I’ve been sitting on this one for a while as I’ve been trying to find a way to write about the environment without sounding like a smug prick. But I’ve got so fired up over the last few days that potentially looking smug doesn’t feel reason enough not to write this.
If you’re anything like me, your social media feed has been increasingly full of posts denouncing plastic and showing great concern for our oceans and the future of the planet. Public interest in sustainability appears to be rising rapidly, and more and more people are saying no to single use plastics, buying reusable coffee cups and taking canvas bags to the supermarket. A scroll through Instagram reveals packaging free shops, beautiful people sipping on juices through paper straws, and luxury eco-friendly goods available near you. So far, so good right?
It’s not that I don’t think these are positive steps forward, and it’s certainly great to have such a movement of people who are engaged in solutions to the climate crisis. It’s just that I think we’re collectively focusing on the wrong things. And we may not have time to do that.
I made it a personal goal of mine to replace ten every day items with more sustainable ones by the end of the year, and have been patting myself on the back for reaching my goal. But at same time, I’ll have taken 6 return flights by the time 2019 rolls in- more than I’ve ever taken in a single year previously.
Why am I focused on the planet in some areas of my life but not others? Because, if I’m honest with myself, I’m taking the steps that are easiest to do. Changing to a bamboo toothbrush is a minor cost increase and does not in any way impact upon my lifestyle. In fact, it makes me feel good. Stopping flying however, would take a much bigger adjustment of mindset.
But adjusting our mindsets is something we all need to do if we have a chance of halting climate change. Because the harsh truth is that it’s going to take a lot more than using a canvas bag at the supermarket to help us. We need to consume much less, not just recycle. Same goes for consuming the same amount in a ‘greener’ way. We have to reshape the way we live so that we can live with what the earth can comfortably provide us with. I’ve been fooling myself that I was doing ‘my bit’ by switching a few products.
I read an excellent article in The Guardian recently that articulates this all in a much better way than I can. If we don’t drastically reduce the burning of fossil fuels on a global scale (like, yesterday), switch to renewable energy sources, and stop producing so much stuff, we’re basically all screwed. And a narrative that puts the onus on the individual to become more environmentally friendly is incredibly convenient for oil companies and large corporations because it allows them to carry on destroying the planet whilst we busy ourselves with separating our recyclables.
Governments are lobbied by organisations whose interests lie in preventing the switch to renewables, so they’re not going to change policies anywhere near fast enough without considerable pressure from the public.
Which all leaves me feeling pretty deflated. What do you do when it feels like the only things you can do are just the tip of an already melting iceberg?
I’ve been googling for the last few days and, obviously, there are no simple answers. We should keep doing what we’re doing, and more. Everything that we can do. I’ve contacted my local Friends of the Earth chapter because I want to get more involved in activism and campaigning. I’m going to keep reading stuff that scares the shit out of me so that I stay engaged. I’m going to elect to spend my money, wherever possible with companies who are committed to being part of the solution. And I’m going to vote for those who have environmental issues at the heart of what they do, rather than treating it as a niche concern.
We all need to shout louder. Now.
Next week…back to bums or something.