The world is burning. And it seems most of us are still shrugging.
Greta Thunberg and David Suzuki have been yelling at us to do something for years. Most of us know that things are getting dangerously serious but we still seem hell-bent on destruction.
Today’s latest dire warning about the future of our planet came from the International Panel on Climate Change, saying only a rapid and drastic reduction in greenhouse gases in the decade ahead can prevent a climate breakdown.
Panelists referenced the devastating heat in British Columbia last month as well as the fires burning in the interior to show the warning signs ahead. They predict more insufferable heat, more flooding, the increasing loss of human and animal habitat unless we do something.
I was particularly impressed by one scientist who said we can’t hit the snooze button anymore while the alarm clock is ticking.
But what can we do as ordinary citizens? We’re told, for instance, to take more public transit but when I was in downtown Victoria the other day the car lanes were jammed and the buses were pretty well empty. Blame some of that on COVID, sure, but it’s going to take more than some friendly coercion to get us out of our gas-guzzling vehicles. Too convenient. Too easy to drive.
Electric vehicles will help, sure, but the price point is still out of reach of many.
Climate change has also not directly affected us on Vancouver Island – not obviously anyway. Until that heat dome. Or that smoke that drifted in from the interior a few years ago and turned our world a stifling orange.
I went on the David Suzuki Foundation website to see what they recommend ordinary folk do. They have a handy-dandy list of 10 Things You Can Do About Climate change.
Number One: Urge the government to take bold, ambitious climate action now
With the next international climate conference to be held in Glasgow in December, Suzuki says it’s time to push all governments to take action to meet low emission targets
Two: Use energy wisely, and save money too
It points out that Canada is the top per-capita energy user in the world. We need to turn off those lights, wash clothes in cold water, and so on. It also, interestingly, suggests we swap gas stoves for electric stoves, lowering indoor pollution. It also says we should unplug all electrical devices – computers, TVs et al – when not using them. And, as my mum used to say, if it gets cold in the house, put on a sweater before you turn up the thermostat.
Three: Push for renewable energy
Such as solar.
Four: Eat for a climate-stable planet
Eat local, be more meat-free and don’t waste food.
Five: Start a climate conversation
The foundation suggests we talk to everyone, particularly family members and friends, even those who don’t share your perspective. And share ideas and experiences.
Six: Green your commute
Take public transit, ride a bike, car share or get a smaller, less inefficient vehicle. Fly less.
Seven: Consume less, waste less, enjoy life more
Focus on life’s simple pleasures, like walking in the outdoors.
Eight: Invest in renewables and divest from fossil fuels
One of the suggestions is to make sure none of your investments include fossil fuels.
Nine: Mobilize for local climate action
Suzuki says local municipalities in Canada have influence over 50 per cent of our emissions. So challenge your local government.
Ten: Get politically active and vote
Vote for leaders at all levels of government who take climate change seriously.
Thunberg today in an interview placed the onus on the individual. We have to ask ourselves difficult questions about what we as individuals are doing, she said. We need to ask what we value and what we want our planet to look like now and in the future.
She said she hopes the report can be a wake-up call and give some perspective and be a reminder that the climate crisis has not gone away.
But growing more intense by the hour.
Many of us have got pretty comfortable with our energy-guzzling lives, turning up the heat or the air conditioning, driving whenever and wherever we want, eating exotic foods from other lands.
But it’s the little things that count. And small steps. When I see the blue recycling boxes outside just about every driveway in our neighbourhood, or the many shoppers now happily taking their own bags into supermarkets, or the long line-ups at the bottle depots, I remain something of an optimist.
Thunberg also pointed out today that this latest report doesn’t address the gap between what politicians are saying and what they are doing. So it’s up to us to hold their feet to the fire.
The report doesn’t tell us what to do, “it’s up to us. We are the ones who need to make the decisions, the ones who need to be brave.”
Or, to paraphrase JFK, ask not what your planet can do for you, but what you can do for your planet.
Author: Ian Haysom