“Little changes can create big shifts”

Recently a video of a polar bear has been circulating the internet, you have probably seen it. It’s a photo of a polar bear who is emaciated and starving because there is no food to be found, because the polar ice caps are melting.

Although this is a blog dedicated to food, climate change is a cause directly related to food, and in particular, the choices we (consciously or unconsciously) make when we select what we eat. We can either help or hinder the environment with the food we buy. Also it’s perhaps more interesting for people to hear an opinion on a global issue, rather than read about another recipe and how it came about.

I deliberately avoided watching the polar bear video as I couldn’t face it. I couldn’t bring myself to watch the suffering. However today a still image of the polar bear came up on my FaceBook newsfeed. This time I couldn’t ignore it. I followed the link and came upon the photographer who shot the forlorn scene accompanied by the following caption:

My heart breaks when I see this photo. We cried as we filmed this dying bear. Although we cannot tell for sure why this bear was dying, what is certain is that as the Arctic continues to warm twice as fast as anywhere else on Earth, many more bears will face this fate over the coming years. We traveled to the Arctic with @sea_legacy in August and saw both healthy bears and starving bears. As climate change accelerates, we will see less of the former and more of the latter. It’s a heartbreaking reality of our current lifestyle.

Truly heartbreaking. I can’t believe it has come to this. It brings me back to another image, of a dead Syrian boy washed up on a beach. A child whose parents had hoped for a better future. I think how deeply sad these images make me. Not the images themselves. I am not sad that I have to see such sad images, I am sad that these images depict real beings going through such immense suffering. I am sad that we have systems in place that allow such tragedies to occur.

Then I think of the election of Donald Trump as president in the US. I think of his policies on immigration. I think of his bitter racism. I think of him reversing climate change policies. I see him appointing climate change deniers to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. I see a correlation between the worst tragedies unfolding in the world today, and the desires of this dangerous and powerful man.

I then think about the movement that his election has sparked. People are not prepared to roll over and watch him destroy everything they stand for. I think about all the good people I know. I think of the people who work tirelessly for the cause they believe in. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by the most inspiring souls who are actively fighting for human rights and for the environment. People who work implementing climate change policies in Europe, people who work directly on behalf of the environment, people who work for human rights, people whose vocation is in the circular economy. There was another caption, by the same photographer, which struck a chord with me;

Climate change affects us all and the impacts are starting to knock on everyone’s door. The good news is, little changes can create big shifts, so I encourage you to be part of the change with what you choose to eat, how you choose to move around, and how much you choose to purchase. Thank you for caring.

She asks that we adapt our lifestyles to reverse global warming. It is easy to feel too comfortable in one’s life to adopt change. It is easy to exclude ourselves and make exceptions but if we all do that, who will save us? The bottom line is that no one else will. It has to be us. We can busy ourselves with trivial things that distract us from the bigger picture, or we can live true to ourselves and become answerable. What am I doing for the environment? What will my legacy be? Is my lifestyle sustainable? Thoughts that make me uncomfortable, because I buy food that has travelled far, I take long-haul flights, I perpetuate the very problems I speak of, sometimes. I try to stay grounded and informed, I make an effort.

Making little changes can be beneficial for you as a person, as well as for the planet; a clearer conscience, more purpose in life a safe environment to live in. The alternative is that we continue to distract ourselves with trivialities and we suffocate the planet. Either we make an effort, or no longer will we have planet earth as we know it.

To me it makes sense that someone as old as Donald Trump (who is 71) does not care about the earth’s future. He will be dead relatively soon. I, on the other hand, am twenty-six and expect to outlive him. In fact I expect to outlive most politicians who are currently making decisions about the world I will eventually inhabit, but they won’t. Do people realise this I wonder? That it makes perfect sense for older people to care less about the environment because it won’t affect the world during their lifetimes, the way it will affect younger generations.

I think it comes down to us, collectively making short-term decisions, rather than long-term decisions. For example, ‘it’s raining outside, I will drive instead of walking’. Yes, one more car journey won’t single-handedly kill the planet. But no, the planet will not be saved by us continuing to use fossil fuels in the unsustainable way we currently are. Yes, a job lobbying for the fossil fuel industry will earn you money to feed your family. But no, there will not be a habitable planet for your grandchildren (perhaps even your children) if we continue to use fossil fuels the way we do. So what’s the point? Why such short-term goals? Why the severe lack of perspective? Why the tunnel vision? Why the denial? Is it because the truth is too unsettling to accept?

We are all responsible and we all have the ability to change. We already know how we can help the environment. We can eat less meat and dairy, we can eat local, we can eat seasonally. We can avoid wasting food. We can choose to take public transport. We can choose to buy more environmentally-friendly products. We can choose to consume less. We can even pressure our governments to enforce eco-friendly policies, and create a future for our children.

We may feel like a drop in the ocean but as human beings we can inspire others. Movements can start with one person, one small action. The more we say no to non-environmentally-friendly habits, the less acceptable we make such habits. We don’t have to suddenly make a drastic transition to being a self-sustainable farmer in order to make a positive change. We can start by changing our attitudes, and changing our priorities. For example, think ‘is it more important for me not to rock the boat and to continue to eat meat every day as I always have done, or is it more important for me to start a transition to eating less meat so that my diet is more sustainable?’ ‘Is it more important for me work against climate change policies, or is it more important for me to apply myself to a good cause now and be the change I want to see in the world?’

While I understand that being environmentally-friendly sometimes is a luxury not everyone can afford (eg. when the only food you can afford to buy is not environmentally-friendly, you buy the food anyway because you need to eat), I also think that, those of us who have the opportunity to make changes, ought to. Particularly those of us in positions of power.

It’s up to us. Do we choose to bury our heads in the sand or do we choose to help?

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