear that as soon as ESA protections are completely removed from gray wolves human predation will dramatically increase, which will not only harm the wolves but the ecosystems which they help to maintain.

What can you do to help protect gray wolves?

  • Make a public comment on Regulations.gov regarding the USFWS delisting effort. The USFWS just announced they have extended the deadline for public comments to July 15, 2019.
  • Contact your state’s elected officials to let them know you support state-level protection for gray wolves.
  • Join an organization advocating for gray wolves.
  • Learn about gray wolves and share what you learn with your family and friends (see resources section for links).
  • Provide financial support for organizations focused on protecting gray wolves.

Of course, the gray wolf is just one species that we need to protect.

Endangered Species Day Action

I propose an action for Endangered Species Day.

Imagine what we could accomplish if each one of us made a point of learning about one endangered animal or plant species and then did something to protect it. You could share information on social media, write a letter to the editor, call your state senator, make a public comment, or write a check to an advocacy nonprofit. You get the idea.

Here is the comment I submitted about the USFWS plan to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list.

Gray Wolf Delisting Public Comment - L Poppenheimer

Apparently, the United Nations has endangered species and biodiversity on their minds, too, because, on May 6, 2019, they issued a summary of an alarming report about how humans are accelerating the loss of biodiversity and species extinction thereby endangering our own wellbeing and survival. It is worth reading.

Featured Image at Top: Bald eagle in flight at Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge – photo credit Tom Koemer, USFWS.

Related Posts

Books about Biodiversity – by Edward O. Wilson

  • Biophilia – published by Harvard University Press, January 13, 1984
  • Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life – published by Liveright, April 4, 2017
  • The Biophilia Hypothesis – published by Shearwater, April 10, 2013
  • The Future of Life – published by Knopf, January 8, 2002
  • Also, see the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation website.

Resources – Gray Wolves