Recently aired on BBC One was a powerful one-hour documentary fronted by national treasure and environmentalist, Sir David Attenborough. Climate Change: The Facts did what it says in the title... it gave us the straight-up realities of a warming planet, what that is doing to our world and its wildlife, some of the key causes, and what the future might look like according to the science we have.
Unsurprisingly, it was heavy. We all know the facts of climate change are far from pretty, and it's not a very nice experience to have them laid out in front of you. If the show had covered these facts alone, it would have left me feeling pretty hopeless, but luckily it didn't. It concluded by offering some solutions to the problems we are all as a global community currently facing.
Instead of grim, it left me feeling hugely motivated, and eager to embrace the responsibility I have and do everything I can to ensure a better future for our world. It's so easy to feel dwarfed by the scale of a problem so much bigger than one individual life, but look at what one life can do. The documentary touches on 16-year-old Greta Thunberg of Sweden, who likewise felt hopeless after learning about the devastation of climate change. She stopped going to school to protest in front of the Swedish houses of parliament, stating there was no point in going to school if she had no future. The actions of one girl saw children and young adults around the whole world walk out of school to protest climate change, shining a global spotlight on the developing environmental crisis. One person can make huge change. You are one person, and by talking about this and bringing people's attention to the issue, together we can tackle this.
There are loads of small things we can do in our everyday too to use our own lives as a force for change. Here's a few.
Solution: boycott palm oil
Palm oil is the number one cause of deforestation and it is having catastrophic effects. Not only does the burning of them release significant amounts of CO2 into the air which contributes to warming temperatures, but trees are one of the most powerful ways we can fight climate change, as they absorb CO2 and release oxygen during the process of photosynthesis, so they are the very last thing we should be doing away with. Palm oil is in almost EVERYTHING we consume and for the most part, we aren't even aware of it. So here's what we need to do
Start checking. You'll be amazed at how omnipresent this product is in our food once you start looking - everything from spreads and biscuits to bread, chocolate, bottled drinks, packaged meals and so much more.
Avoid at all costs. There are always palm oil-free alternatives, and until there starts being a market demand for an alternative, the corporations which use it in their products will never change. In 2009 the New Zealand public succeeded in pressuring the local Cadbury factory to change after they announced they were replacing cocoa butter in their products with palm oil. With strength in numbers, they boycotted the brand until they were forced to change. We can make a difference.
Problem: greenhouse gas emissions
Solution: reduce red meat and dairy intake
Large-scale industrial farming to feed the growing masses is not only not sustainable, it's the leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions. The logic behind this is two-fold, as A) cattle produce significant amounts of methane gas which is thirty times stronger than CO2, and B) land needs to be cleared not only to sustain the huge quantity of livestock we now farm but to grow corn to feed cattle. Imagine if all of us decreased our dairy and red meat intake even by half, how much impact that would have.
Problem: CO2 emissions
Solution: buy locally and seasonally
Think of the things we consume - clothes, food, appliances - and the journey of each one of those items takes from its origin to landing with you. Online shopping has put everything within our reach, requiring no thought on the consumer's part of what that means to get to you. Buy things sourced and made locally to you... don't buy strawberries in the middle of winter. Check labels to see where something comes from. Grow your own wherever you can, even if that only means a herb box in the kitchen window.
The biggest arguments against all of the changes we need to make is the cost, I know. But what this documentary made abundantly clear is how much higher the cost of inaction than action. We used to say our children's children would pay the price for us doing nothing about climate change, but this ship is sailing faster than anyone had imagined and it's become abundantly clear that we will pay for it ourselves, in our current lifetimes.
Just this week I read about the world's second largest emperor penguin colony which disappeared overnight, due to a huge ice shelf where the colony was breeding collapsing. Mass death tolls like this or the bat species in Australia which lost a third of all its numbers over two days last November due to a heat wave impact on whole ecosystems which all feed into the way we get to live our lives. Did Mufasa teach you nothing? It's the circle of life, we're all connected. They suffer, we suffer.
Change is happening whether we acknowledge it or not, but we are in a quickly shrinking time of privilege where action from all of us is still a choice. So, will we fight climate change together? Fight for our world and its health? I know my answer... what's yours?