This is a guest piece by Marayke Bouma, eco extraordinaire. She’s also made our lives easier by writing her own disclaimer: “I have a BSc in Environmental Science and Applied Conservation but by no means is this article full of citations, just my general knowledge of climate change happenings and a couple of quick Googles. I fully encourage you to go seek out facts from the source - fuck yeah, science!”
☑️Tips to combat climate change despair
Shit You Should Care About… Climate Change
Climate change is a bloody tough one to get your head around. Even if you did pay attention in high school science, the combo of jargon and depressing-facts is worse than stepping in a puddle with socks on - it’s a bitch. Rather than wade through all that yourself, I’ll be your Miss Frizzle today and run you through the basics.
What is ‘Climate Change?’
The atmosphere around earth is essentially a wee 500km bubble of air around the chunk of molten rock we call home, which usually helps us out by keeping us warm, reflecting harmful solar radiation, and of course holding much of our water and oxygen. Over the past hundred years or so, and especially the last 50, us humans have been so busy industrialising all over the place that we’ve thrown the atmosphere’s balance of gases out of whack.
There are far more of a certain gases than there used to be : carbon dioxide, methane, plus a few others. You could make a big list of contributing factors, but some biggies are:
The rise of fossil fuel use - think cars, air travel, industry, electricity and plastic production
Intensification of agriculture - shout out to NZ dairy industry! Cows = methane
Deforestation - trees take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
All of this has polluted the atmosphere, pumping these gases to unprecedented levels - the highest in 800,000 years.
These gases act like a literal greenhouse (sound familiar yet?), ‘trapping’ the sun’s heat and causing rising atmospheric temperatures. This will make it hotter in some places but colder in others, which is why the term climate change is more accurate than global warming. You can get faaaar more technical in the science if you feel the need and probably rip apart my terminology, but that’s the gist. Get on YouTube for some helpful visuals.
Has the climate changed before?
You’ve seen Ice Age - the climate has changed before. But the warming rate is currently about 10 times faster than the average ice-age-recovery warming rate. That’s pretty fucking bad, so I’ll spare you any more stats. The real problem is, this isn’t just some skewed temperatures, there’s a whole list of catastrophic impacts that go along with it.
Here’s a sample menu, take your pick:
Sea level rise
Increased severity of extreme weather events like heat waves, cyclones, wildfires, droughts and flooding
Ocean acidification from carbon dioxide uptake
Then there is the effect of all this on species and ecosystems.
This includes polar bears (their icey home is melting), and coral reefs (ocean warming and acidification is bleaching them). Climate change has played a starring role in humans causing the 6th mass-extinction event the planet has ever seen.
I’m sorry to say, it gets worse
It does get worse: these are not just predicted impacts, these are real life trends that are already happening. Weather events and seasonal peaks are getting more intense all around the world, threatening health standards and increasing the spread of disease. If you survive these events, you are still likely displaced from your homes - for example, those in the Philippines after storms and super typhoons in recent years. Millions more will become climate refugees or IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) as sea levels rise and these disasters worsen. Islands are already disappearing. With ecosystems being threatened too, we will need to re-learn how to manage every resource in our way of life (‘ecosystem services’ is worth a Google). In New Zealand, a country where a huge proportion of us live near the coast, our economy relies heavily on our agriculture, and our weather already likes to get a bit wild, declaring a climate emergency is a tiny but important first step.
It is too late to halt all consequences, but we can slow the heating and potentially lessen the damage. The crux is that scientists believe achieving this will require a war-like effort from the entire planet within the next decade. On top of using yet-to-be-invented technology to pull the greenhouse gases from the air, this means international collaboration to slow down and reconstruct the world’s economy without destroying society. Let that sink in, that’s a fucking scary task.
So with impending doom and a slim chance of evasion, what can you do?
Awareness is key - ka pai on getting informed if you weren’t already... now keep going! This is serious stuff talk about it with everyone you know. Check out everything you can handle - from Our Planet to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report.
Think about your own carbon footprint - Walk or bike to work! Eat locally grown foods, and choose plant-based where you can. Buy consciously and shop second-hand. Consume less of the shit you don’t need! Think twice about your air travel. Get on your bloody landlord’s case about some double-glazing and extra insulation.
Get grubby with some tree planting. If you can’t find an event, organise one!
Remember to look after your own mental health too. As I said, Climate Change a bloody tough one to grapple with.
Remember this is NOT all to blame on individual consumers - some reports blame less than 100 companies for more than 70% of the global emissions since the 80s. Here the crucial actions lie to the government to set legislation. Therefore…
Most importantly, get political! Join in the Strikes for Climate, write a submission on the Zero Carbon Act, be an activist! Young people are leading the way around the world and I couldn’t be prouder. GET AMONGST!
If you want to know more send me your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org!