A sustainable future starts with us
I had started this post with the intention of writing the measures I was going to take in the coming weeks and months to reduce my family’s carbon footprint. Instead, I have written a manifesto of sorts that outlines why it is important for me to do it and why we collectively need each other to do it too. While more serious in its tone, I feel it is always important to discuss the “why” of any change I want to take, it explains my decisions and keeps me honest. If you’re interested in this, please read on below. Otherwise, feel free to browse all of my other posts.
2019 has been an important year for climate change awareness-building in Canada. There were the September climate rallies that mobilized hundreds of thousands of citizens in the streets demanding climate action. The environment featured among the highest areas of concern during the national election. There were the impassioned speech young Greta Thunberg made to world leaders at the United Nations that brought tears to all our eyes with the realization that we, the world, have not done enough and we’re running out of time.
While I won’t get into the details of the science, we now know that climate change is caused by humans, and excellent, sobering reports have been published this year that outline where we stand and what we can expect if we don’t make a drastic change (consider reading the 2019 IPCC Global Warming of 1.5 Degrees report, and Canada’s Climate Change Report to learn more). Spoiler alert: it’s not looking good. But the benefit of knowing that humans are responsible for global warming also implies that humans can take measures to forestall or even reverse it.
It’s an important collective action challenge, but one we’ve been capable of tackling in the past. You don’t hear about the hole in the ozone layer anymore? There’s good reason for that — policy makers got together and have put measures in place that are effectively reversing the hole. In fact it is on the way to be fully closed in a few decades. Admittedly, the elimination of ozone-depleting CFCs from refrigerators was a much simpler problem to tackle, but it paves the way for more collective action.
I am in my mid-thirties now, and a mother, but when I was a teenager in school, we learnt about the environmental issues of the day; the ozone layer, acid rain, pollution. When I was that young, trusting and naive, I looked up to my parents, to those who were in charge and I trusted in them to solve these dangers. Surely this would no longer be a worry when I would be grown. That wasn’t so. Previous generations of authority figures and decision makers failed for lack of trying. We don’t have time anymore to wait for someone else to resolve it. There is no planet B. No one is coming to save us, no not even Elon. We must act. Now.
We’re just now coming to understand, though the message has been around for decades, that our planet and our lives are on the line, that we all have some skin in the game. Isn’t this reason enough to begin reconsidering our choices?
The good news is that right now citizens, activists, business leaders, thought leaders, and policy makers are working on this historic challenge, but for climate solutions to work, we need to overcome an important collective action hurdle. While some are still resisting change, many are taking on the banner of climate action and the message is beginning to spread from the grassroots up.
As more and more of us really begin to internalise the message, we can accelerate and magnify the small individual actions we take into collective change. As it spreads, we can reach a critical mass of individuals and societies that are transforming the way we think and the way we live to be kinder to our home.
It starts with you and me, and that is why I am committing to making 2020 the most sustainable year yet for our family. I realize that it is not an easy task and our existing lifestyle is at odds with our goals of carbon reduction. Change will occur incrementally for us, but intentionally and consistently.
I also realize that my family’s efforts alone will no solve the climate crisis. Nevertheless, I remain undeterred by the enormity and the gravity of the situation, whether or not my neighbours, friends, relatives, fellow citizens, corporations or foreign governments are doing the same. That isn’t to say that they should not be held accountable but, rather, that I will make 2020 the year in which I accelerate our family’s transition and set an example, as so many others around me have done.
Side benefit? so many of the approaches to more sustainable living minimize expenses – either by reducing our total purchases or including more resource efficient approaches to our lives. This means we’ll save money too.
Together we can get the ball rolling and have the snowball effect needed to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. It takes a little bit of elbow grease and a lot of grit, but I’m feeling inspired and determined. How about you?
If you feel fired up about making sustainable lifestyle changes, please feel free to share this message with others so that we can grow the movement and, together, protect the future.
Don’t forget to comment below to share your plans for what a more sustainable 2020 look like for you, as well as share some of what you’re currently doing to reduce your carbon footprint.