5 reasons to take an active stand against climate change
An ‘active stand’ or ‘personal responsibility’ can be defined as taking responsibility for your own actions, in other words, it’s being able to take care of one’s well-being without blaming or expecting others to do it for you with regards to not only your own life, but also the faith of the planet. This is especially important when it comes to making the right lifestyle choices required to mitigate climate change. If each one of us makes even a tiny change in our own lives, the impact could be highly significant in the near future. In this article, I’m going to outline what the effect of doing nothing could have for the survival of our species and how we can go about trying to fix this. It all starts with understanding the impact our actions have on the planet. You can try and find a carbon-footprint calculator online and try to calculate how many tonnes of carbon-di-oxide were emitted during your last flight. You could also try to find out how much water is used in the production of one kilo of beef or a litre of milk. You could then proceed to calculate how many million or billion people in the world are currently living the same kind of lifestyle and try to imagine how many more there will be in just 20 more years. Can you? It’s not only people in developed nations who will be emitting at this rate - its also in developing countries who aspire for a very similar lifestyle. If even half the population of the planet demands a car - electric or not - we will have widespread chaos. And that chaos has already started with a global private car ownership percentage close to 5%. In India it’s closer to 2% and in the USA it’s about 88%. What does the future hold for us?
It takes about 1020 litres of water to produce a single litre of milk. This is the equivalent of 25 day’s worth of showers. And it takes about 5-7 kilos of milk on average to produce 1 kilo of cheese ie. 7178 litres of water! That’s 175 days worth of showers right there!
I was reading an article the other day in which the author was of the opinion that our personal dietary decisions and purchasing choices have no impact on the overall carbon-footprint of our society. The author blamed all the woes of our society on evil corporations and inefficient governments. When the topic of dietary choices and veganism came up, the author immediately jumped on the idea that a tribal person who eats meat in India has less of an impact on the ecosystem than a vegan living in New York. This is the kind of mindless cherry picking that makes having a sensible debate next to impossible. The truth is that even in India, most people will soon live in cities and our collective food, transportation and energy choices will have a massive impact on the whole world.
Our demands drive production in the market
As citizens of the world, it’s our duty to understand the implications of the products we use. If we were just blind consumers and the world had an inexhaustible supply of raw materials, then we would be fine. But that’s not the kind of world we live in. Our actions, and the products we demand as a collective effect what gets grown, mined and produced all over the world. This is the reality of the interconnected world we live in. A fur coat somewhere means that an animal has just been killed for it’s skin and the same goes with any leather product. In order to make good choices, the first thing we need to develop is our critical thinking. There is a lot of information out there but it’s all useless unless we can develop our own sense of what is going on.
It is of course true that large corporations want to cement their dominance in the market once they have invested million on factories and other infrastructure. This is where advertising comes in. We may feel that large corporations are greedy but they are just doing what is necessary for their short-term survival and the profits of their shareholders. It’s not a malicious plot to destroy the world. If we, as a collective turn away from say processed food - frozen pizzas, chicken nuggets etc then they won’t have anyone to sell it to. It’s that simple. This is the same logic that is giving rise to a huge amount of growth in the plant-based meat and vegan mylk industry. If we demand ways of producing food without being cruel to animals then change is what we will get.
2. It forces us to be aware of our own impact
Once we understand our impact on the environment a little better we can find ways to live more sustainable lives. You don’t need to feel bad about how you were living in the past. All you need to do is do what is necessary for a better future. We were never taught these things as kids and hence we have no idea how to behave as adults. We can make that change with our own kids by telling them the truth about what is going on. We need to visit landfills - see the massive piles of garbage that pile up outside every major city. If you are a meat eater then I strongly suggest watching the documentary ‘Dominion’ or going to your local slaughterhouse or factory farm and spend a day there. If you can stomach eating meat after spending a day there then by all means please continue. Unfortunately, sometimes the truth is not as pleasant as we might have hoped.
For instance, if over the course of a year you:
Ate one less burger a week, it would be the equivalent of taking your car off the road for 515 km.
Skip poultry and cheese one day a week with your family, it would be the equivalent of taking your car off the road for five weeks.
Skip steak once a week with your family, it would be the equivalent of taking your car off the road for nearly three months.
And if the entire U.S. did not eat meat or cheese for just one day a week, it would be the equivalent of not driving 146 billion kilometers – or taking 7.6 million cars off the road.
You will need to do a lot of research during this transition period and it’s not easy coming to terms with what is going on. The 10th IPCC report is an 806-page log document that outlines this in detail. You can learn a lot by watching documentaries and by reading scientific papers but the most important tool is your own mind and the empathy and compassion that comes along with it. You will need to imagine how the world will look in 50 years if we keep on polluting the way we do. Don’t take extinction rebellion’s word for it. You need to think for yourself!
3. We can spread this knowledge with others
Do you know how many plastic bottles are used in a year by the average american? 116 bottles per head. You can reduce this number of disposable bottles you use by simply switching to a metal water bottle and filling it up when you get the chance. The average Indian uses 10kgs of plastic each year as compared to 109kgs used by the average American. If the average Indian used as much plastic as the average American then we would have a serious problem. The population of India is 1.4 billion people at the moment, so we have 1.4 billion people each using 100kilos less plastic on average. That is 140 billion kilos of plastic that will never be manufactured and will never end up in the oceans.
In Western Europe, approximately 92 kilograms of plastic per capita are consumed annually, and this quantity is increasing. Worldwide use per capita stands at about 35 kilograms. The largest amount of plastic waste comes from the packaging industry: two-thirds generated by households and one-third by industry and commerce.
The next step on this journey is to share this knowledge you have with others so that they have the information they need easily accessible to them. With rising sea levels and unparalleled desertification all over the planet people are getting hurt either way. One option is to try and be part of the change and stand up for what you believe in. In the best case scenario, enough people will have the strength to do this and we might manage to avert global climatic disaster. In the worst case, people will do nothing and millions will die without the knowledge of what put them in this predicament. I feel that it’s important to know that we have the power to do something about the situation that we are in. We could all work together for a better future if we put aside our petty differences. We each need to take personal responsibility for the climate emergency and see how we can make changes in our daily lives that reflect these values. Surely, the corporations and governments will initially resist but they will be forced to change around us. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up if we need to make compromises sometimes - each small action makes a difference.
4. Prevents us from passing the buck
It’s very easy to blame another nation, our government or certain corporations for putting us in the predicament we are in. While this thought might make us feel better in the short term, it is certainly untrue and doesn’t help build the change that we would like to see. Feeling powerless or blaming others is only natural in some sense. The world is a big place and unless everyone comes together to fix global warming, how can it be done? W should not feel hopeless thinking about all of this. Our purpose should be to make the right action now - a single step in the right direction. Put up solar panels on your roof or set up a rainwater harvesting system, start a terrace garden, eat a vegan diet, drive your car less, use public transport, teach someone about permaculture, plant a tree, segregate your trash - It doesn't matter what you do as long as you do something that helps build community and makes things better. People will see the work you are doing and they will be automatically drawn to you.
5. Walking your talk makes you feel better
Making changes in your personal life can be hard. When you do come around to making that change, you’ll be dealt with the disbelief of your friends and pressure from your family to conform. You will need to listen to all these different opinions with respect and humility (nothing is gained by fighting) and at the end of the day you need to do what you think is right. This can be seen as an extension of your own common sense combined with facts from sources you can trust. You will need to stay true to what you believe if you want to make any change in this world. It’s not for the faint-hearted. Just this morning I saw a grandma being carried off by the Australian police for attending a protest in Sydney against government inaction on rising carbon emissions. It is reasonable to wonder if these actions have any tangible purpose? How do we know that this action we do today will lead to the outcome we desire in the future? We don’t.
Whatever it is that you do - rescuing an injured pigeon, buying fairtrade products, living in a tiny house, planting a tree, not throwing that plastic bottle into the ocean - whatever this action might be, you do it because you believe it's the right thing to do.. ‘Walking your talk’ means doing what you say you will do. If you want cleaner oceans and to prevent the destruction of rainforests then there are certain basic things you need to change in your life to make this happen. You will need to understand the various industries that are dependent on the resources of the rainforest - like soya bean production for livestock feed , palm oil production for example. Take note of how you directly contribute to the growth of these industries and decide what action you can take. Do this and you can change the world.
If people see you doing these things then they will take your words more seriously. It is at the end of the day, only actions that will help clean the oceans and protect our forests - education included. Teaching the next generation how to live more sustainably is key to making sure that whatever we do now can be carried into the future. Make a small change everyday and you will realize what immense power you have over not only your own life but also the lives of others. The animals we co-exist with and the trees in the forest are counting on you to do the right thing! Go forth and live your life to the fullest!