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.

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.