A Journey Starts With A Single Step
Have you ever experienced life imitating art? And by ‘art’ I mean ‘film’? And by ‘film’ I mean The Day After Tomorrow?
I remember studying climate change in my geography lessons at senior school in the nineties. Back then, it was called global warming. We discussed the myriad consequences of melting ice caps and the felling of the Amazon rainforest; how low-lying islands would be inundated; how desertification would spread unabated; how the UK would become balmy but increasingly stormy. But there was hope, too. The Earth Summit, aka Rio ’92, was meant to bring about change. Governments were going to work together to figure out a solution. We’d stop using coal, oil and gas. We’d switch to solar, wind and hydropower. The future would be saved.
Yet here we are, in 2020 and virtually nothing has changed. And I’m referring to government initiatives, global action to drastically reduce climate change, big business running on solar and wind power, everyone travelling by public transport and shunning meat and plastic.
When it comes to the climate and Planet Earth there have been major changes, of course. Global temperature rises, wide-spread extinction of flora and fauna, melting ice caps and glaciers, more unstable weather, greater deforestation and deadly forest fires, most recently destroying large parts of Australia.
I guess I’ve reached a tipping point. For years the weighty argument for action has been piling up on one side, while the argument for doing nothing has been getting progressively lighter on the other. I’ve reached that precise moment when the scales edge to one side, balance is lost, a full-on fall ensues.
As I cried my way through news reports of irreversible destruction in Australia, I knew I was part of the problem. I think I’m fairly considerate of the environment. I get most of my pleasure from being surrounded by nature and being active in it. I gave up meat several years ago. I try not to fly too much. I had never owned a car (though I must confess I do now, 18 years after passing my driving test). I don’t have children and I try to keep my consumption to a minimum. But, after doing the WWF global footprint test, I saw in stark, giant typeface, that my carbon footprint is 187% above the UK target for 2020 and I emitted roughly 19.7 tonnes of CO2 last year.
I could, with some small changes, bring this down to roughly 14.5 tonnes of CO2 (using the same WWF test). But this is still 138% over the UK target. And this is if I take control of the things that I can, the low-hanging fruit. But there are many things I can’t control. For example, I live in a rented flat in Italy – not the best country when it comes to sustainable thinking – and switching to green energy is not really an option, as it’s part of the rental fee. I need to travel by car, as public transport here is a joke. My family and close friends are spread across at least three countries, depending how many friends I include. I work for a clothing brand, pushing consumerism on the world. I love snowboarding, but resorts, with their lift systems and snow-making machines, are highly energy consumptive.
What do I do? I don’t want to run off to some cave and subsist off the land, live a dire existence akin to life hundreds of years ago. Instead, it’s about finding balance. About equalising those scales.
There are broadly four areas to focus our attention: food, home energy use, travel and clothing. Though there is one word uniting them all: consumption. There is no Planet B. We can’t continue to just use up everything and hope the situation solves itself. We need to start leaving fossil fuels in the ground, swap animal for vegetable protein and reduce our use of resources. We must consume less. It’s not just about consuming differently, i.e. recycled materials, electric cars and Veganuary. It’s not even ‘less is more’. It’s ‘less or die’. This sounds dramatic. It is dramatic. But it’s the truth. We don’t have time to wait. We can’t put this off. A particularly apt quote is this:
A mythical land where 99% of all human productivity, motivation, creativity and achievement is stored.
Let’s make tomorrow today.