I’ve spent this week watching news of the Australian bushfires and the floods in Malaysia and wondering what the hell I can say. The devastation is awful, and I can’t ignore it.
It feels like we’re living life as usual, waiting for someone else to take charge, waiting for someone to save us.
But no one’s coming to save us.
It’s down to us to save ourselves, to look to the future and try to make life better for our children and grandchildren. And if we don’t have children or grandchildren (raises hand) we love people who do, so we need to try to make the world better for them.
Alan and I have been talking about climate change at dinner every night this week and we think that the way we talk about it keeps the crisis at a remove. We talk about doing things to save the planet, but that’s not personal, is it? Saving the planet seems like something we can choose to do or opt out of.
But here’s the thing: this planet, our planet has been here for billions of years. It’s not going anywhere. It managed before we showed up and will keep rolling on long after we’re gone. It’s survived meteors and earthquakes and Ice Ages. It’s outlived the dinosaur and the woolly mammoth and the dodo.
It will outlive us.
The planet is strong.
We’re the ones in danger here. Us, the puny humans, and our children and grandchildren and a whole host of creatures we’re supposed to be sharing the planet with.
Our grandchildren will not be fireproof. They won’t be able to breathe under water. Their cancer rates will escalate from the pollution we’re spewing into the air and waterways in our quest to lead ‘the good life’. And every choice we make that ignores what’s happening in favour of the status quo will make their lives that much harder.
We can’t wait for industry to save us. They respond to consumer demand. And consumer refusal.
So, we must refuse.
We must refuse single-serving yogurt pots and the hit of fast fashion. We must refuse anything with the word ‘disposable’ in it. We must refuse chemical-laden foods and the latest, shiniest, newest.
Only then will they stop their wasteful practices. Only then will they focus on the long-term.
Our politicians, sadly, follow the same model. We have to tell them what we want. And tell them again. And then again.
We can no longer live as though everything will be fine. It won’t be. It isn’t. It hasn’t been for a long time.
So I’m begging you, with tears in my eyes, to look at your life and make whatever changes you can. And I promise you, I am doing the same.
Stop shopping. Just declare a no-spend month or year or decade and only buy what’s absolutely necessary.
Repair what’s broken instead of replacing it. And if it can’t be repaired, consider not replacing it.
Make do with what you have. Most of us have far more than we need, hence the popularity of Marie Kondo and rented storage units. If we used up and shared what we have instead of constantly hoarding and buying new, we could cut factory emissions hugely.
Take a look at your utility bills. Try to cut them by 10% and then 25%.
Do the same with your food bills.
Watch how much garbage you generate this week. Try to cut it in half.
Give up meat.
Eat up your leftovers instead of letting them go to waste.
Find better ways to get to work. Use mass transit or carpool or walk.
Rethink your vacation plans. Air travel throws tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere per person. A single overseas flight is enough to cancel out all the changes for the better you’ve made.
Try staycationing instead. Keep your money local.
If winter’s getting you down, put on your wildest Hawaiian shirt, mix up your favourite beach drink and crank up the dance tunes. Invite your neighbours to join you.
Or do like our Scandinavian friends do and get outside and embrace the season. It hurts to get out there, but the endorphin rush is worth the effort.
Give as generously as you can to organizations that will shape a better future for your grandchildren. Organizations that plant trees, protect wildlife and habitat and look after those already being harmed by climate change are good.
Also give a thought to your local library, art gallery and symphony. Those organizations that make staying in your hometown a nicer experience.
As I was running these ideas past Alan, he started to feel a little uncomfortable. Like, we’re never going to Europe again? But surely, we do enough other good things, surely our flight won’t be that bad?
My answer is: we’re not that special. And we have to stop thinking that ours is a special case. That most people should fly less, but because we’re really good people with really good intentions, it’ll be OK for us to take a little trip. It won’t
Other excuses that don’t cut it anymore: “But I don’t have time.”
“But I deserve this because I work really hard and I’ve earned it.”
Will you really be able to look your non-fireproof, non-underwater-breathing grandchildren in the eye and feed them those excuses?
Wouldn’t you rather be able to say, “I did everything I could.”?
The hard work needs to be done, my friends. We must not lose hope.
But the time for complacency is done.
I was inspired to write this post by a few people.
Pia Jane Bijkerk lives in Australia and has been posting updates on Facebook.
Black Barn Farm posted a list on Instagram full of helpful suggestions.
Sarah Wilson’s “What Can I Do?” is also very good.
And check out Tiny Tips That Shake the World for lots of easy-to-implement ideas.
Please share your suggestions in the comments below.
My newsletter goes out twice a month and includes links to my blog posts as well as highlights of my Medium articles. If this sounds interesting to you, you can sign up using the handy form below.