Závěrečná část cyklu Jirky Herrmanna o klimatických změnách se soustředí na sílu jednotlivce, prostor pro naději a na konkrétní kapky, které mohou naplnit oceán změn.
První část této trilogie jasně konstatovala, že v problematice klimatických změn nejde primárně o planetu, která dramatickými výkyvy s úspěchem prochází od svého vzniku, ale o lidstvo a jeho přežití. Druhá část toto tvrzení podpořila nejedním pádným důkazem. Třetí část, kterou právě máte před sebou, přináší dvě zásadní sdělení:
- Naše trilogie má naštěstí stále otevřený konec.
- Spousta drobných věcí, které může udělat každý z nás, může přispět k tomu, aby se z odlehčené ekotrilogie nestal tragický ekothriller.
Episode 3: Drops in the Ocean
Autor textu: Jiří Herrmann
Úvodní obrázek: Pascal Chanel
Welcome, esteemed readers, to the conclusion of this trilogy on hell and waffles.
In the previous installments, I spoke about the fact that many of the natural resources that we, as in mankind, have been unearthing and using for our benefit are, in fact, poison for our environment. As a consequence, our many advancements in industry, science, and technology have taken, and are taking, their toll on our environmental conditions – conditions that we are vitally dependent on with our existence. So, if we continue on this course, it could very well lead to all of us losing essential things like livable space, drinkable water, or breathable air. And to being generally waffled.
And when I say waffled, as most of you already know, I’m, unfortunately, not really talking about delicious breakfast pastries.
The paths away from hell’s doorstep
Today, however, I’d like to talk about how all this horribleness can be prevented or slowed down – so that we actually have a chance to, y’know, waffling die of old age.
As I see it, there are 3 main ways things could be fixed, or at least improved:
- A major scientific or technological breakthrough that would mend environmental damage on a global scale, or mitigate its impact.
- Sweeping societal and economic changes spearheaded by the most powerful and influential people on the planet.
- Smaller adjustments in the lifestyle of the normal people.
A technological miracle
Let’s start with the most convenient, but also least probable one. It is not outside the realm of possibility that there will be a scientific breakthrough so momentous, that it partly solves one or more of the extinction risks we are facing. There have, for instance, recently been significant advances in:
However, even if these “miracles” work exactly as envisioned and become widely adopted, which is a big if, they will most likely not be enough.
The 1% solution
Secondly, there is a very limited number of specific people who could single-handedly have an enormous impact on the lifespan of our civilization. Fossil fuel company executives, political leaders of the world’s superpowers, that sort of folks.
However, these very people are largely held hostage by their responsibilities to their employees, shareholders, and electorates, and sometimes also by their own selfishness and greed. So, even though there have been improvements recently, I would personally not expect much from them.
The 99% solution
So, it falls to normal(ish) people like you and me to bear the brunt of the un-waffling efforts. In the big picture, each of us might be as insignificant as a drop in the ocean, but the ocean is ultimately nothing but a multitude of drops. I would even go so far as to say that anyone reading this is among the best candidates to be a pioneer of change for the better. After all, if people like us don’t do anything – if sensible people who have the luxury of choice don’t take up that responsibility – then who the waffle will?
Fortunately, there are a variety of fairly simple things we can do to help stave off the hellification of our world, without having to become eco-terrorists or hermits. And since we live in a very consumer-centric society, a lot of these measures have to do with being responsible consumers.
Measure 1: Eat less meat
This one is probably not going to surprise anyone. Meat is important for proper human sustenance, but not THAT important. Also, the meat industry is one of the biggest contributors to deforestation, chemical pollution, economic and social inequality, and (somewhat ironically) also world hunger. And I’m not even gonna go into the whole ethical aspect of it. So, in short, there are few rational reasons to be a carnivore, and a great many reasons not to.
Measure 2: Don’t buy into fast fashion
It is not that commonly known, but the way clothes production and consumption works nowadays is waffling horrible in almost every way. For example, in certain parts of the world, people buy a new piece of clothing on average every 5 days, and throw away almost 40 kg of clothes per person, every year. In addition, out of all that trashed textile, roughly a third has been used less than 5 times.
However, both cotton and synthetic clothing is very environmentally demanding to create, generates a lot of pollution, and is difficult to recycle. On top of that, a sizable portion of European fashion is manufactured in sweatshops in China, Taiwan, or Bangladesh. And the worst part is – most of the fashion industry does very little to prevent any of this.
On the other hand, there are fashion brands and shops that offer locally-made, sustainable, and ethical clothes, which will also last longer, if you let them. As a bonus, they are also far less likely to give you skin cancer. In Czech Republic, these include for example:
Alternatively, if these are too expensive for you and second-hand shopping is not your cup of tea, you can simply make sure that you only buy clothes that you really need and intend to wear as long as they last.
Measure 3a: Sort your trash
Sorting your garbage is not as effective as it was made out to be in the past, but it still helps. While a zero-waste lifestyle is not really viable for most, it should be fairly easy to sort at least the basic types of trash if you live in a town or a city. Plus, it is pretty practical, too, because if you sort, you don’t have to take out full waste bins all the time.
Measure 3b: Avoid single-use plastics
Contrary to what your local sorting bins might lead you to believe, most plastics are not recyclable, and even those that are cannot be recycled infinitely. Admittedly, without drastic changes to how our goods are packaged and distributed, it’s hard to get rid of single-use plastics completely. Still, you can significantly reduce your plastic waste if you avoid these:
- Plastic cups – If you’re a coffee lover, bringing your own reusable cup will make the coffee tastier, and also healthier.
- Food containers – If you’re ordering takeout, prefer simple foods that come in a single box (paper one, ideally), like pizza. If you’re picking up the food at the restaurant, you can bring your own container to carry it in.
- Small plastic bags – For things like bread or vegetables, most supermarkets sell reusable bags, some of which can even be washed after use.
- Tea with plastic wrappers for individual tea bags – Buy loose leaf tea or plastic-free bags instead.
- Cosmetics sachets – If you need your shampoo compactly packaged, use small refillable plastic bottles.
- Drinking straws – Alternatives made of stainless steel, bamboo pulp, or glass are easily obtainable today.
- Cotton swabs – Look for swabs with sticks made of wood or rolled paper.
Measure 4: Plant trees
This is as close to “saving the planet” as you can get. Trees are essential in keeping the planet’s ecosystems together, and according to multiple recent studies, keeping their numbers up is the most direct and effective way to preserve our environment in a reasonable state.
There are even organizations that provide tree planting as a team building activity, like Sázíme Stromy or Home for Trees. So, feel free to bring it up with your coworkers and managers – when non-virtual team buildings are a thing again, of course.
Measure 5: Travel sensibly
Whenever viable, walk, bike, or use public transport, and only travel by air when absolutely necessary. As you may know, transportation is the highest global contributor of CO2 emissions. On top of that, airplane travel is dozens of times more environmentally harmful per passenger per kilometer than other means of travel.
Measure 6a: Don’t have children
Now this one is gonna be a bit controversial, but hear me out. Since the 1950s, the population of Earth has grown more than 3! times, and the vast majority of global problems we face nowadays are directly or indirectly connected to just how waffling many of us there are. So, bringing another human into this world means stoking that fire a tiny bit more. Also consider this – if the future really is heading towards a severe environmental crisis, which is looking pretty waffling likely right now, do you really want your children to grow up in that kind of world?
Measure 6b: Educate your children
However! This entire ecology thing, as we already know, is about people not going waffling extinct, and that kinda doesn’t work without children. What’s more, in an ideal world where everybody has and uses only what they really need, there could quite comfortably be even more of us. So, if you do have children, now or in the future, please do your best to impress upon them the significance and fragility of the world they live in. Yes, fewer people would be better for the environment, but every person who cares and acts responsibly can be incredibly valuable.
Measure 7, 8, 9, and 10: Speak up!
Education is also related to my final and most important point. Do what I do, and talk about it. We have all the scientific data we need, but the greatest challenges we are facing are ignorance and indifference. No amount of knowledge and theoretical solutions matter if people just don’t give a waffle.
Luckily, there are quite a few ways to make your voice heard:
- Share these articles with your family, friends, and colleagues, or use and adapt any parts of them to create something of your own.
- Vote for politicians and political parties with comprehensive ecological agendas. In Czech Republic, these include Zelení, Piráti, and TOP 09.
- Urge your employers or businesses to make a commitment to sustainability, and to cut ties with companies that blatantly disregard it.
- Lend your support to local or global groups that strive for environmental preservation, in the form of signatures, donations, or just word-of-mouth.
Case in point, a few years ago, a 16-year old girl from Sweden made her voice heard, and the entire world took notice, for better or for worse. And if a teenager with Asperger’s syndrome can do that, I believe that anyone reading this could, potentially, do even more.
Not the end
Now all of this may sound a bit too optimistic, but right now, it is too late to be a pessimist. We have lost much, and will lose more, but what’s important is not what’s gone, but what remains. We still have half of the world’s forests, thousands of rivers, lakes, and glaciers, and thousands of thriving species.
It is too late to be a pessimist. We know that the solutions are there today, and we all still have the power to change. So, what are we waiting for?
Sources and further info:
- Yann Arthus-Bertrand: Home (2009)
- Catherine Ingram: Facing extinction
- Extinction Rebellion: Emergency on Planet Earth
- Roadrunner: The Environmental Crisis Caused by Textile Waste
- Andrew Morgan: The True Cost (2015)
- Wall Street Journal: The high price of fast fashion
- BBC: Why clothes are so hard to recycle
- Sanvt: The environmental impact of the fast fashion industry
- WWF: Worst single-use plastics and their eco-friendly alternatives
- OneTreePlanted: Why are trees important for the environment?
- Wikipedia: Environmental impact of transport
- Deia Schlosberg: The Story of Plastic
- Sustainability for all: Causes and consequences of overpopulation
- Environment Journal: Why we should be wary of blaming overpopulation for the climate crisis
- Coursera: Green Business Strategy
Image sources (in order of appearance):