Recently I attended the think climate event in London, part of the 24 Hours of Reality campaign from Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project. It was a great event with a huge amount of content presented. I’ve tried to distil it down into five simple steps you can take to save the future. I’ve picked the personal actions with the most impact and ordered them by how easy they are (easiest first).
We need to bring the future forward and accelerate action, because we are not going anywhere near fast enough. We must do much more and do it much quicker. It is often said that although we are the first generation to feel the effects of the climate emergency, we are also the last generation able to fix it.
The closing line of Three Seconds (by Spencer Sharp featuring Prince Ea) makes this poetically obvious:
Only together can we make it to the fourth second.
In early 2007 I watched Al Gore give the live presentation of An Inconvenient Truth to a relatively small audience at my University. This is very powerful in person, particularly as the keynote deck is regularly updated with the latest data. He walked out on stage and opened with his now familiar introduction:
I am Al Gore; I used to be the next President of the United States.
It’s now over a decade (and a sequel) later and we are still far short of where we need to be. The effects are already being felt but they have only just begun.
Must we change? Can we change? Will we change?
The first two questions are rhetorical. Yes, we must and can change. The only open question is will we change. I hope the answer is yes but that is up to you, and all of us. Robert Swan puts it well:
The greatest threat to our planet is believing that someone else will save it.
Let’s get on with it.
By far the easiest action to take is to switch your energy supplier to a 100% green provider. You could do this right now. There are many providers but we are currently with Octopus Energy, as all their electricity is renewable and they also offset gas (if you use that too). If you do choose them then you can save some money with this £50 credit referral link. Many of the green suppliers are cheaper than the polluters anyway, so you also save money.
The reason switching to green energy works is that demand drives investment in new renewable generation. This sector is experiencing exponential growth (not all hockey stick graphs are terrifying). The header image of this post is from a huge solar farm in Chile that doesn’t even make the list of the biggest any more.
There will be more on this topic in a future post but for now let’s move on. Go switch supplier now and come back. I’ll wait.
While we continuously use energy to power our way of life we also need to power our bodies. What we choose to fuel ourselves with has a big impact on the planet, because we do it so often and on a massive scale.
You can easily take action by eating more plants (and fungi) and consuming a larger variety of them. Try to cut out as many animal products as possible, they are just inefficient middlemen.
You don’t have to be strict, just make a start and see how you feel after a few weeks. Although anecdotal, I certainly feel healthier and happier after cutting down on meat and dairy.
There is a documentary on Netflix (and elsewhere) called The Game Changers that features some big names. The focus of the movie is on nutrition, health and performance. It shows how a plant-based diet can make athletes better and give them an edge. The benefits to the planet are secondary. There is a great quote in the film from Patrik Baboumian, World-Record Holding Strongman:
Someone asked me, ‘How could you get as strong as an ox without eating any meat?’ and my answer was, ‘Have you ever seen an ox eating meat?’
Eating more plants is also exciting, as you get to try new foods, tastes and flavours. You can be adventurous experimenting with new ingredients and make cooking fun. The Future 50 Foods report is a good source of inspiration and there are recipes on The Game Changers site that I’ve used successfully. This article is also full of advice on how to replace meat and dairy in your diet.
Using your voice to talk about the problems facing us is a powerful way to bring about change. Why not pick an unfamiliar topic from Project Drawdown, read up on it and bring it up in conversation rather than just talking about the weather? Or when talking about the weather (this is almost an art for us Brits) link the increasing frequency and severity of bad weather (e.g. floods) to the climate crisis. You could suffix almost any statement with the following to provoke discussion (credit to Julian from the CAT chat for this):
…but none of this will matter if we don’t fix the climate crisis.
There is another climate strike on Friday the 29th of November (as you may have noticed from the banner on this site) that you can get out and support. Fundamentally, this is not at its root an environmental problem, it’s a greed, selfishness and apathy problem. Talk to others, be kind and be excellent to each other.
One way to use your voice is to vote. We have an election soon in the UK and there is a great graphic showing how your MP voted on environmental issues to help you decide who to support. I will definitely be voting on election day.
However, every choice you make and every meal you eat is a vote. Submit your ballot on polling day but also think about our future in every decision.
Transport is a big area of emissions but the reason flying is last in this list is because you should be voting more often than flying. One flight a year (or fewer) per person is a good aim for many. You may even want to pledge to be flight free in 2020.
EasyJet recently offset all jet fuel emissions. However, their CEO admits:
…offsetting is only an interim measure, but we want to take action on our carbon emissions now
Flights will need to move to bio/synthesised fuels that capture CO2 from the air with renewable energy, creating a carbon neutral short-term closed loop.
Short-haul flights in many places can be replaced by other forms of transport, particularly rail. For example, I recently went to Portugal on holiday and went by train from the UK. If flights can’t be avoided then offset them but this is only the first step.
I’m currently looking for project, job, business and collaboration opportunities in this space. If you would like to work together on this important issue then please feel free to get in touch.