If you’re concerned about our changing climate and are wondering what you can do to make a difference, this post is for you. I’ll be sharing eight things you can do to help address climate change.
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Like just about everywhere around the world right now, the climate in Australia is not behaving nicely.
In the last few weeks alone:
- Devastating floods gripped North Queensland killing half a million drought-stressed cattle, decimating the State’s native wildlife of kangaroos, rodents, hopping-mice, bandicoots and echidnas and dunnarts and in particular, the Julia Creek Dunnart which is now feared extinct courtesy of the floods. My former home city of Townsville received one year’s rainfall in the space of nine days, prompting flooding, landslides and the evacuation of hundreds of people.
- Ferocious bush fires burned throughout NSW, Victoria and Tasmania wiping out forests and wildlife, and destroying homes. Many of the Tasmanian fires were in the world heritage area, hitting rare gondwana ecosystems only found in Tasmania which historically do not burn.
- a small brown rat (Bramble Cay melomys) which lived on a tiny island off northern Australia became the world’s first mammal known to have become extinct due to “human-induced climate change,” and
- a mass fish kill event occurred in the Darling River – Australia’s longest river and the life blood of the Murray-Darling basin (Australia’s food bowl). This fish kill was also put down to drought and climate change.
My home state South Australia also sweltered through heat wave after heat wave this past summer and my home city Adelaide hit 46.6°C (115.7°F) on 24 January, the hottest temperature recorded in any Australian state capital city since records began 80 years ago.
That same day, a town just up the road from Adelaide, Port Augusta, reached 49.5°C (121.1°F), setting an all-time record for any Australian town. I should mention too that shortly after the mercury climbed into the high forties, our neighbourhood experienced a 5 hour power outage. It was that evening where I took the boys out to an air conditioned restaurant for dinner and we were still cooling off at the beach at 10:30pm on a school night with the power still out at the temperatures still in the high thirties. We were lucky to have somewhere to cool off!
These are just some of the more extreme climate-change induced weather events that have occurred in the past few weeks in Australia. And I know that, extreme as these are, every corner of our globe is experiencing similar extreme weather events.
According to the World Meteorological Organization, the start of 2019 has been marked by high impact weather in many parts of the world, including record heat, wildfires and rainfall in South America and Australasia, dangerous and extreme cold in North America, and heavy snowfall in the Alps and Himalayas.
Climate scientists have advised for decades that we’re looking towards a future of more extremes. Particularly more heat waves, droughts in certain scenarios, and more extreme rainfall events. Climate scientists also know that the signs we are seeing right now suggest that things are changing in ways that could be earth-changing, world-changing, and economy-changing. This can have major impacts on human welfare as well as ecosystems, but beyond that we must acknowledge very readily that there are still many uncertainties out there. Climate scientists will tell you that the scariest thing about climate change is not what we know but the things that we don’t know.
Am I concerned?
Yes I am.
Am I hopeful?
Yes I am.
Although it is getting harder to remain optimistic about a future where our climate systems, indeed the core systems that dictate life on Earth, are uncertain.
I have no doubt that there will still be an Earth in a few hundred years, I’m just not sure if humans will be a part of Earth.
Humans are the only species who actively destroy their home and the systems that sustain our species, yet we think we’re so intelligent that we can rise above the destruction and survive when species around us are dropping like flies. Sure we’ll come up with new technologies to help, but we can’t continue as we have been and assume that everything will be fine. Life doesn’t work like that. You can’t kill off half the food web without impacting the species at the top!
So what does this all mean for us, and what can we do within our spheres of influence to address climate change?
In episode 67 of Eco Chat, I spoke in depth with Professor Bill Laurance from James Cook University about climate change, what it is and why we need to do something about it. In this episode / post I want to elaborate on the “how” and share actions you can take to make a difference, whatever your sphere of influence.
While governments and political leaders may have the future of our planet in their hands, I strongly believe it is women, and particularly mothers, who have the most power to drive real change. Mothers are typically the consumers and shapers of society and are deeply invested in the next generation. So if you’re a parent, especially a mother, and are knee-deep with the massive to-do list that comes with raising kids, and feeling overwhelmed and insignificant in the big issue of climate change, I want you to know that you have more power than you believe.
You can make a difference.
8 Things You Can Do To Combat Climate Change
Now I could literally share hundreds of actions to take in your homes and lifestyles to address climate change, but I wanted to focus on a small number of key actions that will make the biggest difference. Here are my top 8 things you can do to address climate change.
1. Create a Sustainable Family
In a world of limited resources and an increasing global population of humans, a serious discussion on climate change would be incomplete without including humans and the issue of overpopulation. It’s one you won’t hear discussed too much at policy level, but our sheer numbers and consumption patterns are at the very root cause of climate change.
So what can you do about this?
Well you can start by seriously considering your family size and the number of humans you bring into the world. While big families are on the decline in developed countries it’s still important to ask yourself if having one child for you, one for your partner and one for the country is the best option for our environment. Even if you have a larger family and are super resourceful, there’s no denying the multiplying effect when it’s time for your offspring to reproduce.
I have several scientist friends in their 20s and 30s who are choosing not to have a family for sustainability reasons alone. Indeed, environmental reasons were a key factor in my decision not to have a third child.
It’s not my place to tell you not to bear children, especially when I’m a mother myself, but I do strongly encourage you to resist any biological urge to create a large family. Instead, aim to replace yourself and your partner.
If/when you do have children, accept the responsibility that comes with raising the next generation of consumers. Please do all you can to raise eco conscious kids. I covered this topic in detail in How To Nurture Eco-Conscious Kids, but in short, the best education in sustainability you can give your children is to lead by example. Read books about caring for our environment, involve them in planting and maintaining a veggie patch, teach them how to cook from scratch and take them into the great outdoors so they develop a love of, and connection with, nature from an early age.
2. Eat Sustainably (Become an Ecotarian)
You can make a huge impact on your greenhouse gas emissions and climate change through your food choices. Whether it’s by shopping locally and minimising food miles, or eating more plant-based foods, your food choices and behaviour towards food can make a major difference to your carbon footprint.
Becoming an ecotarian involves:
- Eating locally. Support your local farmers markets and food produce stores by shopping locally and selecting locally-grown foods. Ask chefs at your favourite restaurants and managers of your local supermarkets which of their items are sourced locally and urge that the share be increased. Refuse to buy cheap imported products over lines that are locally produced.
- Eating seasonal foods or your own home-grown produce. Learn what foods are in season in your area and make a concerted effort to build your diet around them. When you eat foods that are not in season you’re eating foods that have travelled significant distance from farm to your plate.
- Eating more plant-based foods, wholefoods and sustainable meats (if you do choose to eat meat). Processed foods and factory-farmed meats in particular have a large carbon footprint.
- Learning the skill of food preservation. Buy extra quantities of your favourite fruit or vegetable when in season and experiment with drying or preserving so you can enjoy them year round. Preserved jams, chutneys and sauces also make wonderful homemade gifts for friends and relatives.
3. Reduce Your Food Waste
Every time we throw food in the bin we’re not just wasting our money. We’re discarding the vast amounts of resources, energy and water that it took to produce, process, store, refrigerate, transport and cook the food. If that’s not bad enough, rotting food in landfill releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is particularly damaging to our environment.
The impact on climate change from food waste is so significant that reducing food waste has been listed within the top 5 solutions for climate change in Paul Hawken’s book “Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.” The impact on climate change by reducing food waste alone, is reported by Hawken to beat solar farms and rooftop solar combined!!
Storing your food correctly, planning your meals and shopping to plan will significantly help you reduce your household’s food waste. Similarly, composting your scraps (or feeding them to your backyard chickens or worm farm) keeps them out of landfill where they will release methane when decomposing and turn them into useful compost for your garden instead. If you are short on space or live in an apartment a Bokashi Bin may be an option for you.
4. Choose Green Power and/or Install Solar Panels
As the dirtiest fossil fuel, coal is the single biggest culprit when it comes to global warming and climate change. To avoid a climate catastrophe, we need to leave coal in the ground.
While the Australian Government clearly hasn’t gotten the climate change memo and is still approving coal mines, that doesn’t mean you need to get your energy from coal.
The option to purchase your power from renewable resources is now available in many towns and cities. If more consumers choose to buy green power, the renewable industry will grow, prices of green power will reduce and outdated and dirty energy sources such as coal will become a technology of the past.
Installing solar panels on your home and feeding your excess electricity into the grid is also a massive step you can take to address climate change. In many cases you’ll have your panels paid off in a couple of years and will save thousands of dollars in power bills, not to mention emissions, over the life of your investment.
5. Reduce Home Energy Use (even if you have solar)
Regardless of whether or not you have solar panels on your rooftop, ensuring your household is as energy efficient as possible has many benefits.
If you have solar, it also means you’re able to feed more electricity back into the grid and earn cash from your rooftop!
I’m a firm believer that we all have the power to make a positive difference to the health of our global environment by focussing on our local patch… and in particular, our homes. BIG change can stem from many people making many small changes.
In my program greenHOUSE Home Energy Blitz, I guide you over 21 days through the process of making a series of small tweaks around your home that slash your carbon footprint and your power bill!
6. Downsize your fleet and use your vehicle less
Does your household need more than one car? Can you even get by without a car? When you downsize your fleet you’re not only reducing your ongoing vehicle emissions, you’re avoiding the unnecessary manufacture and transport of an additional vehicle in the first place.
Rather than automatically driving everywhere think of how you can walk, bicycle or use public transport instead. Often it just takes a little more organisation and time to choose an alternative but you will significantly reduce your greenhouse emissions and increase your incidental exercise in the process. Not to mention setting a great example for your kids and community!
7. Enjoy Low Impact Holidays
Not every holiday needs to be a flash one at an international resort with a hefty bill and carbon footprint to match. Discover your local region and consider exploring nearby beaches, national parks or perhaps even staying home every now and then. If you do decide to travel by plane, most airlines now offer the ability to offset the emissions of your flight for the cost of a small fraction of your overall airfare.
8. Buy less stuff
If you’re finding that stuff is taking over your home or you’re weighed down by the amount of physical clutter in your life, chances are you’re addicted to stuff.
Physical items use energy and virgin resources when they’re manufactured, they use energy when they’re transported, stored and discarded. And funnily enough, there’s nothing that drains your energy more than a house full of physical items!
Being a conscious consumer means you value quality over quantity and take control of your stuff before it takes control of you. It also means you’re treading lighter on the planet and are minimising the environmental footprint of your lifetime.
Want some tips for how to buy less stuff? Click HERE to discover the Four Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Buying Something New
So what do you think? Are you able to do some or all of the points above to reduce your emissions and help to address climate change?
By taking steps to create a sustainable family, eat sustainably, choose green power, reduce your household’s energy use, downsize your fleet, holiday locally and buy less stuff you’ll be helping to create a more sustainable future for us all.
I’m here to live life with as light an environmental footprint as possible. Care to join me?
OVER TO YOU!
Have you taken steps to reduce your emissions to help address climate change? Share your story and tips below!
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