I have always been a very positive person trying to see the good side of things. During the last weeks I have become more and more miserable, sad and my flatmate even told me aggressive. And she is right. My time in Namibia was a mind-changing experience and has opened my eyes to see what we are doing to this world—our environment, wildlife and our health. Why do we do that, I wondered? And what can I do as one individual person to change something? I wanted to change all at once and got angry because it is not possible. Changing your lifestyle by 100% is not easy and maybe you have experienced that yourself. That is why (after just finishing Leonardo DiCaprio’s amazing documentary “Before the Flood”) I have decided to write a little recap of what you can do! What we all can do!
But first of all let’s have a look at the problems we are facing and why we are facing them.
Let me just give you a little scenario: it is 2080. Remember the Maldives? Yeah, they are gone. Along with many other islands. Orangutans and gorillas can only be seen in movies and books, because they don’t exist anymore, just as many other species. And probably books for that matter. Europe will become cooler because the Gulf Stream will not bring any warm air anymore. Greenland has melted and is now a big pool with a black surface (not too good for cooling the planet—just think of sitting in the sun with your black clothes compared to sitting there with your white clothes—do you get it?). We are all sick.
Does not sound too good and, true, maybe it will not be like this. However, if we just sit there enjoying our Nutella, big cars and eat three beef burgers a week, this scenario could become true.
We have been using far too much of them and they are used for almost everything—electricity, cars, planes, you name it. They do not only harm the environment by emitting tons of CO2 into the air, but they also make us sick. Why do we still use them if they are so harmful? Because they are cheap. However, renewable energy would be much cheaper! At the beginning we would need to invest, yes. And that's not cheap, I grant you that. But! After a few years you would not have to pay for electricity anymore because you get it from the sun, from the wind, from the water. We have solar panels on the roof and our bill last month was -5 euros. YES! MINUS FIVE! We got paid to use energy. And it was only March in the Netherlands, so imagine what it would be like in other countries.
Yes, I love Nutella as well. Who doesn’t? But for our Nutella, rain forests get cut and burnt down. Why? Because the space is needed for oil palms to get palm oil. It is the cheapest plant oil in the world and it is in loads of things! From food to cosmetics to detergent etc. etc. Burning down the rain forest actually does double harm. First, it takes away the natural habitat of animals like the orangutans. In Sumatra, one of the three remaining rain forests in the world, you can still see elephants, rhinos, orangutans and tigers living on the same spot. Nowhere else in the world. By destroying that last piece of rain forest, we are destroying their homes and that would be their end. And secondly, trees absorb carbon dioxide. Once they are burnt, all of this is catapulted into the air and we are back to air pollution.
I am not lying; I just had a bowl of melon, strawberries and passion fruit. I am quite sure that the melon and the passion fruit are not from the Netherlands, so this delicious stuff travelled a long way, probably on a plane, to get to me. Also, I don’t eat much meat, but from time to time I really love it*. Cows produce enormous amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas warming up the planet. Like CO2, just that it is called CH4. And why do we have so many cows? Because we love to eat beef and milk is in everything. Vicious circle, right?
*These times are over, I am a vegetarian now.
So what can we do? This big mountain climate change seems insurmountable. It is not. With Leo’s documentary I got my positivity back. And thanks to Finding Nemo. We all know the movie (I hope—if not, go and watch it!!!). Remember the scene where the little cute clownfish Nemo is trapped in the fisher’s net together with loads of other fish who thought this would be the end? It wasn’t, because they all swam down and made the boat’s pole crack. They were free. So just imagine, what all of us could accomplish, if we all did a tiny bit. If we all became little planet-saviours.
Have a look at what you buy and just buy fewer products containing palm oil.
Take the bike, public transport, try car sharing (and make friends on top) or walk. Leave the car if it’s not far.
Switch off the lights and your electric devices when you don’t need them.
Buy your food more locally. And I am not saying you should not eat your passion fruit or melon ever again. I am just saying, try to make it something special by not having it every day. Same goes for beef.
See—not that big of a lifestyle change, right? A little step for every one of us, a big step for the world (wow, now I am getting very philosophical :D). And last but not least: go vote! I feel horrible, because I did not go vote for the European Elections last week. Boy, I bit my butt, believe that. Every vote counts, vote for the parties who do want to bring a change.
Politics has the biggest power. They could introduce a carbon tax, suggested by a REPUBLICAN (believe it or not) in Leo’s movie. This does not mean additional costs for every citizen, it could be a shift of taxes, e. g. cutting the payroll tax. It is not about getting more money from the people, it is about giving them a little push into the right direction. Cigarettes got more expensive, so fewer people bought it. If everything connected to carbon got more expensive, people would automatically switch to other, environmentally friendly options. Easy.
Climate change is real. And if anyone out there does not believe it, then I am sorry, you are embarrassing the “oh so intelligent” human species. Yes, I just said you were stupid, just in a more subtle way. But why sugar-coating things?
Having said that, I have been made aware of the fact that people in less developed countries sometimes actually do not know about the environmental issues we are facing. So raising awareness, educating others and telling them about what is going on in this world, is of just the same importance as changing own habits, if not even more important. Education and knowledge lay the foundation for change. So go out there and share what you know and maybe you can even make others passionate about environmental protection.
I am not perfect. And no one needs to be. Everyone should just do a tiny bit more and then we can accomplish great together. It is not too late, but soon it will be.