Ariel Goldberg
Ariel Goldberg

Reduce, reuse, recycle

Copenhagen is around the corner. Unfortunately it is unlikely that there will be any final treaty coming out of the Danish capital. Two weeks ago Barack Obama already warned that there is not enough time to secure a legally binding deal at the conference and hopes are set instead on making it a first-stage series of commitments rather than an all-encompassing protocol.

The reality is that we were never going to be able to solve the climate crisis over a two-week period in December. We were never going to be able to sneak in that one last minor task of saving the world just before Christmas. The problem of global warming, and of making humanity’s collective impact on the environment sustainable, is something that requires a long-term and very extensive solution. In many respects it requires a complete overhaul of how we have been doing things for decades and the replacement of technologies that are intrinsic to the civilisation we have created. Like a giant ocean liner, it is going to take some time to change this boat’s direction.

But the good news is that you don’t have to wait for the entire ship to turn before you can start making a contribution. To quote from Mohandas Gandhi you can “be the change you seek in the world”.

As I see it, there are two fundamental things that we as individuals can do to work towards a more sustainable future. The first and most obvious is to change your own life and habits for the better. Become aware of your own individual impact on the environment. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Cycle to work. Become a freaking vegetarian if you like, I don’t know … but examine your life and realise that the thousands of small choices you make do in fact make a difference. At the end of the day all the coal that is burnt for electricity and all the chemicals that are washed into rivers and just about every thing that mankind does to pollute the environment is driven by us — the end consumers.

Are we going to be able to stop global warming by turning off the lights when we leave a room or by choosing a more “green” brand of lipstick? Probably not, but it will make us more conscious of the problem and more conscious of the need for a solution … which brings me to the second thing that we can do as individuals.

Make a noise about climate change

Unfortunately we do need the politicians in Copenhagen to come up with laws that bind countries and companies from destroying the environment. At present the overall system is flawed and the overall system does need to change. If not this December in Copenhagen, somewhere else some other time down the line we do need to have legally binding treaties and laws that hold countries and companies and people accountable for the impact they are having on the environment … and although this type of change needs to happen on a bigger scale than just the individual, its driving force is exactly that.

Although Copenhagen might not be a success, nobody can doubt the amount of press and attention it has received. The issue of global warming has become a universally recognised matter of urgency and an issue of the utmost importance for all people, and the reason why? More and more people are becoming conscious and aware of the impact we are having on the environment and possible consequences that such an impact can have. The reason why global warming has become such an important issue is because of the growing chorus of voices from around the world that demand it be so.

The second, and probably more important, action that we can do as individuals is to add our own voice to the call for a more sustainable future.

For the past three weeks Robert Zipplies, editor of Bending the Curve, has been cycling around South Africa to raise awareness about climate change and encourage South Africans to take greater action. He started the Climate Challenge on November 6 in Cape Town and will end in Durban on December 5. In between that time he would have covered 3 000km and given public presentations in twelve cities.

As part of the Climate Challenge they are asking South Africans to take a pledge because we don’t have to wait for politicians or businesses or anybody else to do something before we choose to do something ourselves. I have signed the pledge because I strongly believe the extracted paragraph below:

“I have signed this pledge because I am convinced that we must act quickly and decisively to change the way we live and to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions dramatically if we are to have a realistic chance of avoiding catastrophic impacts on humanity and all other life on earth. The scientific evidence is incontrovertible.”

Please have a look at it here and if you feel similarly motivated, lend your name in support.

I’m Starting With The Man In The Mirror
I’m Asking Him To Change His Ways
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And Then Make A Change

Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson

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  • Andrew Slaughter

    According to some commentators (see The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies), a more pressing problem, and one connected to the use of fossil fuels and climate change, is that of diminishing access to easy fossil fuel sources for energy. According to some, energy is, and will in the future, become increasingly expensive and hard to produce. Humanity is going to go through a difficult transition from a industrialized society with almost unlimited energy allowing unlimited industrial growth, to a scenario where energy will have to be derived from diminishing fossil fuels, and renewable sources. At present, renewable energy technology cannot provide the same level of energy as fossil fuels, and we don’t have enough time to develop the technology sufficiently to prevent a curb in economic growth. Therefore, both climate change skeptics, and those who accept the phenomenon of human caused global warming, should concede that conserving fossil fuels at this stage should be a priority. Especially crude oil, which has many uses besides as a fuel source.

  • Robin Grant

    I fully support what you are saying here. The real issue that remains well hidden from those with good intentions is the fact that for every bag of garbage that you generate at home, 30 bags have been generated upstream in the manufacturing process.
    For the process you describe to be effective, we are going to have to rethink everything we use and make. Our disposable economy, and products engineered to break is the biggest problem. This is fueled by the capitalist economy’s desire for profit.
    Really at the core of it, is that it is time replace our money backed economy with a resourced based economies. Without this fundamental shift we are probably destined to self destruct.
    I fear however that for those who have spent centuries building up their material wealth, that this may not be an attractive option.

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  • Peter Pumpkin Eater

    Organic Can Save the World from Climate Chaos

    “… carbon sequestration is the best way to buy time in a warming world. Cutting emissions will help, but not as immediately as sequestration…food production must be fundamentally restructured to simultaneously preempt and react to the devastating effects of climate change. …organic agriculture presents an untapped solution, an underutilized carbon sink at the ready. …if the world’s 3.5 billion tillable acres could be transitioned to organic agriculture now, land could sequester almost 40 percent of our current carbon emissions. No other proposed carbon mitigation solution comes close to that potential impact, particularly using existing and readily available technology.”

    Rodale Institute, February 2009

    Learn More:

  • Hooray for peak oil

    Germany to go 100% renewable energy by 2050

  • MLH

    Do you really think you need that lipstick, Ariel? I gave it up years ago, and I’m female…