Stop the environmental catastrophe
and save our future now!
Natalia Paczuska, Lancaster University
Plastic, in fact, is not recyclable and biodegradable. It is decomposed to very little extent as only 9% of world’s pla- stic waste produced between 1950 and 2015 was recycled. Up to this day, around 100,000 inhabitants of the aquatic environment and one million sea birds die yearly due to the ocean plastic pollution. Each of us has a real-life impact on both our micro and macro environments. The real question is – how should we change ourselves to improve and pro- tect the Earth and decrease the percentage of future damage?
It is estimated by the United Nations that we have only 11 years left to save the planet from the environmental catastro- phe. It is impossible, someone would say, but all the signs on earth, along with the scientists that have been trying to advocate for immediate changes for years, warning us every day. The signs starting from last scorching and dry summers in Europe, hurricanes in the Bahamas and dries and fires in Amazonian rainforests. However, the reasons of fires are not limited, yet strictly connected to environmental through the interconnected levels of geopolitics [Read more here].
One steak can make a difference
At the beginning of 19th century, humans were consuming on average 10kg of meat yearly, now it’s 43kg. 70% of Earth’s sur- face devoted to farming, is used for meat and dairy produc- tion, providing only 15% of world’s calorie supply. While meat breeding constitutes to 14,5% of greenhouse gases (GHG) emission (most methane is released through cattle’s digesti- ve system) although meat industry requires enormous water supplies (half a kilogram of produced beef requires around 7 thousand litres of water). Moreover, to fulfil today’s demand on meat, we need more land. Although cattle do not “need” much space according to the standards of intense mass farming, they need to eat. Furthermore, to fertilise the soil and to produce 1 ton of fertiliser, 1.5 tons of oil needs to be used. To feed 22mld farm animals, one-third of world’s crops is needed, contributing to rapidly progressing deforestation and higher emission of greenhouse gases. The viscous circle continues.
The decrease in meat consumption or choosing more susta- inably sourced meat by the consumers would have an impact on the environment. Yet, the economical and class structures come into play here with free range organic choices, being even four and half times more expensive than the “regular” ones. Nevertheless, Nick Hewitt from Lancaster Univer- sity says that; sacrificing land for animal breeding purposes is the least efficient way of protein production. Using this land for the crop and plants production and basing the diet on it, would be much more efficient in applying positive changes.
Although, going vegan seems like a perfect idea, there are some downsides. Of course, it would take many years for everyone to stop eating meat. Not only because humans seem to like the taste of meat, but also the market value of the processed meat is worth 714 billion dollars and such rapid changes would mean unemployment for most farmers, considering 1,3 million people are living from breeding. They would need to migrate or at least change their lifestyle and jobs. More than that, meat is very important for cultural reasons. In less developed countries meat is treated as a luxury good and symbolises wealth, therefore, taking it out of the diet could be perceived very negatively in a society. Also, many areas are not suitable for growing crops either, mostly due to the soil quality, which would need to be fertilised for efficient crop cultivation, or due to climate which in many areas is not suitable for agriculture. Lastly, if every person will go vegan, plant-based food demand would increase dra- matically so more land and fertilisation of it would be needed.
What are the other solutions?
One of the primary solutions is to plant trees (although planta- tion style of growing trees is also, not necessarily good for the planet due its lack of biodiversity). It is estimated that if we grow trees on 900 million hectares of Earth’s surface, which actually is just equivalent to the size of USA, we can successfully act against climate change. 205 million of tons of CO2 could be absorbed from the atmosphere, which states around two-thirds of gases that have been released since the Industrial Revolution.
However, it is not only up to individuals, but more importan- tly to the government and mega corporations. Only 100 of all companies in the world have been responsible for 71% of the global GHG emissions that cause global warming since 1998. Including China Coal which produces 14.3 % of world’s CO2. Finding renewable energy sources and imple- mentation of more strict regulations is one of the key things the policymakers should look at, therefore, use your voice and make it heard by voting or even taking to the streets.
However, do not lose your mind and find the balance as he- althy attitude is key. Being positive about change is most important, people are still learning and many of them are trying their best every day. Remember that baby steps matter and, it will make a greater difference if milliard of people stat to introduce little changes every day than just few individuals who live on a “perfectly green” diet. Few small changes and new habits can make a real difference.
What can you do now to minimize your carbon footprint and to decrease the environment impact?
1) Decrease the meat consumption or try to implement vege- tarian diet.
2) Change some habits.
Use less plastic – always carry a reusable bag.
Buy your own reusable beverage container.
Drink tap water (if it is safe to drink).
3) Choose public transport – buses or trains sometimes are faster and more convenient than a car.
4) Less fast fashion more charity shops [Read more about sustainability and fast fashion in the 1st issue of Lambert - here].