For over 20 years, government representatives have been meeting to agree how to limit the warming of our planet. At the Paris Convention last year a miracle occurred and „they“ finally achieved something that would go some way to protecting the next generations from our already out-of-control carbon addiction.
For the millions of families who have lost their lives, homes and livelihoods already, due to hurricanes and rising sea levels, or suffer hunger and thirst due to drought, it is too late. But we have a shared responsibility to do everything we can to stop billions more people being affected. Every single person and organisation must make changes in their lives to make a difference, because everything we do now matters.
Together we can move mountains and right now there is a huge orange mountain in our way: A climate-change denier just became US President. If you think we had a crisis due to high numbers of people seeking a safe haven in Europe in 2015, well, you ain‘t seen nothing yet. But there is no time to panic. Instead, let‘s get organised because there are hundreds of things we can do, because, PEOPLE POWER! I have listed a few here:
- Switch to an ethical bank. Especially if you are with Deutsche Bank, who apparently donated funds to Trump‘s campaign. In Germany we are lucky to have GLS Bank – a social-ecological bank, that does not invest your money in weapons, food speculation or other destructive things.
- Change your electricity provider. In Germany we have a choice of four energy providers who get energy directly from natural sources. From personal experience I can recommend naturstrom for both gas and electricity.
- Eat more vegetables and pulses, while reducing intake of meat and dairy produce. 20kg of plant protein is fed to a cow in order for it to produce 1kg of beef. Most cows around the world are fed soy beans from Brazil and Argentina – and we wonder why the rainforests are disappearing! Sticking to my favourite subject (food):
- Go seasonal, regional, organic – and stop wasting food. The first three things usually cost more, but you save money with the last one! Additionally you can enjoy the feel good factor knowing you aren’t supporting the oil industry that produces artificial fertilisers, the diesel-freight industry that transports vegetables multiple times around the world or the near-slave-trade that makes the poorest people suffer from skin and breathing complaints caused by carcinogenic chemical pesticides. If you live in Berlin, you can also support organic farmers and get a regular discount at LPG by becoming a member of the LPG Supermarket.
- Put the environment on the agenda at your workplace. It is often believed that, as individuals, our capacity for having an impact is minimal, at least compared to companies. But, to state the obvious, companies are not living breathing organisms. In fact, they are run by people! Employees, shareholders and customers are all people – us! All of us can have an impact on internal practices, product development, logistics chains, etc., if we were only to use our voices (e.g. swapping any unnecessary plane travel to video meetings). And this leads me nicely to:
- Cycle to work and go on holiday by train. My favourite and most depressing quote from the cheery film The Age of Stupid goes something like „The single most worst thing an individual can do is fly. Every time we fly it is the equivalent of burning a forest“. As an economic migrant to Germany with family and friends still in the UK, this is a difficult one. But thanks to a fantastic train network I can (mostly) get the train home and move across Europe to a million different holiday destinations. It is impossible for my American friends in Germany to get home that way, so consider going home for longer instead of making frequent visits and investing in tree-planting programmes and plant a forest or two. Talking of tree-planting….Switch to Ecosia for your search engine. A social business where 80% of profits are invested in tree planting! A massive way to reduce your carbon footprint is to…..
- Reduce domestic energy bills. I received 1,200 EUR back from energy companies after carrying out recommendations of an energy savings check from my friends at Berliner-energy-check (yes the scary woman on the home-page is me!), and my monthly bills were cut in half. German-wide organisations like Caritas and Verbraucherzentrale also offer home energy-checks. There are hundreds of small things you can change – and it all makes a difference. An example of seemingly small things adding up is standby-lights – in Germany alone 3-5 entire power stations burn coal 24/7 just because we can’t be bothered to switch-off properly! Also in the home we can learn a new mantra…..
- Reuse/Repair/Recycle/Buy-used/Buy ethical. I recommend the brilliant Story of Stuff animation to help motivate everyone to reduce cheap, plastic, battery powered rubbish in their households. Our culture makes it easy for us to peacefully shop without considering the far-reaching effects of the exploitative, damaging systems that produce affordable goods in massive number. Being less materialistic is great for our levels of happiness and the things that make us happy are not what the advertising industry will have us believe. Check out Action for Happiness to help focus on the important things in life.
- Write to your Member of Parliament and tell them that climate justice is the single most important issue for everyone, sign every petition and put the „demo“ back into „demo“cracy – we are needed on the streets. Next demo in Berlin is about the agricultural and food industry on 21st January 2017 – it is pretty cool, especially if you like dressing up as a chicken or want to see a beautiful procession of tractors.
- Make regular monthly donations to environmental organisations who dedicate every hour of every day to protecting the air we breathe, the water we drink and the climate that allows us to produce enough food so we can all survive. What is more important than that? I have worked for Greenpeace New Zealand and currently work for Friends of the Earth Germany and am inspired by the tireless campaigning and actions of every single employee at both organisations. They are just two of many fantastic organisations who give the voiceless a chance – whether animals, eco-systems or marginalised people (and they also welcome Volunteers!)
None of this is difficult to do, but some things just take a bit of time and organisation. Many things are structural, they just need to be done once and then you don’t have to think about them again. The biggest problem is dealing with our own guilt and guilt of others around us. But we need to get over ourselves and get on with it. Make the changes and share what you are doing with your friends and colleagues. Don‘t alienate yourselves from your loved ones (remember there are lots of fun things to do with friends too like organising a clothes swap party or cycle rides). Everyone is on a different journey and will get there one way or another. Right now we have the privilege of being able to look away and ignore the people currently most affected by climate change in other parts of the world, but it is only a matter of time before the results of our indifference will turn up on our doorsteps. I refuse to turn away. Who is with me?