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Wake up and smell the carbon

Date: 30th November 2015

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Let us be under no illusions here… everything you do in your day to day life has a negative impact on our planet’s environment.

From the moment you wake up and turn on your shower to the minute your head hits the pillow and the hours of sleep between, the impacts are building up, and up, and up.

It doesn’t matter whether you use real butter on your toast instead of margarine; if you only buy free range eggs, if you cycle to work or take the bus, only drink fair-trade coffee and recycle your newspaper every single day. No matter what you do, your life will undoubtedly have an enormous impact on our fragile earth.

The only positive thing most of us have to give mother nature are the nutrients in our rotting corpses. Alas, these too will be tarnished by toxins, chemicals, mercury and the lining of whatever vessel sees us off to our graves.

Modern humans have striven to extricate ourselves of earth’s natural cycle since around 10,000 BC (1), when we began farming. In that time, we have transformed the entire planet to favour our own growth and development, destroying habitats, eco-systems and eradicating countless species in the process. The earth is currently undergoing what scientists call the Holocene Extinction, due almost entirely to human activity, where up to 140,000 species are lost per year (2). Never to return.

Even the most natural of human processes – the miracle of bringing a life into the world – increasingly has disastrous consequences for our (now hopelessly sobbing) planet. Each new life, adds to our 7.3 billion human population, which is currently growing at a rate of 75 million per year (3). Each new life brings with it a strain on the global system, risking famine, water shortages, toxic pollution, ocean acidification and adding almost 10 tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere every single year (UK average (4)). Each new life faces an uncertain future filled with the possibility of natural disasters, war, disease, climate refugees, poverty and crime.

It’s all pretty sobering isn’t it. Let’s be honest, it’s downright depressing. But don’t look away now, we’re just getting to the positive part…

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What we all need to realise, is that our every day lives will always have some sort of negative impact.

Effecting the environment is inevitable if you want fresh food, clothing, electricity, transport and infrastructure; everything that we have come to rely on in the modern world.

Yes, it helps to recycle and to buy organic and support free trade growers. Yes, we must support the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, thus reducing our individual carbon footprint. It helps to reduce our impact, which I must stress is very, very important. However, reducing our impact is no where near, not even close, to good enough. We all (yes, that includes you) need to take responsibility for our own lives and to do more than reduce, but reverse entirely our sum negative earthly toll.

Now, that may sound like a tall order, “10 tonnes of CO2 per year!” I hear you scream, and that’s just the CO2, never mind the other pollutants, habitat destruction, species loss…

We need to break things down into manageable chunks, focus on issues close to home and work together with others (workmates, community groups, charities and environmental organisations) to achieve these lofty goals.

For starters, you could easily sign up to one of many tree planting programmes in your area – a quick search on Google tells me it will cost upwards of £100 to plant 10 trees, in order to soak up my CO2 emissions for a single year. A few clicks and my carbon conscience is clear.

However, there may be an even better option available, and I doubt it’d cost you half as much. Volunteering with a local charity or community organisation you could take part in a tree planting, habitat restoration or clean-up programme, which may deliver even greater environmental benefits. It’s all a matter of will power.

Think about it like this – would you be willing to sacrifice just one working day per year to carry out positive work for the environment? Many workplaces around the UK already offer the incentive of taking free volunteer days, in the knowledge that the positive impacts from volunteering benefit both the employee and the employer (5).

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© Peter Fraser

One day to help save our planet doesn’t seem that much to ask does it? Just think about the hard work and sacrifices our grandparents made during the Second World War. They gave everything they had to ensure future generations would have a better quality of life; freedom and safety.

Today the whole world faces a common threat; the changing of our planet’s climate and the subsequent loss of its biodiversity. The reason we find it so hard to face up to this challenge is that, even now, as you read this, you are aiding and abetting the enemy. I’m not saying you should switch off everything, but I am asking ‘what are you doing to bolster the home front’?

We’ve spent far too many years wallowing in our own, every growing pile of muck. It’s about time we got out the bucket and mop.

Daniel Sweeney

 

References:

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farm#History
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocene_extinction
  3. http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/
  4. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/datablog/2009/sep/02/carbon-emissions-per-person-capita
  5. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/lend-a-hand/10643659/Lend-a-hand-why-workplace-volunteering-is-a-win-win.html

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