On the 3rd of October 2019 President Vladimir Putin shifted in his seat, looked around at the audience he found himself in front of at the Energy conference in Moscow and told them: “I may disappoint you, but I don’t share everyone’s enthusiasm about Greta Thunberg’s speech… nobody explained to Greta that the modern world is complicated and complex.” He was, of course, with a massive helping of patronisation, referring to 16-year-old Thunberg’s speech given a month earlier at the United Nations Rally in New York which attracted an extremely mixed concoction of opinions. Some penned it ‘emotional’, likening it to that of President Abraham Lincoln’s ‘Gettysburg Address’; whilst others, (a particular Fox Commentator to be precise) labelled Thunberg a ‘mentally ill Swedish child, exploited by her parents and the international left’.
Thunberg talked about the stealing of her childhood, by ‘failing’ governments. Specifically, their ‘betrayal’ and their ‘empty words’. We ourselves have already seen the consequences of climate change and just to clarify for any non-believers, it exists. The WWF reports that our oceans are already experiencing massive warming changes with the current increase of 1°c; and North-eastern states in America have seen rivers and streams flood because of the 55% increase in heavy rainfall, whereas other states have become much drier. And there’s more… in the future, NASA predict “megadroughts”, lasting for up to 3 decades. Imagine the effect on all of the people, animals and plants living in these areas where their houses, their nests and their burrows are built: no-one would be prepared for a home-wrecking flood or for a permanent loss of water. The effects would be devastating. Not to mention the destruction of food chains which would occur at a temperature increase of 2°c, due to death of coral reefs around the world. Thus, it is clear that massive steps need to be taken by our world leaders to ensure that this illogical chaos does not ensue.
However, Putin also touched on a valid point – “the modern world is complicated”. There is admittedly an extremely complex interplay between the issues of capitalism and ecology, and only by addressing both sides would a sustainable approach be found to even grapple the immense challenge that is climate change and stop it in its tracks for more than just a few seconds. The massive elephant in the room here, and often in a lot of other rooms too, is money. One example of this is when our developing nations – Brazil, Africa and Asia – see an opportunity to secure wealth in their homeland, by chopping down trees, alighting fires in the Amazon, planting palm oil plantations in Indonesia and building cheap labour factories – it seems almost archaic to crucify them for simply wanting more. Who are we to say that it is fine for the Swedes and the British to live in privilege, but their citizens must not because the planet will die? When western colonies committed the same crimes years ago, they were heralded as ‘company men’, missionaries, even heroes; but now the western world is saying that they are not allowed the same right to harbour the “dreams of men, the seed of commonwealth, the germs of empires” like Joseph Conrad alluded to in his novel on colonisation, ‘Heart of Darkness’. Just take a look across the pond at President Donald Trump prioritising the American economy over tackling global warming, and his sly twist of the ‘American Dream’ ideal into his rhetoric slogan ‘Make America Great Again’. Society has become so unfair as to allow some the right to prosper with their consciences and future generations intact and deny other individuals’ right to progress – which is and always will be an inherent human instinct.
“Society has become so unfair as to allow some the right to prosper with their consciences and future generations intact and deny other individuals’ right to progress ”
Negotiation. Negotiation and transparency must be the way that we face this immense problem that is staring us down very scarily at the moment. It won’t be easy at all. In the grand scheme of things there needs to be a shift in wealth so that money is set aside for the recharging of developing countries’ economies, so they don’t need to engage in practices that are releasing tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere; they would then be able to work with the rest of the world to use greener technologies, scientific practices and sustainable infrastructure. Furthermore, developing countries must accept that they are never going to be able to do what their western counterparts did years ago, but doing it differently is not a bad thing – I’m sure Joseph Conrad would agree.
Even developed countries need to think about the move to greener technology and how to speed this along. More investment needs to be funnelled into energy innovation and easier access to take our focus away from fossil fuels and instead onto our sustainable, electricity-fuelled future. In the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, the current payment for a parking permit for a normal petrol or diesel car is around £120 compared to a free permit for fully electric vehicles in the first year, which encourages people to go electric; just like the 5p bag fee encourages people to re-use bags. These initiatives, as inconvenient as they are when they first come into force, are needed as they will push us and our communities to build greener habits. However, there is definitely a lot more that can be done by corporations and politicians to show greater commitment in creating a green future that is both accessible and affordable.
Governments around the world must crack down and ensure that environmental policies are formalised as part of the law – not just for us common-folk, but for the big fish that are damaging our environments on a much larger-scale through import-export emissions, high-scale energy usage and product production.
Having said this, to acknowledge the climate crisis in 2020 and reinforce its importance, there are a number of things we can all pledge to do. Hopefully by starting small, we can all reduce our carbon footprints to 10.5 tonnes a year – the target set by the UK government for 2020. Here are some ideas to start you off this January, and hopefully keep up this year and beyond:
- re-use water bottles/ buy a sturdy water bottle
- take your own flask to coffee shops
- donating clothes to charity shops
- buying second hand/refurbished goods
- limiting food waste
- buying seasonal produce
- cutting down on meat and dairy consumption
- recycling plastic, glass and tin waste
- composting fruit and veg waste
- short haul flights or finding travel alternatives
- turn off your appliances and lights when not in use
- use your social media to tell people about climate change and what they could do to help
With luck, this year we will see a much more in-depth and assertive approach to tackling what has been a very topical issue in 2019. Our leaders and politicians should revel in the gravitas of another sentence that Putin uttered at the Energy conference: “you know young people, teenagers, pay attention to the acute problems of the modern world, including ecology, that is right and is very good. We need to support them.”