Back in 2006, we remember watching former United States’ Vice President Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, about what we then commonly referred to as “global warming”. At the time he said, “What we take for granted might not be here for our children,” a sobering thought and a message that the likes of Sir David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg have echoed in more recent times.
In a country still reeling from the atrocities of 9/11, Gore reminded viewers of the phrase, “Never again” that had been used in response to the attacks. He then played an animation showing the potential devastation that climate change and sea level rise could wreak on the Big Apple and pointed out that “The area where the WTC Memorial is to be located would be underwater.”
This week, we watched a more recent documentary, produced by another high-profile name (Leonardo Di Caprio), Ice on Fire. In the 13 years between the two films, 12% of the planet’s Artic sea ice has been lost, an area twice the size of the UK.
Many still talk of climate change as if it is something that’s coming down the track. A problem that we will turn our attentions to tomorrow, and a threat that we have the means to go toe to toe with and tackle head on. That mindset, most prevalent among world leaders and in the world of big business, is wrong. Dangerously so.
The late Pulitzer Prize winning author, Upton Sinclair, once wrote that, “It’s difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” Never has a truer word been uttered.
Whether we like it or not, our planet is run by this influential and powerful minority and our lives and the major decisions that affect them are governed by economic forces.
But that doesn’t mean that every single one of us cannot help to bring about change, nor that the situation is hopeless. Far from it. That is, in part, Ice on Fire’s more positive assessment of the situation too.
As we often say, we are firm believers that we must all vote with our feet. Politicians only occupy these powerful positions because we put them there. To some extent, the same is true of business leaders. They, and their companies, enjoy incredible wealth because people continue to provide demand for their products and services.
Personally, we will not vote for candidates, locally or nationally, who do not put the environment and properly addressing climate change at the heart of their policies. And, as much as possible, we aim to avoid big brands, in favour of local, independent and more sustainable alternatives.
In supporting local, independent businesses, you are putting money back into your community and the area in which you live. The goods or end product are often better, as is the (typically more personal) service, and in many cases doing so may involve a reduced environmental footprint.
You only have to look at the recent heatwave here in the UK, during which the Mercury hit 37.8°C, to see that urgent action is long overdue. According to the Met Office, “The latest UK State of the Climate report shows we are experiencing higher maximum temperatures and longer warm spells.” Last year, as the UK experienced the hottest day on record (38.7°C), the World Weather Attribution initiative warned that the heatwave was made twice as likely because of climate change. The Met Office has said that such extreme heatwaves may be expected at least every other year in the future.
For us, the lifting of lockdown has not led to radical and sudden changes. We still enjoy several countryside walks every week, spend as much time as we can in the garden (we’ve planted a further five trees and, inspired by recent trips to Grays Farm and West Green Fruits, are adding some fruit trees and plants), aren’t jetting off overseas and will continue to strictly limit our flying and carefully consider what we buy, how it’s made and where it comes from.
According to the ONS, there are 28 million UK households. If each bought four pints of milk from the ‘milkman’ instead of from a leading supermarket every week for a year, supermarkets would share a collective £1.5bn hit (if you’re able to avoid cow’s milk altogether, even better!). If each household recycled two additional items every week for a year, that would result in nearly 3 billion items of waste being diverted from landfill or incineration, provide a not insignificant emissions saving and generate recyclable material that can be turned into something new. If every adult and child in the country bought one less item of clothing in a year, that would mean more than 60 million less items being produced, and the environmental impact of that, and a financial hit of up to £1 billion for the fashion industry and retailers.
We are by no means encouraging us to kill off big brands nor do we want to see workers out of a job. Instead, we want to see those as the top sitting up and taking note, listening, caring, innovating and acting. Doing the right thing. Before it really is too late.
We believe that the above has a huge role to play in helping us to form a so-called “green economy”. One in which companies, big and small, and our “beloved” system (and planet!) can not only survive, but thrive.
You can find us on Facebook by searching for Plastic Free Home or at http://www.facebook.com/plasticfreehomeuk.