Amidst finals I am inevitably very stressed. A lot of my time has been spent in the library focusing on next weeks exams. Free time has been limited, but I wanted to ensure that I got the opportunity to share something with you that I’ve been thinking a lot about. As an aspiring green chemist I have taken an interest in COP21, the 21st annual Conference of Parties, where more than 120 world leaders are getting together to discuss what to do about the problem of climate change.
Previously (and in very simple terms) the proposed idea was to have one plan that the world came together to enforce, but politics got in the way. Who would run it? Who would fund it? Who would enforce it? Long story short, it never worked and nothing really got resolved.
This year, things are being approached differently. A new accord has been struck that, for the first time, will commit nearly every country to lowering its greenhouse gas pollution. The aim is that cumulatively, this will help the planet and cap the global temperature rise at 2 °C (the absolute maximum deemed “safe”) and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
Unfortunately, this is still ambitious. Even if every country comes through with what they’ve proposed, we are still heading for a global rise in temperature of 3 °C by centuries end. To tackle this, everybody needs to come together and make a concious effort to help.
You’ve no doubt heard someone somewhere say that an area the size of a football pitch is cleared in the rainforest every second. Figures like this (as to say completely shocking) are batted around all the time, and yet it still doesn’t seem to alter anyone’s behaviour. But why? Less trees mean less carbon dioxide is being removed from the atmosphere by photosynthesis, and consequently the emissions that we are releasing are in no way reduced. I’m not recommending you go and tie yourself to a tree, but suggesting that you aid the reduction of deforestation by not supporting one of its main contributors: agriculture.
Recently I watched a documentary that’s been making the rounds entitled “Cowspiracy”. I was sceptical as to how one video had such an affect that it turned so many people vegan, however it did just that. Through a simple portrayal of the shocking but true statistics it caused me to reassess both my diet and my lifestyle. It went into detail about how the industry providing our meat, fish and dairy products are harming the environment by causing 14.5 % of the worlds emissions (beating the emissions of every car/bus/lorry/plane on the planet. It is not sustainable. We cannot continue with this and just do nothing.
Just by cutting these animal products out and adopting a vegan diet, you save 30 sq ft of forested land, 20 lbs of CO2 and a whole host of other things each day. You don’t have to go the whole hog, even by cutting down your consumption you are helping; this 60 second video from the Guardian explains it nicely.
Transportation emissions are needless high. One thing I’ve noticed since being in America is that nearly everybody I know has a car, as do each of their parents… and siblings. England is quickly beginning to show the same story and this is not sustainable. I seem to be in the minority of people whose parents share a car, and even then it’s sat on the drive most of the time – my dad cycles to and from work every day, and my mum either walks or takes the bus. I’m not insinuating we are great at this, but what we are is proof that it is possible. There are many alternative forms of transport that would be easy to switch to, such as walking, cycling or using public transport. For example, instead of driving you could walk down the street to get whatever you need from the corner shop. These ideas not only save the environment, but can also improve your fitness and keep you healthy.
Energy can even be saved in such simple things as switching your light bulbs to energy saving ones, or just turning lights off when you’re not in the room (or have an excessive number on). It’s self explanatory and needs to be done. This also applies to anything else – like leaving your phone on charge for longer than it needs to be (which also damages the battery, meaning however long it takes for your phone to go from fully charged to zero will decrease every time). Basically: if you’re not using it, don’t have it plugged in or switched on. The same applies for heating and air conditioning. If it’s not cold, or if a jumper/cosy dressing gown will suffice, the heating does not need to be on. And vice versa: if it’s not too hot, the air conditioning can be given a miss too.
A quick google search can bring up hundreds of ways you can alter your lifestyle to help, so there is really no excuse. I’m not hypocritical, I practice what I preach. If you have any questions or tips for anyone else, please leave them in the comments.
Until next time, readers! (And don’t worry, the next time I post will be more light-hearted!)