Every year, we see the effect of climate change and human impact all over the world, from the increase of wildfires and extreme weather patterns, the melting of snow caps to ecosystems on land and in the sea suffering at the hands of our own actions both directly and indirectly. Most importantly, in March earlier this year in a UN meeting, concerns about our global climate were discussed and it was officially announced that we only have 11 more years to make significant efforts until climate change and its effects are completely irreversible.
It's an overwhelming issue we're all affected by and should be a responsibility we all share and contribute positively to in whatever way we can, big or small. The best way we can do that is to stay informed and learn from the past to work towards a better future for our planet and communities.
So, as the year comes to a close, here is a small roundup of what occurred in 2019, who we can look up to, and what we can all do individually from here.
THE GOOD & THE BAD
The facts and news from the year
1. A summary of 2019 climate issues. This decade itself has seen drastic events take place with extreme weather conditions on the rise all over the world.
According to this WMO report, we're seeing the effect of climate change in all aspects. Our ocean has been paying a heavy price as it acts as a buffer by absorbing heat and carbon dioxide, which has resulted in record levels of heat and heatwaves affecting much of marine life and vital ecosystems deteriorating. There is a lot of concern over the melting of sea-ice, such as Greenland's ice is melting seven times faster than in the 90s, adding to a significant rise in sea levels. The list goes on for events all over the world from the devastating wildfires in California to flooding in Europe and Africa.
It's evident that now more than ever we need to focus on climate issues and bring about a big change that can help reduce these events that put us, wildlife and important ecosystems at risk.
For a longer summary, you can also check out this New York Times article.
2. Thankfully as time has gone by, although there's been an increase of devastating climate change, there has also been an increase in awareness and a push for policy change! This year has been incredibly informative with climate change at the forefront of global concerns. From government bodies, company boardrooms and within our own homes, more and more conversations are being had to encourage a change in industry and lifestyle.
3. The rise of vegetarianism and veganism. Responsible for approximately 14% of greenhouse gas emissions, the meat and dairy industry is significant in their harmful environmental impact and more and more people are starting to fully understand these consequences. And so, we're starting to see plant-based diets on the rise with millennials at the forefront, hoping to encourage better eating habits, because completely forgoing meat doesn't have to be the absoliute solution but rather cutting back and making better, local choices to avoid mass production systems.
4. More and more, we're seeing companies and businesses making changes to become more sustainable, pledging to make integral changes. It is, however, a concern as to how sustainability is implemented. Sustainability encompasses a lot of meanings from looking at energy use to ethical practices that honor the worker and their rights.
For businesses that have been operating for decades, these changes are massive to implement and can take a considerable amount of time to be implemented. And there is also the problem of greenwashing. With sustainability being the need of the hour, businesses feel the pressure to make a change and make it soon and this can result in 'quick fixes', misleading the public of their practices in order to please and keep selling what they need to sell. However, more and more, it is an issue the public is very aware of and will point out when they spot insincerity.
THE BRIGHT SIDE
1. Greta Thunberg and the rise of young activists all over the world. #FridaysforFuture began as a simple act. As a response to her disappointment with the lack of climate action from Swedish parliament, Greta held a strike for three weeks in August 2018 in front of the parliament house, and her message spread across social media. As a result, schoolchildren from all corners of the globe set out to follow in her footsteps, taking Fridays off from school to protest.
And don't forget all these other youth activists who are fighting hard to have their voices heard too: 15-year-old Canadian, Autumn Peltier, who has been advocating for clean water since she was 8 and is another figure at the head of the global climate movement; 15-year-old Leah Namugerwa who leads the movement in Uganda; dubbed the 'Indian Greta Thunberg' but a force in her own right is 12-year-old Ridhima Pandey; the list goes on.
2. The collective Extinction Rebellion has become a roaring, confrontational voice hosting protests in major cities. Known for their disruptive demonstrations, they were established in 2018 in the UK where many public protests have been held from London to Manchester. But they have also been active in Brisbane, widening their reach as far as they can to urge change.
3. The celebrities using their presence and voices as a way to bring attention to climate issues. Notably, we've seen Leonardo DiCaprio be a prominent voice in driving climate conversations with his 2014 UN speech garnering an enormous amount of attention and supporting the young Greta Thunberg in her own activism. Jane Fonda, along with several other celebrities, caused a stir by participating in strikes in the U.S. Capitol and has, up to this point, been arrested 4 times and kept overnight once.
Here are some more notable voices who are using their spotlight for good.
4. Established in 2013 as a response to the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh, Fashion Revolution has dedicated its voice to shedding light on the fashion industry and its discrepancies, urging fashion houses to be transparent about their sustainable processes and ethical practices that protect workers, weavers and more. Dubbing the day of the disaster as the start of Fashion Revolution Week, they use that opportunity to bring as many voices in the industry together to discuss issues as well as solutions.
The Daily (what you can do!)
1. Try to implement alternative, sustainable energy within your home. Our daily energy use takes a toll on our planet with more and more greenhouse gases being produced from the burning of fossil fuels that power so many of our homes and appliances. Learn about the alternative you can use instead and a good start is solar panels.
2. Be conscious of your energy use in all aspects. Daily acts you can do can simply be things like switching off lights when you leave a room, turning off appliances when not in use and opting for greener transport solutions such as public transportation, riding bikes or carpooling. These little but important consideration can do a world of good if we all do it together.
3. Of course, we would also urge and encourage slow fashion to be your first choice. Being conscious should also translate to how you purchase and, with fashion being one of the most polluting industries to exist, avoiding fast fashion as much as possible is definitely the way to go to encourage less production.
4. Add your voice to the cause! This can be as easy as starting a conversation with friends or family, talk about sustainability and encourage better habits. You can also donate to causes that protect wildlife and vital ecosystems, like our oceans or rainforests, anything that sheds light on important climate issues and spreads the word!
Though the present may seem bleak, we can all strive towards a brighter, greener future if we all work together. Although it may seem insignificant next to such a large issue, little changes and conversations can lead to a shift, a change that is better for our world and ourselves.
For more stories about sustainability and about Sui, you can check out the rest of our Green Journal here.