I deviate from my usual viewing itinerary on Netflix now and again, to pop my head out of my mole hill and see what the world is doing. I’m reminded of why this makes me feel bad pretty much every time.
I watched a documentary on climate change. The opening scene showed an orangutan hitting the bulldozer that just mowed down its home. Then there’s a colony of 11,000 flying foxes, wiped out from being unable to withstand the forest heat. Conservationists trawl through their tiny corpses to pull away the screeching babies clinging to their dead mothers. They rescued 350 and estimate a recurrence of the same death toll could mark their extinction. There’s some intense footage of the wild fires, floods and heat waves we experienced in 2018.
A NASA Goddard climate scientist recounts his time in politics 30 years ago, when he shouted from any rooftop he could. He warned everyone the planet was heating too quickly and natural disasters would wipe us out if we didn’t make drastic changes. He urged the government to increase the price of fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy technology. He knew the numbers, it was feasible, affordable and actually more cost effective than non-renewables in the long-term.
Viewers are once again reminded, methane emissions are 21 times more damaging to the atmosphere than CO2, yet we continue to create a thriving market for livestock. A scientist in the North Pole demonstrates how much methane is released into the atmosphere when sections of permafrost melt. This is an ever present danger to our warming planet.
The ice shelves just keep on melting. The sea level is rising and we are set to exceed a 1.5 degree change in climate by 2040. That’s the tipping point. The IPCC report says we can expect to lose between 70 to 90 percent of coral reefs by then. In order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, we would need to cut global emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and bring them to net zero by 2050.
They show a map of the earth, illustrating numerous tipping points attributed to this or that climate change factor. All known, all recognised, all reported and still. We simply aren’t doing enough.
All we ever do is ignore the Lorax. There he is begging, pleading for us to take heed. Telling us we have one world, it’s our only home. If we keep destroying forests, we’re taking away the lives and homes of other species and this will eventually kill us all. Why is nobody listening?
7.6 billion of us evaded Darwinian evolution and natural selection. I remember an obscure exam question, where a 17th century writer was toying with the concept of as yet unclassified epidemiology. He talked of disease spread in cities and how densely populated areas would bring about our demise. He was right. However, when nature tried to remedy our over division with biological counter attacks of rate limiting disease, medicine was born.
We were left unchecked, unchallenged, to wipe out other species and take the planet with us for good measure. We came up with vaccines, penicillin, aseptic surgery and analgesia. We made buildings and vehicles and things to mine, frack and drill with, to keep fuelling our penchant for power and greed.
We are not the rulers of this planet because we won the apex predator title of the food chain fair and square; we cheated death and survival of the fittest. We stopped living symbiotically with our environment and we are draining our host of its non-renewable energy. We are parasitic. We stole the crown from a more righteous and fair ruler that would’ve taken care of its habitat and observed the laws of nature. Yet we still think ourselves somehow superior, the most intelligent life form, entitled to violate and defile the planet.
Another scientist talks of how they developed satellite imaging to map out atmospheric CO2. The red areas indicated heavy deforestation and parts of the planet which could no longer regulate temperature. He commented by simply saying, “When you know all the data, it sucks”. He had tears in his eyes and was laughing at the same time.
Like some sort of terrible joke we’re privy to, it’s perversely ridiculous, yet horrifying at the same time. We are staring our impending doom in the face and laughing at the utter hopelessness of it. We are practically pre-dystopian and we are posting pictures of this evening’s dinner on Instagram. What’s wrong with us?
Computer generated models of the effects of climate change are based on predictions from pre-programmed algorithms. This can only take us so far, given we are living in conditions the planet has never before experienced. It is perfectly possible that one large scale natural disaster could create a cascade of events we can’t even begin to imagine or prepare for.
We are short sighted in protecting our little pots of money within our imagined country borders. What happens when the developed world is obliterated by a series of earth quakes, hurricanes, wild fires and tsunamis? We will witness firsthand just how easy it is to topple an economy and see a nation homeless and starved.
Scared yet? You should be. We all should be.
We are advised to avoid buying single use plastics. Eat less meat. Check product labels for palm oil. Try not to buy food brought to your country by air freight. Opt for more expensive appliances once, instead of ten cheap versions to end up in landfill. Install solar panels. Live minimally. Drive less, cycle more.
Reduce your carbon footprint before we all die, no pressure.
Buy sustainable, eco friendly, fair trade, biodegradable, home grown, pesticide free, paraben free, CFC free. We must rethink and redirect our daily consumer routines and behaviours, which were slowly killing us, other species and the planet.
Why were those lifestyles and products ever permitted and made available in the first place? One of the founding principles of democracy is protection of the citizen by the state. How do little ants do their minuscule part in the face of such mindless destruction?
There’s an estimated 150 million metric tons of plastic in the oceans and we add a further 8 million per year. When scientists were developing polymers, surely they carried out degradation testing? If they had the technology to mass produce injection moulded plastics, weren’t they aware it would break down into particles and inevitably end up in the sea?
We knew the long-term dangers of many of our most damaging blunders, but we carried on anyway.
Sometimes, I can’t help but feel like an atom bomb was detonated and we’ve each been given a dish rag to do our part in the nuclear winter aftermath. Like oh okay, I’ll wipe this little spot here, even though everywhere is pulsing with radiation, my eyeballs are melting in their sockets and it appears to be snowing ash and liquidised body parts. No worries though, I’ll get right on it. Turn that Geiger counter off.
I wrote an angry bid relating to fundraising for climate change concerns. As a mandatory requirement, I proposed global governments should invest in internship programs for their environmental agencies. Systemic change is crucial now that time is very much against us. There is no planet B.
I reeled off the stats, the tipping points, the sinister background hum of the planet being on its knees and all that jazz. Hoards of young children are missing school to protest climate change. I concluded with the sheer injustice of the new generation inheriting a dying planet. They will spend their precious formative years realising the legacy of overwhelming responsibility in cleaning up the messes of their kin.
They will need legions of environmental scientists, engineers, policy makers, disaster relief workers and better pioneers of their tomorrow. I’m pissed off for them and the shit storm they are bequeathed.
In the end we have little choice, but to do what we have always done. Keep calm and carry on. Everyone should do their bit to cut down their carbon footprint.
Try not to let the despair of it all stop you from making every little difference you can.
We all have a voice. Sign a petition, join a rally, use the internet to tap into any way you might be able to help. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the issues we face today, but remind yourself not to succumb to analysis paralysis.
Ten simple ways to act on climate change
In a new report published in September 2018, the world's leading climate scientists made their starkest warning so far…
We are sired from generations of ancestors born of societal systems. We aren’t all that capable of living off the grid up a tree, hunting, planting and disconnecting ourselves from the only world we have ever known. If we played small and remained indigenous tribes living off the land, we could have existed sustainably within our means, but we didn’t.
We cannot change the past, but we mustn’t stop caring and trying to do the right thing by our planet and those who will come after us.
If we make an effort even when it seems futile, a whole lot of not much from each of us, will eventually amount to something for everyone. Humans have a pressing obligation to learn from the past and think of the collective and the planet, not just themselves.
If we cannot learn to change our nature and adapt our behaviour, we simply do not deserve to have a future. I sincerely hope Earth survives us. 💚
“It’s a Truffula Seed.
It’s the last one of all!
You’re in charge of the last of the Truffula Seeds.
And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs.
Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care.
Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air.
Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack.
Then the Lorax
and all of his friends
may come back.”