I am a hypocritical environmentalist. I do a lot of things right but I probably also do a lot of things wrong. I print in colour. I drive all the way to the supermarket to buy nothing but chocolate. I drop food scraps into the general waste bin because sometimes it’s easier that way.
Saving the world can be a real drag. After a while you just want to sloth on a leather lounge suite and watch excessive Hollywood movies on your big, predominantly plastic television.
Some people have environmentalism seeping out of their pores. They exude a deep and earthy passion for all things sustainable. For them, sustainability is more than a mere buzzword or a corporate brownie point. It’s a lifestyle.
I’m not one of those people. Not because I don’t support their causes, but because on the scale of interested to fanatical, I am often more passionate about other things. And that’s okay.
Having said that, I’d like to suggest we should all be at least a little bit concerned about climate change.
The problem is climate change can get boring. Al Gore made it exciting for a while but since then it’s just ice caps and polar bears, blah blah blah. I’m trying to write about it right now and I’m already bored.
Climate change seems at once so remote and so overwhelming. My daily life consists of paying the mortgage, hanging out the washing and looking forward to the next series of Game of Thrones. Nothing I do involves keeping a close eye on global carbon emissions.
And yet warnings from the international science community are growing more urgent. This week members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have been meeting to assess the fate of the world. Their report is due out on Monday but some of the details have snuck into the media. One is a prediction that as a result of climate change global food prices will rise dramatically, more than 80% in some cases, by 2050.
If that doesn’t bother you right now, think about how much you’re willing to pay for a cup of coffee.
There are climate change deniers out there, but the data shows clearly that each of the last three decades has been warmer than the last. The decade just gone was the warmest on record.
Last year the IPCC reported that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia.”
They also concluded that “human influence on the climate system is clear” and that it’s going to take a dramatic reduction in fossil fuels to curb the rise in temperature.
Fossil fuels. So should I not make a special trip for that bar of chocolate? The problem seems so big and a drive to the supermarket seems so small.
Tomorrow the world celebrates Earth Hour, when we’re all encouraged to switch off the lights between 8:30 and 9:30pm. There’s also an event at the Mount at Coronation Park from 5:30pm with Gourmet Night Markets and solar powered entertainment.
Earth Hour itself is not going to fix climate change. Earth Hour is an awareness campaign, a worldwide symbolic gesture to get people thinking.
We do need to get thinking. If we can change our habits at grassroots level it’s more likely that environmentally prudent decisions will be made at the political level.
No one else is going to save the world for us. Sure, we can wait for China and America to burn fewer fossil fuels, but in the meantime it’s up to us to make a start, no matter how insignificant our first steps might seem.
First published in Bay of Plenty Times 28 March 2014. Reproduced with permission.