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.

The 11th Hour

Yesterday over 1 million young people around the world skipped school and took to the streets to strike for climate action. According to organizers there were more than 2,000 protests in 125 countries. This global movement has been inspired by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old who has sat outside of Swedish parliament every Friday since August.

Greta Thunberg, as well as many young people, is angry at the lack of action taken by governments and companies to put in place more concrete action plans to help put a stop to catastrophic climate change.

This increase in rage, fear and disappointment in students and many people in their mid-late 20s has come after the UNs warning that we only have 12 years to keep global temperatures to a maximum of 1.5C higher than now. If significant changes are not made and global temperatures go past this 1.5 degree maximum, climate scientists have said that the world will become increasingly inhospitable.

We will see an increase in extreme weather conditions, such as droughts, floods and storms. It should come as no surprise that if this continues, the poorest people and nations will be the most harshly affected, with an increase in food shortages and more chances of flooding. Sea level rises will affect more than 10 million people by 2100 with continued land-ice melt.

These statistics should be shocking enough to inspire action from anyone, however most large companies have done very little to reduce their climatic impact as it will reduce their short-term profits. And many governments have also been very lax in their action plans, giving conservative goals that don’t come close to reducing emissions and pollution to the extent that we need.

Students and young people are rightly angry and indignant about this lack of action as they will be the ones that have to live with the consequences of whatever global governments decide to do, or not do. And as an extra slap in the face many of these students are too young to have a say in what happens, vote whys. Thankfully, as we have seen with the student strikes for gun control after Parkland, the massive turnouts for the womens marches etc, this new generation are ready to fight for what this world needs.

Now for those of us who have a vote, it is vital that we use it to appoint people who will take responsibility for this planet and its people. We also need to start supporting our young people in their crusade, change your lifestyles to reduce your individual impact, sign petitions for concrete action, and join any future marches that may come about. We truly are at the 11th hour and our plant needs us, we have failed her. We have set our house on fire and left our children to put it out, it’s time to take responsibility and rebuild a world that we can be proud to pass on to the next generation.

A Look Back at How Far We’ve Come

As 2018 draws to a close it’s important to make plans to improve for next year but it’s just as important to look back at the good things that we’ve done and how far we’ve travelled. Now whilst there has been some alarming news in regards to the state of the environment this year there have also been tremendous leaps made to protect it this year.

Whist 2018 has had it’s downs and in some ways has felt like one of the longest years i’ve ever had there are plenty of things to be proud of. I’ve gathered together some of the uplifting and impressive discoveries, movements and good deeds that have happened this year as motivations and a pick me up for the year to come.

Wildlife and the Environment

  • The hole in the Ozone layer is the smallest it has been since 1988, and it is estimated that it will be fully repaired by 2060.
  • Colombia increased the size of its Serrania de Chiribiquete national park to 17,000 square miles, making it the largest tropical rainforest national park in the world.
  • The EU voted for a total ban on the use of bee-harming insecticides
  • The Belize Great Barrier Reef was removed from the UNESCO list of threatened world heritage sites
  • Pakistan has pledged to plant 10 billion trees over the next 5 years
  • In the UK half of the cheapest energy companies are ‘green tariffs’ generated by renewable sources
  • 70% of the worlds population are reducing their meat consumption which will go a long way in reducing the carbon emissions created by animal agriculture
  • The population of the critically endangered mountain gorilla has risen by 25%
  • The UK has launched the plastic-free ‘trust mark’ to help shoppers more easily find products packaged without plastic
  • The worlds first electrified road opened in Stockholm, Sweden. This road charges electric car and truck batteries as they drive along it
  • Commercial fishing has been banned in the Arctic, this was passed by an international agreement signed in Greenland
  • London fashion week has become the first major global fashion week to prohibit the use of animal fur in its shows
  • Carbon emissions in the UK are at their lowest levels since 1894, and on April 21st the country didn’t burn any coal for the first time in 140 years

In Other News

  • India has decriminalised homosexuality
  • The US midterm elections contained several historic firsts – with Native American, Muslim and LGBT candidates being elected in numerous states.
  • The UK supermarket chain Sainsburys has started labelling foods most requested by food banks which has led to a dramatic rise in donations of said products
  • For the first time in history half of all people on the planet with HIV are receiving treatment and deaths by AIDs have also been halved since 2005
  • Toronto hosted its first ever Indigenous Fashion Week
  • Laverne Cox became the first transgender woman to appear on Cosmo’s front cover
  • Ireland ended its ban on abortion
  • The ban on female drivers in Saudi Arabia was repealed
  • Jordan Peele became the first black screenwriter to win the Oscar for ‘Best original screenplay’ for his movie ‘Get Out’

And there are plenty more that i’m sure i’ve forgotten to mention, including whatever steps you guys have made as individuals to help make the world a better place.

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.