Climate change: What can we do?

In which Esme Hehir of Medway Youth Council ponders what individuals and organisations to combat climate change.

Climate change is an issue that needs to be dealt with urgently. We cannot sit back as passive observers of the destruction of our planet. There is so much we should be doing to ensure a sustainable future for generations to come. 

This crisis has become so serious that there are now daily discussions in the mainstream media, taking the debate from a niche audience to the forefront of our global concerns. Despite there being an increased interest in the subject, not enough is being done to prevent climate change.

To make a difference and prevent further destruction, we need to take immediate action to provide better solutions and strategies to ensure an environmentally sustainable future.

We need to stop making excuses for the pollution we cause. The argument made most often is that other countries like China are far worse than us, so why should we bother? This is far from the attitude we need to be taking. Instead of giving up, why not set an example and show the world that climate change can be prevented?

Often the most convenient option is taken rather than the environmental one. It is much easier for schools to use disposable plates and cups, rather than washing up reusable plates and cups. However, at what cost is this choice to the environment? 

Humans are slowly destroying the planet. We are draining the earth of its finite resources and systematically wiping out wildlife, all to satisfy the greed of our western civilisation. It is estimated that 18 million acres of forest is destroyed each year. Around 80% of the world’s species of animals inhabit forest land, meaning that with every tree that is cut down, a habitat is threatened and a creature is endangered. 

Even though the consequences to the environment are clear, organisations still fail to make eco friendly decisions: schools and supermarkets continue to use single use plastic, which is thrown away and ingested by marine life; public transport is too expensive and unreliable leading to people choosing to take a taxi or drive, which is much less environmental.

All schools, restaurants and other businesses should be making more of an effort to recycle efficiently as when only general rubbish bins are available, it means plastic, glass, cans and paper are disposed of to landfill. Local councils should make it a priority to set up recycling units in streets and other public areas.

The energy that we need is provided through the process of burning fossil fuels (oil, coal and natural gas), which is estimated to produce 21.3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, polluting the atmosphere and contributing to global warming. These facts and figures are beyond worrying and should be leading governments to reverse the potential disastrous consequences. However, I don’t see significant changes being made.

There is hope. The climate change strikes organised by Greta Thunberg showed that young people all over the world are concerned for the state of our planet. These strikes were started in Sweden, when Greta Thunberg began missing school on Friday’s to protest outside the Swedish parliament, demanding that climate change be urgently addressed. Despite constantly hearing about climate change, she didn’t see the government acting to make a difference. Fossil fuels continue to be burned. Forests continue to be destroyed. Nothing has been done to reduce the plastic packaging of products. These issues should be the main discussion points in parliament but instead the issues of climate change and global warming are virtually ignored. Thunberg’s actions have ignited a passion for the environment in young people.

We have seen from changes made in the past, that there can be simple solutions to the issue of climate change and global warming. In 2015, the UK introduced the 5p charge on plastic bags in all supermarkets. The new fee encouraged reusable bags. This law was effective: the number of plastic bags given out by the seven biggest supermarkets decreased by 86%.

More restaurants are offering paper straws instead of plastic straws. Paper is biodegradable so when the straws are thrown away they do not cause any kind of pollution, unlike plastic that takes 1000 years to break down. Morrison’s are launching plastic-free fruit and vegetable aisles in their supermarkets. Customers will be able to pick the fruit and vegetables and buy them loose, or use a recyclable paper bag. It is estimated that this new initiative will save 3 tonnes of plastic each week.

Governments should be implementing positive strategies: investing in public transport to reduce carbon emissions from cars; taxing single use plastic in restaurants; providing grants for solar panelling, biogas and electric cars. 

Supermarkets need to be pressured to follow the example of Morrison’s and stop wasting plastic on unnecessary packaging. 

Schools could do more to educate students on how to be eco friendly, for example: how to recycle effectively; have showers instead of baths; turn off taps and switch off lights. If children are brought up to be environmentally friendly then they will implement their actions in their later lives, leading to a future that is not quite as doomed.

It should not, however, just be up to individuals to make more environmental choices. It won’t matter how much the general public uses paper straws or choose showers instead of baths, if big business and corporations continue to pump out carbon dioxide and use up our energy and resources at the rate that they are currently doing. Our government need to put laws in place to restrict businesses from polluting our planet further.

It is time that we made serious efforts to be more environmental, even if it is less convenient for us. We are not in the position any longer to ignore the reality of climate change and it’s disastrous consequences. We need to work together and act fast to create a brighter future.

Esme Hehir is 17 years old and studying for her A-levels at Rochester Grammar School, where she is a house officer. She joined the Medway Youth Council last year and was appointed Health Engagement Lead in May. She is interested in climate change and the ways in which we can all help the environment and hopes to study bio-medicine in university.

One Reply to “Climate change: What can we do?”

  1. This is an excellent essay – very well put together and covering many of the key points. I believe that on an individual level most governments, both local and national, and even in this country believe strongly that we need to keep up the drive to save our environment from continued disruption.
    However, despite appearances it is not governments which run the world but business. If you are a small one person business, an SME (small to medium enterprise) employing a few workers, or a large corporation the primary driver in life is profit above all else.
    You may simply be trying to make ends meet and pay your workers a reasonable wage, or you may be part of a huge corporation driven by competition and profit. In either case it is your income and expenditure that drives what you do and the environmental impact you have usually comes a very poor second.
    As environmental campaigners we need to accept this and try work within this system to bring about change. It is not fair to claim that if you campaign to save the environment then you are anti-business. We are not luddites! Most people have to work and most people want to save the planet. The challenge is to discover ways we can do both.
    The case of plastic bags is a classic example – those of us who have worked in the environmental movement always new there was a problem. Once it became universally known then everyone wanted to act, but it was the 5p charge that really brought about change!
    I would strongly urge everyone who cares – to vote for the policies that help to save the planet, to join a volunteer group in their local community and to think outside the box to find ways that really change peoples’ behaviour.
    I can think of loads of things we need to change – the drive to school should be a walk or a cycle; the move towards electric vehicles should be a mass move; we do not need to spray herbicides in our parks and gardens and we could all eat less meat and dairy….. the list is endless and we can all make a contribution. If everyone in Medway had a bee house and bee friendly plants in their gardens we would have more bees!!!
    Climate change is a reality now but we can still act to make the environment a better place for the next generations.

    The old adage of “think globally, act locally” still applies!!

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