Thinking Sustainably About Climate Change

Updated: Aug 11


The world is on fire, and it's more than I can handle


I was 16 or 17 when I first heard these words from Canadian singer Sarah MacLachlan's "World on Fire" back in 2005. Since then, about one-third of all the world's fossil fuel Co2 emissions have occurred, and now, as I sit here writing this in August of 2021, the world really is on fire.


I look at these dystopian stories and images, framing them in my mind as if clipping out articles from a newspaper to keep in a time capsule memento of these times. And yet, these are not intended for the archives; these are living testaments and calls to action.



Since the late 1950s-60s, Environmental activists have sounded the alarm on the adverse environmental effects caused by human activities such as pesticide use, mass agricultural and industrial practices. Rachel Carson's Silent Spring comes to mind as a significantly influential work that helped launch the modern environmental movement.

The fact that CO2 emissions have increased by about 90% since 1970, with emissions from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes contributing about 78% of the total greenhouse gas emissions increase from 1970 to 2011, is a staggering reminder that not only have we failed to heed these warnings, but we have done everything we can to accelerate the process.


A telling sign of our times is that it's taken a 16-year old teenager to reinvigorate the climate movement momentum, especially with the younger generation. Greta isn’t saying anything new, and anyone who has been following these issues for a while is thinking and feeling the same way. It’s the fact that she is/was a child, speaking the scathing truths to politicians/adults in power and displaying more courage, honesty, conviction and integrity than they are. That the truth is so obvious even to a child, and they aren’t fooling anyone. It’s not fair that she is doing this; she should be enjoying her childhood! But the adults NEED to step up. That is what makes her so incredible and a role model for children and adults alike. She is a voice for our future.

I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day, and then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is - Greta Thunberg

I'm not here to lecture anyone about the statistics or harsh consequences of our actions and the trajectory that we are on. There are many well-researched sources and well-educated climate scientists you can follow who will do that. That's the beauty of living in an era with such easy access to information. You need only pull out your phone to inform and educate yourself on any given issue. I don't think eco-anxiety or "panicking" is necessarily a sustainable way to address climate change either (although I completely understand the spirit of what Thunberg is saying in that quote I shared above). Because the biggest fallacy of all would be impotence - believing that in the face of such an overwhelming global crisis, we are powerless, that anything you do will be just a drop in the ocean, that's too big of an issue for any individual to tackle and make a difference when you absolutely can.


I'll tap into the water, try to bring my share

I'll try to bring more, more than I can handle

Bring it to the table, bring what I am able


What I do want to share - as a minority female millennial mother of young children - are calm, practical, affordable and sustainable ways you can think about, and MOST importantly, act on the climate crisis in your day-to-day. Here are simple ways to start; you may recognize them as the pillar topics of my blog :)


1. Educate yourself


I'd be lying if I said I don't enjoy the way Greta Thunberg addresses adults in positions of power with such directness and brutal honesty. But the fact is, she’s addressing us as much as the politicians. It’s also our job to act. As a democracy that’s wholly predicated (in theory anyway) on the “power of the people,” we must take matters into our own hands. The first step is to make sure the people are properly educated. Not just indoctrinated. This means for you as an individual and family to take responsibility for your own education in these issues. Keep yourself informed on what is happening around the world, what the latest reports and statistics are, what the climate scientists are saying, and share these with your family (in age-appropriate ways if you have small children), friends and communities. Social Media makes it far too easy now to share information instantly. Leverage that technology!


And while you're at it, be sure to also look into environmental intersectionalism and how environmental issues are connected to and impacted by issues surrounding race, gender, white supremacy and colonialism.


2. Reduce your Plastic


Our planet is drowning in plastic pollution both from manufacturing and post-consumer waste. Reducing your use of plastic may be one of the simplest and most practical ways you can contribute positively, and it's truly a win-win scenario for your health and the planet. Not only do plastics contain PFAS (forever chemicals) such as BPA that cause all sorts of reproductive and health problems such as cancer, but only 9% is actually recycled. I say simple, but I know it's not so. Plastic is absolutely everywhere. It irks me so much that even organic products come in plastic packaging, and I'll be the first to admit our family has been swimming in recycling and packaging, particularly since the pandemic, as we do mostly curbside pick-up instead of shopping from bulk or farmer's market.


However, you can make very easy sustainable plastic-free swaps such as:


  • Stainless steel/bamboo straws

  • Re-usable (non-plastic) water bottles

  • Beeswax or Vegan wax food wraps (instead of plastic wrap)

  • Bamboo, Stainless Steel or Glass Food Storage (Mason Jars!)

  • Reusable cotton produce/grocery bags

  • Re-fill or make your own personal care and cleaning products

  • Switch from plastic to bamboo toothbrushes

  • Wooden/Natural Toys


...etc.


Please keep your eyes on my blog space, as I'll be doing a blog post soon on zero-waste kitchen essentials and lots of DIYs over the next while.


For families with children, I also have tips for creating a natural and plastic-free playroom.


By 2050 it is estimated that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. And did you know the biggest source of microplastics in the ocean doesn't come from plastic packaging or straws but synthetic textiles in clothing? That leads me to my next point...


3. Invest in Slow Fashion


In a capitalist society, we have a lot of power as consumers. We vote with our dollars. For example, look at the eco-conscious trend/increase in eco-friendly products! corporations are jumping on the bandwagon (often with green-washed efforts) and supporting policies to be more “green”.


Switching over from "fast fashion" (think your big clothing retailers) is an incredibly important change you can make. We don't wear linen to look vintage, charming or whimsical. We do it because it is a very sustainable material (it takes far less water and chemicals to produce than cotton). Fast Fashion is the second biggest polluting industry, the most significant contributor to microplastics in the ocean and, of course, human suffering and exploitation.


There are many ways of going about this. I recommend reading my tips on creating a sustainable capsule wardrobe and some recommendations for ethical and sustainable clothing makers.


4. Use Natural Beauty/Personal Care Products (or DIY)

"By the time she heads out the front door, the modern woman has spritzed, sudsed, and slathered herself in more than 127 different chemicals, many of them more toxic than beautifying." - Gillian Deacon

Please read my blog post here on the importance of switching over to "green beauty" products, and why it matters for anyone who cares about sustainability and their health.


5. Go Plant-based and/or Organic


Whether you decide to switch entirely to a Vegan diet or not, incorporating more plant-based and organic options will cumulatively make a huge difference. Factory farming accounts for 37% of methane (CH4) emissions, which has more than 20 times the global warming potential of CO2 Not to mention adversely affecting our health with fertilizers and pesticides etc. Globally, deforestation for animal grazing and feed crops is estimated to emit 2.4 billion tons of CO2 every year.


And as we know, protecting the forests and reducing animal agriculture can also help safeguard us from future pandemics.


6. Shop Locally


An easy-peasy way to reduce packaging and carbon footprint from shipping is by shopping locally as much as possible.



7. Don’t be Afraid to get Political


We need to recognize that the cultural/social, economic and political spheres operate like an ecosystem, and we can’t rely on politicians to lead the change. We can put pressure on corporations with the way we spend - from plastic products to fast fashion and beauty, and they can, in turn, put pressure on the government and vice versa. We can also lobby and write to our MPs. The key is to put our many voices together to make us too loud to ignore.


Guide and lead the next generation


Parents have a special responsibility to do all of the above, because:

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children

We have a moral responsibility to leave this planet as good or better than it is for future generations. Our children are going to bear the brunt of the consequences for our actions or inaction today. Let this be a sobering and motivating thought as we navigate these exceedingly difficult times, that this is only the beginning, that it can and will get much worse, that it's not too late and what we do TODAY will determine the future for our children.


Serenely,


Paula