The Problem in the Amazon

So, I had a whole other blog post prepared for this week about the plastic free picnic that I attended on Saturday, and I may still post it later. But after the events that have recently surfaced a much more serious post is called for.

Many of you will now be aware of the crisis facing the amazon rainforest, even though there has been shockingly little by way of new coverage. Whilst reading what news I could find about the events unfolding I was bombarded with outrage from the general public, not for what was happening to one of our most vital ecosystems, but about the movie rights of a certain fictional superhero. As I stared in horrified awe at the discord over the Spiderman custody battle, I was overcome with a sense of deja vue.

Just as news coverage about the burning of Notre Dame overtook the extinction of the Yangtze softshell turtle, the news that Spiderman will no longer be part of the MCU overtook the news that the Amazon rainforest has been burning for over two weeks now.

Now this is a disaster for a lot of reasons namely the following. The Amazon is one of our main barriers against ecological collapse. The Amazon rainforest has long been know as ‘the lungs of the Earth’ as it makes more than 20% of the worlds oxygen, as well as this it contains 10% of the worlds biodiversity. The disappearance of the Amazon rainforest would be catastrophic to our climate and result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of animal species. The Amazon is also home to over a million indigenous people who at this very moment are loosing their homes and their livelihoods.

Now don’t misunderstand, these fires are not a natural phenomenon brought on by climate change like the increased numbers of wildfires seen in the US in recent years. These fires are deliberate, set by loggers, cattle barons and farmers as a way of clearing the rainforest for commercial purposes. The Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has previously encouraged the deforestation of the Amazon, despite advice from scientists and his cabinet members on the importance of the rainforest.

Dishearteningly and suspiciously these fires started very soon after the Waorani People, an indigenous Amazonian tribe, won a lawsuit against ‘big oil’ to stop the sale of their sacred lands. This is he continuation of a historical trend where the rights and feelings of indigenous peoples are deemed unimportant, especially when the profits of western companies are concerned.

There have been many out there who have bought up the fact that the billionaires who were so ready to donate to the reconstruction of Notre Dame have been echoingly silent about this disaster, despite the fact that it is far more extreme and debilitating.

For those of you who are concerned about this and want to help out here are a couple of links:

The Rainforest Action Network – If you can donate here to protect and acre of the rainforest

The Rainforest Trust – By donating here you can help buy land in the rainforest and help protect it that way

The Rainforest Alliance – this website allows you to check whether or not the products that you are buying are rainforest-safe.

Amazon Watch – donate to this organization to protect the rainforest and the indigenous people that live there.

Ecosia.org – this is an eco-search engine that plants a tree for every 45 searches that you run. Try setting it as your default browser on your computer.

Sign the Greenpeace petition urging the Brazilian government to save the Amazon rainforest.

Also try reducing your paper and wood consumption to reduce the amount of trees that need to be felled each year. Reduce your beef intake, much of the beef found in processed meat and fast food comes from cattle farmed in land that used to be part of the Amazon.

A Week of New Beginnings

Well just as I was beginning to once again get swamped with feelings of existential dread and that constant panic-making knowledge that we are on the precipice of ecological disaster I was greeted by this week’s events. A mixture of good and bad this week seems, fingers crossed, to be the beginning of not just a global awakening but a global movement towards more concrete climate action. So, what happened this week to make me think this you may ask, well sit back and let me tell you.

Greta Thunberg was invited to address the European Parliament

ENVI Committee – Exchange of views with Greta Thunberg, climate activist

That’s right, my girl Greta is still at it and doesn’t seem to be willing to stop any time soon. The teenage activist who has been sitting outside of Swedish Parliament every Friday in an attempt to kick start a climate revolution appeared before the European Parliament this week to remind everyone that they have a responsibility to safeguard the planet for future generations. She brought up many great points about the need to vote not just for our own interests but for the interests of those who cannot vote but will be affected by what we do now in the years to come. Is it any wonder that she’s been nominated for a Nobel peace prize?

Sir David Attenborough presented another ground shaking documentary, and he’s no longer mincing words.

Straight off the back of his ‘Our Planet’ series, the deceiving beautiful show that exposes the crumbling nature of our current existence and our soon to be future should we continue as we are. Climate change: The Facts does not hold back in its message. Sir David is no longer sugar coating for us with his honey smooth voice (yes like everyone I could listen to this man all fricking day) and has instead moved to a much more sombre note. With the move to Netflix he has jumped in with both feet in an attempt to spark the same kind of passion for climate change as Blue Planet II has done for single use plastics.

Climate change: The Facts is a call to arms to face, in Attenborough’s words ‘our greatest threat in thousands of years’. Chock full of experts stating in clear terms the consequences of our current lifestyles, possibly the most hard-hitting moments come not from the professionals but from the amateurs, as we watch in real time the disastrous effects of climate change on individuals through shaky phone footage. But as harrowing and stark as the statistics in this film are it is refreshing to se the blame placed where it really belongs, not just on the shoulders of the everyday individual but on the conglomerates and corporations who are profiting off of this impending disaster. Fossil fuel companies who have known for over 40 years what their products are doing to the environment, and have used the same tactics that the tobacco companies used to spread misinformation and confusion in an attempt to safeguard their profits over the lives of everyone else.

Extinction Rebellion has taken over and continues to hold large parts of London in a massive protest for movement against climate change

Unfortunately almost all of the coverage that I have seen on this protest has not focused on what they are protesting about but are instead focusing on the disruption of commuters. As though civil disobedience is about making as little disruption as possible. However, most of the police interviewed have stated that the protesters are overwhelmingly peaceful and many commuters are under the impression that as long as it helps to change the general opinion on climate change and gets things done then their disruption is a minimal price to pay. A great video by Jonathan Pie has covered the protest in a refreshing way that focused on the real issues being brought up by the protest. One delivery driver who was stopped by the disruption was interviewed saying it ‘slows everything down, which is good in some ways because if you slow the work down they take notice don’t they? The government with lose money that way. The government are doing nothing about it and our kids are going to grow up into what? They’ve got to grow up with something, if we don’t do anything now, it will never happen’. Civil disobedience works, and the tactics of the press to focus on the disruption being caused are the same ones they used during the fight for womens rights, gay rights and any other large scale protest in history.

Notre Dame caught fire and the response of the worlds rich shows the hypocrisy of our current society.

On the 15th of this month the historical Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire causing much of the world to watch with bated breath to see how much of it could be saved. Now whilst the iconic spire fell two of Frances wealthiest families pledged 300 million euro to help with the restoration project. As of now over $700 million has been raised to help fix this iconic landmark. Which is great, I understand the mourning of such a beautiful piece of architecture and history, however the speed at which these billionaires handed over their money to help rebuild this cathedral got me, and judging from the reactions a lot of people, thinking. Where’s this urgency to when it comes to helping the living? Why are these people so willing to put their hands in their pockets for one building that is already owned by an organisation worth over $170 billion in the US alone (yep the catholic church could easily fund the restorations themselves but if you’ve ever been to a fundraiser for a local church you know that they won’t be shelling out any time soon) but not to help fund renewable energy research, or donate to help end world hunger and poverty, or even help to rebuild and rehouse those made homeless in other disasters such as the Grenfell fire last year?

If you want a perspective of how much money has been thrown at this disaster let’s compare it to Grenfell shall we:

How many people died in the Notre Dame fire? Zero.

How many people died in the Grenfell fire? 72.

How much money has been raised for Notre dame so far? $1 billion dollars.

How much money has been raised for Grenfell? 26.5 million, and it’s been found that only around 3 million of that has gone to the survivors so far.

And whilst the world watched transfixed by the burning of Paris, the last female Yangtze softshell turtle died, making this species functionally extinct and yet I think I only saw maybe one news article about that. But hey maybe we’re just becoming numb to the rampant loss of species as we’re currently seeing an extinction rate of 1,000 to 10,000 times the natural rate. In fact, maybe I’m being a bit of a downer, we did have a good year in 2018 with only 3 bird species disappearing from our skies, with 5 more being classified as ‘extinct in the wild’, we also lost 2 snail species and several plant species. I wish I was being glib about that being a good year but compared with previous years those numbers are actually pretty low.

So movement is being made, people are waking up, both to the reality of our current and future climate and to the lack of help from those who could help the most. If you are one of the many who have only recently been made aware of how precariously close to ecological disaster we are then you may be asking, what can I do? If so then please feel free to go through my previous posts which have more detail about various ways that you can change to reduce your environmental impact but for now here are a few quick tips:

– If you can’t join in with physical protests then sign a petition urging you’re government to take a stronger stance on climate change – here’s one by Friends of the Earth to get you started

– donate to help the people on the ground, there are many non-profit groups that are fighting to protect our planet

– make one or two small changes to reduce your individual impact on the environment – try reducing your meat consumption, use a reusable coffee cup, walk or cycle to places that you would normally drive to

– Boycott large companies that are actively harming our planet – Exxon and Shell have both admitted to hushing up evidence of the impact of fossil fuels on climate change. The fast fashion industry uses thousands of gallons of water to make cheap clothes and dumps waste products back into the environment.

– Reduce your participation in consumer culture – if you must shop, shop in second hand stores.

– And finally, give yourself a break. If you’re like me then the continued coverage of our impending catastrophe can feel a bit like we’ve been given a terminal diagnosis. It can get overwhelming, to the point where eco-anxiety has now become a scientifically recognised disorder. It’s nearly impossible to live wholly ethically in our current capitalist society, activist guilt is real but if you let it consume you then you can become paralyzed and that’s no help to anyone.

Let Your Hobbies be Hobbies

Whilst I will be back to writing more environmental based posts, product reviews and the like I wanted to take this time to write about something that i’ve been thinking about for a while. Almost a follow on from my last post about allowing yourself to just relax and do nothing. I wanted to talk about our societies current obsession with monetising hobbies. Now I do subscribe to the ‘if you’re good at something then never do it for free’ to some extent, namely if you are doing something all the time and you are given the opportunity to make some money with it then why not?

The thing that I have issue with however is the idea that doing something you enjoy is only worth it if you can make money from it, and by extension it’s only worth doing if you are really good at it. I know that i’m not the only person who has given up on something because I wasn’t ‘good’ at it, even things that I really enjoyed. And those things that I am good at, I have felt like I should be trying to make money with it, or what’s the point of continuing to do it?

This, I believe, is indicative of how out current society only places emphasis on doing things that can be made profitable. Do you enjoy crafts? Well then you should be selling them. Do you like art? Then you should be taking commissions. And if the thing you enjoy is not marketable then why are you doing it? Why are you doing something just because you enjoy it? Why are you not being more productive? It’s these kind of insidious beliefs that can stop us from continuing or even starting something that we really enjoy.

I’ve felt this similar pressure with writing this blog, I want to do a good job and I want to spread useful information and opinions to those of you who want to live a lower waste life. But the pressure to try and do it so often and make money off of it has sucked some of the fun out of it and has led me to posting some posts that I wasn’t 100% happy with. I want to keep up some semblance of an upload schedule with this blog, and I have more posts planned out but i’m going to be spending more time ensuring that i’m enjoying writing these, and that they’re up to a good enough standard before I post them. If some time in the future this blog becomes popular enough to become a source of income for me then great, but that’s not going to be my main focus.

Instead i’m going to let my hobbies continue to be hobbies, something that I do to unwind, something that makes me happy, something that I don’t have to be perfect at.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Wastemas

It’s the season of giving, and by giving I mean needlessly consuming and spending, which let’s be honest is what Christmas has become. I’m not trying to be a party pooper, and seriously whichever holidays you celebrate I hope you have a great time, but try and remember what is important this time of year (and all other times of the year). Supporting each other, being with loved ones and helping those less fortunate.

There are plenty of ways in which you can still enjoy the holidays and reduce waste/ not buy into the consumerism culture.

  1. Think honestly about what it is that you need/want this holiday season.

I had real trouble finding things to ask for this year when my family members wanted to know what I want as a present, and that’s because i’ve rewired my thinking. Practicing mindful living has made me take stock of what is important materialistically in my life, and the answer is not a lot honestly. I live very comfortably as I am now, I don’t need new clothes, I don’t care about the latest gadgets anymore, so what is there to ask for?

How about asking friends and family to donate the money that they would normally spend on you to a charity? If you still want something to open then many charities provide ‘gifts’ this time of year. For example Friends of the Earth are giving out ‘Christmas Bee Saver Kits’ with a minimum donation of £12.

2. Think about gifts beyond what you can buy

  • Many people show their love through well thought out gifts that they know their family and friends will enjoy, and i’m not saying that we should stop that, but there are more ways of providing gifts than spending money on fancy new items.
  • Provide experiences – things such as experience days, trips, lessons etc – one of my most memorable gifts was when my nan bought me a ‘walk with hawks’ which allowed me to spend the day learning about and watching various birds of prey with a group of other enthusiasts.
  • Provide your time – why not gift your loved one with the promise of your time, whether it be the promise of helping them move/decorate, going out to the cinema together, having lunch. If you have children then why not create a little coupon book with things such as ‘a day of play’, or ‘mum cooks with me’ etc (I don’t know what kids like).
  • Make your gift – Some of my most treasured possessions are gifts that were handmade, for example the quilt that one of my best friends made for me for my 18th birthday, or the story that the same friend wrote for me one year. Don’t worry if you are not super creative, just putting the thought and time into making your gift will make it all the more meaningful.
  • Re-gift or buy second hand – Re-gifting gets a bad wrap (unintentional pun), but as long as your not giving it back to the person who originally gave it to you then I don’t see what the problem is. If you think that someone else will get more enjoyment and use out of something than you, and as long as it’s in a decent condition why not re-gift it? Also, look in charity and thrift shops for your gifts before buying new, you could find something extraordinary and you’ll be helping a good cause while you’re at it.
  • If you buy, buy local – Finally, buying new gifts should be a last resort in my opinion, but if you’re going to buy new then patronise your local businesses before you give your money to giant multinational corporations. The quality of the gift will often be higher because they have more to lose from shoddy workmanship, and the conditions in which the product is created will often be better because things are normally locally sourced and not from sweatshops.

3. Use this time to think of others

Why not donate your time/money/unneeded items to those less fortunate this holiday season? If you can’t do all three that’s fine but look for things to help out with.

  • Time – volunteer at a soup kitchen, help hand out blankets and food to the homeless, invite a lonely older person to your house for Christmas dinner (there are charities that will put you in touch with people who want that, don’t just pick up a random pensioner off the street). There are plenty of foundations that you can join that really need the extra help (all year round but especially during the cold months).
  • Money – make a donation to a charity, give money to the next homeless person you see (or if you don’t want to give them money then buy them a hot meal). But be vigilant about which charities you support, the Salvation Army will be making the rounds again this holiday season however I will personally never donate to them due to their harmful, anti-LGBT rhetoric and archaic values.
  • Unneeded items – many charities offer donation boxes for the homeless and the poor all around the world, why not check your cupboards for unneeded canned goods, toiletries (seriously sanitary towels etc are a godsend for these things), and even children toys. This is a great time to teach your kids about giving to those less fortunate and about how fortunate they themselves are. My old school used to do a christmas shoebox exchange where each child filled a box with old toys etc which were sent off to children in the third world.

How you can help:

Here are some links to various charities with advice on how you can help out this holiday season.

Money:

  • Friends of the Earth and their ‘Bee Saver pack’ – giving you the tools to help save the bees
  • KidsOut and their ‘Giving Tree’ – helping children who have escaped domestic violence
  • Unicef and their ‘Inspired Gifts’ – providing lifesaving supplies to children and communities around the world
  • Savethechildren and their ‘Virtual gifts’ – life changing gifts for children in third world countries
  • Refuge and their ‘Christmas gifts’ – give a christmas present to a woman or child that has escaped domestic violence
  • WWF and their ‘adopt an animal’ – protect an endangered animal and get a cuddly toy
  • Centrepoints and their ‘More than a gift’ – buy a homeless person christmas dinner, a gift, or a bed for the night
  • Impact and their ‘gift tokens’ – help restore a persons health and improve their life through medical funding

Time:

  • Crisis at christmas – volunteer to help run one of Crisis’ homeless centres, from cooking to counselling there is plenty that you can do
  • Age UK’s ‘telephone befrienders’ – Age UK are looking for people to have a 30 minute chat with a lonely older person once a week. Seriously just 30 minutes a week.

Unneeded items:

  • Local foodbanks – you can find out what is needed at your local food bank and help take part in the ‘reverse advent calender’ where you donate an item of food everyday in the run up to christmas.

Don’t Use It As An Excuse

A few of my recent posts, namely ‘‘Never Fear Failure’ and ‘We All Have a Part to Play’, have unintentionally softened the message that this blog is trying to send. Which is that we must all do our best and try our hardest to reduce our impact on the environment. I don’t want to put you off, or come across a bitter and angry (which I totally am so it might happen anyway) I only bring this up as I have been seeing a lot of posts on various social media platforms about how the framing of climate change as a personal failure is wrong because companies are the biggest polluters. But whilst it is true that big companies and multimillionaires are to blame for the vast majority of environmental degradation and climate change (around 70%) I fear that people are using this as an excuse to stop trying.

Just because others have a bigger impact doesn’t mean that you get to stop trying to reduce your own. We don’t live in a vacuum, that one plastic bottle that you bought because you couldn’t be bothered to fill up a reusable one and bring it with you isn’t really just one plastic bottle. It’s millions, because there are millions of others out there that are doing exactly what you are doing and we need to stop.

And conversely, those of you who are saying that your actions don’t matter because large companies are doing more damage than one person can repair, what are you doing to hold these people accountable? I haven’t seen petitions or marches for harsher restrictions on companies so much as i’ve seen people using these facts as a scape goat to stop looking at their own behaviours. You can bitch and moan that the fashion industry is ruining our water supply, or that animal agriculture is causing more greenhouse gas emissions than cars but as long as you keep buying and consuming their shit they’re going to keep doing it.

So yes, it’s true that eating the owner of one fortune 100 company would do more to help the environment that becoming a vegan ever could (and i’ll talk about some of the drawbacks of veganism on environmental protection another time) but I don’t see anyone killing Jeff Bezos anytime soon so until then do something to reduce your own damaging impact!

There will be things that you can’t give up, there will be mistakes that you make because hey! nobodies perfect. But you have to try. Refuse that plastic straw the next time you order a drink, so that someone who actually needs a straw can still use one. Take public transport, or ride a bike to work so that someone who can’t physically do those things and has to rely on cars to get places still can. Push yourself to do better, if you forget to take your reusable coffee cup out with you then you don’t get a coffee, don’t reward yourself for failing because then you won’t get better. And for those of you out there (once again mostly rich people)  who think that your own personal enjoyment of something somehow negates the damage and is somehow more important the the protection of our planet then maybe take a hard look at yourself.

And if you are the owner of a multinational corporation or a fortune 100 company (although I doubt there are any of those reading this) stop fucking destroying our planet for your own profits and take some goddamn responsibility.