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.

Are You Still Watching?

My Top 5 Sustainability and Low Waste Living Documentaries on Netflix

I’ve written before about various documentaries that I have found useful in my low waste journey. I regularly have weeks where the only things that I want to watch are documentaries and as such have been through my fair share of them. I’ve even been asked by my friends to provide them with recommendations multiple times, so I thought that i’d give these recommendations to you guys too. Here are my top 5 documentaries (in no particular order) related to sustainability, low waste living and thoughtful shopping.

Minimalism

I’ve spoken about this one multiple times in previous posts, in fact it’s this documentary that inspired me to start this blog in the first place. Minimalism follows the Minimalists as they travel around America to promote their new book and their lifestyle. It also contains interviews with other people who have decided to reduces their consumption and reject the capitalist lifestyle that we’ve all been taught to strive for. This documentary focuses more on minimalism as a lifestyle that values time and relationships over physical belongings as opposed to minimalism as an aesthetic. Whilst on the surface this may note seem overly related to low waste living, the minimalist lifestyle is in itself very low impact. By buying and owning fewer items you generate less waste.

The True Price

This one may not initially strike you as a low waste documentary but it definitely made me rethink the way that I shop for and use clothes. The True Price is a documentary about the impact that the fashion industry has on the environment and on the people in third world countries. People that have to make clothes in appalling conditions just so that we can spend £2 on a t-shirt that we’re only going to wear once. It forces you to think about your relationship with retail and about how capitalism and constant advertising is affecting the way we live our lives. This documentary was the catalyst for my ‘Impact of Fast Fashion’ post.

Fed Up

Fed Up is a low waste documentary in that it will hopefully make you think twice about what you are buying at the supermarket. Heavily processed foods are everywhere on our shelves and it should come as no surprise that they are one of the main causes of rampant obesity. What may be more surprising is how far companies are going to try and steer us in the wrong direction, so that they can continue to sell us these unhealthy diets. I myself try to go for the organic range, and have even made steps to try and grow most of my own food myself, but I know that that is not an option for everyone, so hopefully this documentary can give you a more solid footing for the next time you go grocery shopping.

Cowspiracy

Cowspiracy takes a similar tone to Blackfish, in that it tackles something that most of us are aware of but don’t really want to think about. The impact that widespread animal agriculture is having on our planet, and on us. From the amount of water it takes to raise a cow for slaughter, to the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted by ‘big dairy’ Cowspiracy focuses mostly on how we should cut back on our meat consumption if we want to save the planet. Much like Fed Up, Cowspiracy also looks into the impact that our current diet is having on our health, and on the efforts that food corporations are going to in order to hide this from us.

Sustainable

Last but not least on this list is Sustainable. Sustainable is much less of a downer about food and the fate of the planet than the last three documentaries on this list, in fact its tone is much closer to Minimalism. Sustainable follows the rising trend of sustainable farming, mostly in America but in other parts of the world as well. Much like my ‘Go Old School for Low Waste’ post, many of the practices in this documentary are taken from old style agriculture. The dismissal of mono-crops, rotating seasonal foods, focusing more on natural resistances than pesticides etc. It also poses the questions, can we farm sustainably and still provide enough food to feed everyone? The answer that this documentary gives us is that not only can sustainable farming produce enough food to feed everyone, but it can do it much better than current farming practices are.

I hope this list has given you a good starting block of extra material to help you on your low waste journey, or just help you to educate yourselves on alternative ways of living. If anyone has any further recommendations then please leave a comment or email at jade.musto@livinglightergoinggreener.co.uk and i’ll check them out and maybe make another post like this in the future.