“Our economic system and our planetary system are now at war. Or, more accurately, our economy is at war with many forms of life on earth, including human life. What the climate needs to avoid collapse is a contraction in humanity’s use of resources; what our economic model demands to avoid collapse is unfettered expansion. Only one of these sets of rules can be changed, and it’s not the laws of nature.”
—Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate
It can seem like our changes are nothing in the face of a huge system that depends on manufacturing endless amounts of waste, and short-lived products that will soon become waste.
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It can seem infinitesimal to use a keep-cup when no matter what we do in our daily lives, factories will continue churning out billions of cheap commodities that will be used briefly and then cast away, polluting the environment as they do so; and fossil fuels will continue to be integral to the functioning of the economy and our systems of transport.
While we can probably all understand that the temperature is rising, steadily, sometimes all the graphs, statistics, and scientific jargon turn this very real problem into something that is “over our heads,” and best left to those better educated on the subject.
For example: What the fuck is the difference between carbon credits, and carbon tax? Why do airlines keep asking if you want to “offset your carbon emissions?” And surely if this problem was that serious, our government would be doing something about it?
Environmental news is often relegated to the back pages because it’s all based on the future, scientists interpreting the trends of increasing global temperatures, and making projections—and news doesn’t always consider what might happen in the future, but focuses on now.
That’s why extreme weather events feature, but not the harsh realities that climate change is having. It’s a crisis that is happening at a slow pace, and it can be so hard to conceive of the realities that the words imply.
It can be hard to visualize how we and future generations will be impacted. As Tom Scott of Homebrew once said, “as the world’s heating up I don’t even give a fuck I’m just sitting here under the shade.”
Being environmentally friendly seems like a sport for the privileged. The cynic in all of us can so easily disregard ‘eco’ options as a fashionable label or trend: it becomes a way to improve your own personal brand and an exercise in guilt reduction.
It seems like an annoying Wellington trend carrying around a keep-cup, and having tote bags for the market. But, it needs to become the norm. It’s an exercise in maintaining perspective of the macro and micro—you have to keep perspective of how profoundly important each small decision you make is, because it’s a cumulative thing.
We both work in cafés on the side, it’s insane how much waste we go through each week. With products that are needlessly packaged, bottles of drinks, straws, receipts, leftovers being thrown away, hundreds of takeaway coffee cups and hundreds of milk bottles. Businesses, as well as consumers, need to take responsibility for the waste that they produce.
Ask more of your workplaces, your university, your local businesses, your friends and family. Don’t use plastic bags, minimize your waste consumption, and think carefully about every purchase. Learn all you can about recycling and compost. Protest, join campaigns, and vote for representatives that care.
All you need to do is watch David Attenborough’s episode on the polar bears, and you’ll see how important this is.
Emma & Jayne Xoxo