The ticking clock of Climate change is an ever present threat to us, our planet and all the living creatures that share it with us. With every tick of the second hand, the threat becomes more urgent and further irreversible. Each grain of sand that falls through the hourglass could mean another melted ice cap, a new natural disaster occurring, a coral reef dying, a rainforest burning or a species dying out.
We all know we must act now, but not all of us are prepared to do so. Unfortunately, with no reset button on the climate change clock, slowing it down is our best (and essential) option. To get a sense of the scale of the problem, you can find more insights in our post Climate Change: The Low Down.
Today we’re going to look at a few ways we can save the environment, and where we can all be involved as individuals to contribute in the decisions we make and actions we take.
Beloved natural historian, broadcaster and hero of our planet Sir David Attenborough understands the urgency of the mission we face. His efforts to raise awareness of the devastating impact of climate change have been commendable and he’s truly helped bring the issue to the forefront of our collective thinking. However, he understands the clock ticks not only for our planet. He recently made the heartbreaking plea for humanity to change its relationship with nature after admitting “I don’t have long left”.
With this in mind, we’re going to run through the ways he’s outlined for us to save the planet we call home.
Put People and Planet Before Profit
“What has brought us to this moment of desperation? I believe it is our hunger for perpetual economic growth.”
The environmentalist points to the Happy Planet Index, a way of tracking ecological impact and human wellbeing as a new measure of success. He goes on to praise New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for creating a similar index in 2018.
“In this single act, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern shifted the priorities of her whole country away from pure growth and towards something that better reflects the aspirations many of us have.”
The ambition of this point is to shift our focus from using purely financial metrics to measure development, prosperity and well being.
While there’s not a clear list of actions an individual can take away from this point, it’s much more about taking a step back and rewiring how we view the world. Smaller steps and impacts will flow from this.
Is it really important to upgrade your smartphone so soon? Or could you donate a small amount each month to nonprofits protecting an endangered species? Do you really need that jumper from a new range or can you find something you’d love just as much in a charity shop?
An increase in the FTSE 100 or Dow Jones index might be good news for your pension, but new access to clean water for millions more people might be a better metric for growth.
Replace Oil with Renewable Energy
Last year, 85% of the world’s energy was provided by fossil fuels alone. Attenborough says the world must transition to fully renewable energy “at lightning speed” to avoid disastrous consequences on the planet’s and humankind’s health.
“As the new, clean, carbon-free world comes online, people everywhere will start to feel the benefits. Life will be less noisy. Our air and water will be cleaner, with fewer premature deaths from poor air quality.”
There’s no doubt that our dependence on fossil fuels has been a major contributor to climate change. Our insatiable appetite for cheap and easily accessed energy had hidden costs that only became apparent in recent times. The negative effects on our environment posed by the burning of fossil fuels appear in many forms such as acid run-off destroying our waterways, toxic pollutants poisoning the air we breathe, mercury emissions and ocean acidification damaging our land and seas.
Of course, it can be hard to find alternatives to fossil fuels in your everyday life, but there are several small changes and actions you can take to alleviate your demand on them.
Using public transport whenever possible will reduce the amount of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide put into the atmosphere.
Buying locally produced food will reduce food miles and avoiding processed foods will cut demand for carbon heavy food manufacture processes.
Being energy conscious in your home can help too, not to mention reducing your energy bills. Turning off lights whenever you don’t use them and setting the heating to a timer will reduce the amount of unnecessarily wasted energy usage.
Embrace a Sustainable Lifestyle
Attenborough says we must return to a time when people worked in balance with the natural world.
“We must halt and reverse the conversion of wild spaces to farmland, plantations and other developments. We must end our overuse of fertilisers. We must reduce our use of freshwater. We must immediately halt and preferably start to reverse climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
Our first feature on Eco Swaps from Amanda Coates is a great example of how a small change you can make is able to make a big difference in Eco-Swap #1: Castile Soaps.
This is an area where your decisions and actions as a consumer can shape your impact and contribution to the fight against climate change. Shopping responsibly can make sure you avoid unnecessary products that are manufactured in unsustainable ways and making sure you reuse products and recycle waste as much as possible will reduce your carbon footprint.
Why not take bags to the supermarket when you shop to avoid using one of the 5 trillion plastic bags that are made every year – many of which end up in our ecosystem where they take centuries to break down. Better yet, making an organised meal plan and booking a weekly delivery slot for your grocery shop will reduce the amount of wasted food produce and the need to drive to the supermarket more often.
For more bite-size eco living tips, follow our Instagram account @kinsume
Create No-Fishing Zones in the Ocean
“The ocean covers two-thirds of the surface of the planet, which means there is a special role for it in our revolution to rewild the world.”
By helping the marine world recover, he explains, we can capture carbon, raise biodiversity and supply more food.
“It starts with the industry that is causing most damage to the ocean – fishing. But this can be fixed with a global effort to create a network of no-fishing zones throughout coastal waters where fish can grow older and produce more offspring. They then repopulate neighbouring waters.”
You might not be able to directly have an impact on aiding or encouraging the creation of the no-fishing zones we desperately need introduced, but you can still do your part to help our oceans.
Shop wisely! When you’re buying food and products that come from the ocean, keep in mind the impact it may have had and if there’s a more sustainable option. Look for fish that has been responsibly sourced; in the UK, the Marine Conservation Society has certified sustainable ocean produce to help consumers make better shopping decisions.
Conserving water to the best of your ability is also a great way to reduce excess runoff and wastewater that flows into the ocean. Opting for a shower over a bath as much as possible will reduce your water usage. Filling your dishwasher as much as possible will mean fewer cycles and less inefficient water uses.
Farm Smarter and Eat Less Meat
As the global food demand rises every day, humans must learn how to get more food from less land. The key, he says, is reducing our meat consumption.
“If we are to farm less land, we must eat much less meat, especially red meat, and especially beef, which, when including the grain fed to cows, consumes 60 percent of our farmland. Estimates suggest that by changing our habits, humankind could feed itself on just half of the land that we currently farm.”
This is an area I can definitely speak from experience. Since 2015, I’ve been living a “flexitarian” lifestyle, where I only eat meat on 2 days of the week – usually sticking to a vegetarian diet on weekdays and eating meat on the weekend.
Of course, I’m a massive foodie, and as a former chef I’ll realistically never want to give up cooking and eating meat altogether. However, the relatively small sacrifice of reducing my intake of animal products can make a big difference to my personal impact on the environment.
Health benefits to both myself and my bank balance aside, eating less meat has been positive in many ways! Over the years, only eating meat a couple times a week has made me appreciate the experience more, and in turn, I’ll ensure I buy more responsibly.
I’ll happily spend more money on higher quality meat products at a local butcher, which in all likelihood will mean the meat has less food miles and is farmed in a more sustainable way, not to mention the quality of life of the animal, by cutting out intensive battery farmed animal products entirely. So I eat less meat, but when I do, it’s much better quality!
I truly believe this is a great way for everyone to help the environment on an individual level and it’s a brilliant first step to take. The best thing is, it’s flexible! Sometimes I’ll have meat during the week, especially if I’m going to a restaurant, in which case I’ll catch up with veggie days on the weekend.
Obviously we can’t expect everyone to go vegetarian for 5 days a week or even full-time, but even just one day a week is a great start – #MeatFreeMonday is a good example of this effort.
Protect the Forests
Rich forest habitats in poorer countries are being destroyed to provide palm oil, beef and hardwood for wealthier nations.
“If this continues, the loss of carbon to the air, and species to the history books, would be catastrophic for the whole world. By directing our trade and investment, we can support those nations to reap the benefits of these resources without losing them.”
This means finding a way to turn wilderness into a viable thing for the people who live on it, while still protecting the biodiversity.
While there’s not a huge amount you can do to stop the plight of deforestation on an individual level, unless you’re a South American cattle rancher, a palm oil producer or a government policy advisor, there are some ways you can make a small difference.
Firstly, it’s everyone’s responsibility to be aware of what’s happening to our planet. You’d certainly know and be concerned about a fire in your own garden and right now, there’s a huge fire blazing in our global garden. Educating yourself is always the first step, encouraging others to do so and spreading accurate knowledge is the next.
When more people are aware, it’s easier to collectively influence decision makers and demand positive action and change.
Direct actions you can take as an individual, as is often the case, involves responsible consumer behaviour. Avoiding all products that use palm oil is critical, it only takes a few seconds to check the packaging of what you’re buying to see if palm oil is used as an ingredient.
Again, eating less meat, or rather eating more sustainably farmed meat, especially beef, will reduce the phenomenon of burning rainforest areas to farm cattle.
For an in-depth look at what is responsible for deforestation and the impact it has, check out our previous post on What Drivers Deforestation?
To read more about our own efforts to combat the effects of deforestation, check out our post on Planting Trees For The Future to find out why we’re planting so many trees!
Raise People Out Of Poverty to Slow Population Growth
Lifting the world’s poorest people out of poverty is objectively an amazing thing. Fortunately, it’s been a positive trend for decades. The global share of people living in extreme poverty has decreased consistently since 1990, when it included over 35% of the world population, to less than 10% in 2015.
Not only is this a crucial direction for a more equal and progressive world, the results can be beneficial for our environment. For reasons that are many and varying, as societies are lifted out of poverty, they become more affluent and prosperous, the reproductive rate decreases, resulting in a slower population growth, a stabilised population or even, in the cases of wealthy nations such as Japan or Italy, shrinking populations.
“When I was born, there were fewer than two billion people on the planet. Today there are almost four times that number.”
UN projections predict between 9.4 and 12.7 billion people by 2100.
“We want everyone on Earth to have a fair share, and that means we need to both lower consumption and find ways to stabilise our population growth.”
Raising people out of poverty is the key to bringing rapid population growth to an end.
“The fairest way to stabilise the global population is to help poorer nations to develop. When this happens, diet and healthcare improve, child mortality decreases and families have fewer children.”
This is another area where it’s difficult for an individual to make a truly impactful change. However, making decisions that are more likely to benefit those in need will start to move everyone in the right direction.
Taking action with your purchasing power, such as buying from responsible companies and brands with ethical practices can make a big difference. Supporting companies with CSR initiatives that directly benefit the poorest people in the world, whether that’s providing all workers with fair and living wages or increasing access to education in third world countries will contribute to reducing the global poverty rate and, in turn, help stabilise the world’s population and the strain on the planet’s resources.
We’re all in the fight against climate change together, whether we understand and accept that or not. No one is expecting you to upend your whole life and move to a yurt in a commune or even sell your car and give up flying. But there are tiny, yet conscious decisions you can make in everyday life, that when combined over time, will add up to a massive difference in your personal impact on the environment.
All it takes is a moment’s more thought on your part to slow down the ticking clock of irreversible climate change before it’s too late.