It took me a really long time to get to this article. It’s been sat in my Drafts folder since I started writing it back in April – I was interrupted by my Year 13 exams, which I finished earlier this month. I emerged alive (just about) but even in the exam hall, I could never really shake off the looming thought of this topic, which has been nudging me endlessly. It’s true, it really is – the earth is dying.
Naturally, this isn’t a topic that hasn’t had its fair share of coverage. Any news organisation, tabloid newspaper, or student blog on the Internet can tell you all about global warming, what it is, and why it’s happening. There are entire websites devoted to its discussion, scientific organisations sworn to its study, geographical surveys that analyse its consequences, and conspiracy forums formed around the denial thereof. It’s a global issue in both a political and literal sense. Perhaps even the worst calamity that mankind has yet to face – and, in the broad timeline of mankind’s history, we’ve only just realised we’re making it happen.
Global warming and climate change are not interchangeable terms – rather, the latter is the chief ramification of the former. Both are preventable, but in their present state they are becoming less and less preventable every day. Scientists predict that global temperature will rise by one degree in my lifetime. Frankly, that’s terrifying.
Of course, humanity as a race is now desperately scrambling for a solution. More countries are switching to clean, renewable, non-environmentally harmful energy sources than ever before. This year, in fact, Great Britain will for the first time generate more energy via environmentally friendly sources than it will through the use of fossil fuels and nuclear power. So that’s a start.
And yet, I sense a certain denial of the topic from the press. At the very least, so many refuse to acknowledge it. Maybe the topic is too morose? Perhaps it’s not as serious as the science suggests? Or maybe we just don’t want to talk about the ironic self-induced death of our species? Papers like The Guardian and the Daily Mirror tuck articles about sustainable energy amidst local news and film reviews. Sure, it’s debated thoroughly in the scientific community, but I can’t help but feel like day-to-day idiots like me haven’t been given a clear, defined understanding of what we can do to prevent it, or at least mitigate the consequences somewhat.
I find that having a routine which cuts unnecessary power usage out of your life, much like a diet cuts calories, is the only successful way to reduce your carbon footprint. The plan is threefold:
1. Watch your power usage. You’ve heard this one before, I’m guessing. So many people leave their PC on ‘Sleep’ mode overnight, or sleep with a fan on, or leave the lights on when they go to work. This is basic, people! Not only is it a huge waste of money on your electricity bill, but it’s also the most obvious threat to environmental safety, at least within the UK. High energy demand equals high energy production, high energy production equals cheap energy sources, cheap energy sources equals fossil fuels. It really is that simple.
Moreover, this method of reducing your carbon footprint is also the easiest. When I was starting out, I put a note on the wall by my light switch to remind me to turn it off as I left the room, and now I try to do it in every room in the house. I also switch my computer off at the wall when I go to bed, as these things run passively overnight – enough to draw power from the plug socket overnight. Power that I’m not using.
So, yeah – turn the lights off, save money, and save the planet. Come on, people, this is important stuff.
2. Walk, don’t drive. Here’s another one you’ve probably heard before. Seems obvious, but yes – walking, running and cycling have a far lower carbon footprint than driving or riding the bus. Naturally, you have to drive or get the bus sometimes, especially if you work far from home, but avoiding them where you can help it is another way to reduce your carbon footprint and help stop global warming. Buses and cars are rapidly shifting towards sustainable, environmentally-friendly alternatives to diesel anyway, so it’s likely that in the near future we’ll be able to ride them guilt-free, without harming the environment.
I’ll skip over the obvious health benefits to walking, as opposed to sitting in a car, but they’re worth bearing in mind. Even if your situation demands the use of a car, your carbon footprint can still be reduced by carpooling – by agreeing to ride with somebody else, you are theoretically taking one car off the road. And, while cars produce a variety of air pollutants and greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming, they also pollute city air and make it unhealthy. As far as driving is concerned, then, less is definitely more.
3. Consider your lifestyle. We make a variety of day-to-day choices which impact the environment, both directly and indirectly. Eating meat, for instance, supports the meat industry, which farms methane-producing livestock en masse and uses factories for both slaughter and packaging which contribute significantly to air pollution and, subsequently, global warming. Smoking and disposing of cigarettes encourages a mixed bag of pollutants in the atmosphere, all of which contribute to global warming. Landfills produce a waste chemical called leachate in the process of gradual decomposition, releasing methane and various other nasties into the atmosphere. According to Greentumble.com, 200 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions were sourced from landfills alone in 2002.
The pieces are already in place. We have proper recycling facilities, vegetarian options, and environmentally-conscious waste management schemes such as Waste-to-Energy. All it takes to reduce these harmful impacts to the environment is to take personal responsibility for our carbon footprint and consider how our lifestyle is impacting the environment.
Essentially, there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before. But it all bears reiterating, because there’s absolutely no understating the global ramifications we will face if we do not make a collective effort to reduce global warming, immediately. Global warming won’t be solved by a scientist in a lab. It is us, our modern population of every race, gender and generation, who will save the planet: but only if we make an effort. Like, right now.
So, if you feel strongly about this as well, remember that the biggest difference we can make is individual – because it must be individual to be collective, and it must be collective to be revolutionary.