The earth is a fine place and worth fighting for.Ernest Hemingway
I found it incredibly difficult to write this blog post, and it is probably not my best work. I think that is because this is something I feel passionate about but have never been able to articulate in the way it deserves. We are burning down the Earth and it breaks my heart. From climate change to the loss of biodiversity to the endless plundering of resources that is consumerism, human activity is destroying the plant. David Attenborough calls it a “blind assault” on our planet. My soul shakes when I think about it. I get goosebumps. It’s overwhelming; so much so that I cannot find the words to adequately and eloquently express myself.
When people ask me why I am a vegetarian, I mumble “environmental reasons” and change the subject. The true weight behind the reason is difficult for me to comprehend, how can I explain it to someone else? However, I have been reading a lot (books like “This one wild and precious life” by Sarah Wilson, and Attenborough’s “A life on this planet” and more listed below) and they have given me the vocabulary to express myself in a somewhat (but still lacking) articulate way. All the reading has also brought me to the point where I can no longer remain silent. I feel obliged to implore others to read and explore these issues more. And to make some kind of behaviour change. Our lives literally depend on it.
The way we are living on this planet is not sustainable.
The way we are plundering the ocean is not sustainable.
The way we are destroying natural habitats to provide land for livestock and crops is not sustainable.
The way we consume new goods, always wanting more-more-more, is not sustainable.
The way we use (waste) water and electricity is not sustainable.
The Earth’s resources are finite and we are rapidly approaching its limits.
Just a few predictions:
- By the 2030s (only one decade away) the Amazon rainforest is on course to be reduced to 75% of its original size. This will result in further “forest dieback” and the eventual drying of the entire Amazon basin. This has major implications for rainfall and freshwater supply, as well as the food supply for most of South America.
- By 2050 the ocean is predicted to be sufficiently acidic (due to carbon emissions) to trigger the beginning of the end for commercial fishing.
- If polar ice continues to melt and oceans continue to rise, cities such as New York, Miami and Calcutta will be submerged, all within this lifetime.
- Also by 2050, 55% of the world’s population could be living in conditions “beyond the threshold of human survivability” – drought, deadly heat, flooding etc.
- Pandemics will become the norm. Rising waters, rising temperatures, the disruption of ecosystems and the illegal wildlife trade all perpetuate the spread of viruses from animals to humans. Coronavirus is only the beginning.
- By 2100, the Sixth Extinction (our extinction) will become unstoppable.
And those predictions are not alarmist. They are science.
I know it sounds doomsday-ey and I know that it hurts to think about, but to find solutions, it is imperative that we do think about it, and let it hurt.
Pope Francis said of the climate disaster; “We must become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it”.
Of course, most of the big solutions depend on big people and big money. Solutions like zeroing greenhouse gases, protecting the oceans, finding alternative sources of energy that are both efficient and affordable and carbon taxes are all about governments and policies, things that mere mortals such as myself have little influence over. However, as a collective, we can make a difference.
There are some changes you can make to reduce your own carbon footprint, and influence markets and supply-and-demand chains while you are at it (which in turn can have an effect on policies and governments.)
- Stop eating meat (a cheeseburger emits the same amount of CO2 as 2L of gasoline)
- Stop eating fish (sustainable does not really mean sustainable anymore)
- Stop wasting food (if wasted food was a country it would be the third-largest producer of CO2 in the world after the US and China).
- Stop buying things you don’t need. You have enough clothes, you have enough toys, you have enough! If you must, buy second hand, or repair items you already own.
- Turn off your lights, turn off plug points when not in use, only fill your kettle with the amount of water you need to make your cup of coffee – if you don’t care about the planet at least you’ll save yourself some money.
- Recycle! I found a cool app the other day called ImaginedEarth – you get rewarded (in cash dollar) for the items you recycle.
- Use reusable grocery bags. If you are buying a butternut or a clove of garlic, do you need to put it in one of those plastic packets?
- Buy a travel mug (or even better than buying, use one you already have).
- Invest in ESG shares or “green” ETFs.
- Sign petitions related to climate change and plastics and ocean preservation and deforestation. Put pressure on policymakers any way you can.
- Carpool, walk, cycle. If you live in a city with decent public transport, use it!
- Read, watch the documentaries, learn, decide for yourself. I think this is the most important point I can make. I am certainly not qualified enough to do this subject justice (which is why I haven’t spoken up in the past), but there are people who are and knowledge is power.
These are small, easy changes that individuals can make. If you think about it, none of them will change your life that dramatically. In fact, most of them will only enhance your life – improving your health, saving you money and ultimately saving your life. I can honestly say that I have tried to incorporate most, if not all, of them into my life and it is only richer for it.
I hate to sound preachy but this is so important and I wish I could shake people into realizing it. I love nature, I love the ocean, I love beautiful places. It’s devastating to think that beautiful places may soon be a thing of the past. Its even more devastating to think that human beings may soon be a thing of the past.
If that doesn’t make you think twice, well then, as you were. But if you feel even a fraction of the distress that I do, then I encourage you to do something about it.
Some resources worth looking at:
“A life on this planet” by David Attenborough
“The innovations we need to avoid a climate disaster” by Bill Gates
“This one wild and precious life” by Sarah Wilson
“Hyperobjects” by Timothy Morton
“Like streams to the ocean” by Jedidiah Jenkins
A life on this planet (for those who want to skip the book version)
Our planet (even if you just watch it for the videography)
Seaspiracy (brace yourself, I cried)
Before the Flood (a well rounded look at many aspects of climate change)
The true cost (I haven’t watched it yet, but it looks at the ecological cost of the fashion industry)
As Obama said “we are the first generation to feel the effects of climate change and the last generation who can do something about it.”