An Introduction to the Climate Crisis

Extinction Rebellion made three major demand, and on May 1, Parliament finally met one of these by declaring an environment and climate emergency. With recent reports of Venice flooding as well as Australia and California burning in forest fires, there’s no denying we’re truly facing a disaster. Climate change isn’t new and science has been supporting it for years, but the politics just hasn’t been there to back it up. However, with role models like Greta Thunberg and whole generations showing up in force at protests, the politicians and corporations can no longer ignore the issue we’re collectively facing. 

(Credit: Markus Spiske, UNSPLASH)

When most people hear the words ‘climate change’ they immediately think of global warming, but it actually refers to the long-term alteration of established natural processes. Although the earth has faced global warming before, it’s never been at this scale. Climate change will exacerbate many natural processes: temperatures will rise causing more droughts and fires. Rainfall will escalate, increasing the risk of flooding. Natural disasters will become more frequent, and their impact intensify. Land, sea and air pollution will multiply. Oceans will rise. As a result, the security of all species on the Earth will be threatened, in terms of habitats, food and even just plain existence. Some countries will fare better than others, having increased growing seasons and the financial security to alleviate or prevent the impacts of climate change, but that should not allow us to discard the problem as someone else’s responsibility. Overall, climate change is an incredibly negative topic as it can be scary or heart-breaking for a lot of people, but that means it’s a lot easier to ignore it and think of it as some far-off problem for future generations. It’s true that we may not be around to see the worst of these impacts, especially for those of us living in the developed west, but to save those future generations we need to act now. It can be done. 

Thirty years ago, the Montreal Protocol came into effect to stop the growth of a hole in the Ozone Layer. The protocol has its successes and failures, but overall it has succeeded. The hole has been reduced massively and we now use more sustainable substances. The planet still faces a number of issues particularly with greenhouse emissions, which we release within all aspects of our life, whether that’s with the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the way we travel to work, the products and energy we consume and so much more. Many of these issues require international political action to revolutionise regulations on countries and transnational corporations and that leaves a lot of people feeling as though there isn’t much they can do. Along with the fear and anxiety that climate change can cause, this feeling of helplessness often leads to blissful ignorance. But not all hope is lost and there’s so much that you can do as an individual to start making a change, and hopefully as people change their values, politics and economics will have to follow suit, meaning we’ll achieve effective action to prevent and reverse further climate change.


So, what can you do? 

Shopping:

The best thing you can do is to stop spending. There are a lot of products that can help you be more sustainable and most of them are alternatives to plastic. Keep reading FARID to find helpful products that are ethical and environmentally friendly. Sustainable consumerism is all well and good but the best method is just not to buy. Don’t buy a new metal lunchbox to take your lunch to work or class if you still have old Tupperware lying around. Fast fashion is also a major contributor to climate change, with the textile industry emitting more carbon dioxide than aviation and shipping combined. Try to buy second-hand or from ethical brands, but most of all try to buy as little as possible. Maybe for Christmas, ask for experiences and vouchers or charity donations so that you don’t end up with things you don’t need or want. And when it comes to buying for others, give them the same or make your own gifts. Try support local and/or sustainable businesses. 

Change your diet: 

Most people have heard by now that vegan diets are more environmentally friendly, and more restaurants and cafes are offering vegan options as a result. Vegans can reduce their carbon footprint by 85% compared to meat-eaters and eating organically can help reduce the volume of herbicides and chemicals in the soil. Try to buy unpackaged foods or bulk products and visit stores like Waitrose or Food Loose in Cheltenham where you can bring your own containers. This helps to alleviate food waste and plastic packaging. Meal prepping is also a good way for busy people and helps to reduce food waste, which is also a significant contributor to climate change when it goes to landfill and releases methane. Contact your council about composting or set up one for your garden at home, you’d be surprised what can go into them like old hair, burnt out matches and clumps of dust.

Recycling and compost:  

Ask about recycling bins and see what you can recycle to reduce the amount of waste in landfill. Lots of products that can’t be recycled can be terra-cycled like crisp packets and chocolate bar wrappers, so find out if there are any collection centres near you. 

Travel: 

Take a bike ride or a walk when you can as leaving the car behind can be good for your health as well as the environment. There are also alternatives like the bus or train if it’s raining and miserable outside. Try car-pooling or running errands with a group of people, so that you don’t need to drive as frequently. Cars aren’t the only kind of damaging transport though, the commercialisation of air travel has had a terrible effect on annual carbon emissions. Try to reduce your travelling, fly shorter distances or really make long-distance travel worth it. Living in Europe means it’s easy to reach a lot of countries by ship or train, which are much more environmentally friendly. 

(Credit: Harrison Moore, UNSPLASH)

These are just a small number of ways you can help the environment. Some may seem easier than others, but remember that you only have to do as much as you can. You may not be able to take the aeroplane pledge or go fully vegan, but that doesn’t mean that every now and again you can swap a plane for a train or use tofu instead of chicken. Going vegetarian, drinking dairy free milks or cooking vegan meals a couple meals a week is still more helpful than not making any changes. These may not seem like big changes but every little counts, and being open to change will help politicians and industries be open to change as well. These problems don’t require a handful of people doing everything perfectly, but rather every person doing as much as possible. Another key way to help is to learn as much as you can about the problem and share that information with others! There’s a whole range of information out there for you to learn and help the environment, but still think about the way you consume if you want to read it from books. Try to buy from second-hand stores, borrow them from the library or read them through a kindle or tablet. Then pass them onto your friends to help raise awareness and get more use out of a product. Emails are great too, with many sites offering news on the climate, environment, scientific breakthroughs and tips for living more sustainably. A little-known fact though is that they all carry a carbon footprint so clear your inbox and try to unsubscribe to all those emails you just delete each week. 

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