On Friday, schools across the UK noted a significant drop in pupil numbers. Those pupils were out on the streets protesting against the ineffectual governmental action on climate change.
When Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief, said it was “time to heed the deeply moving voice of youth”, she couldn’t have been more correct. To see the youth of this country understand the issue and the drastic action needed to be taken better than those in charge, is both inspiring and shocking.
With at least 60 protests occurring from Glasgow to London, it is estimated that more than 10,000 pupils left their scheduled lessons to protest against the mounting ecological crisis, with some even being threatened with punishments of detention and suspension.
“The size of the Youth Strike 4 Climate is testament to the passion and awareness among young people that we need to fight for a future that simply doesn’t exist because we’ve been betrayed by the inaction of those in positions of power.” said Jake Woodier, a member of the UK Youth Climate Coalition.
“Joining so many school children for the last Friday For Future School strike was very emotional.” said student and environmental activist Jo Becker, who attended one of the strikes in Edinburgh on Friday. ” Seeing these kids out of school to ask for a future made my heart ache. But also it was an extremely positive day. Seeing so many children from different age groups and backgrounds come together and taking the lead at a demonstration was truly empowering. Adults have a lot to learn from these passionate, brave youngsters – and we have to start listening to them if we want to ensure a safe future.”
The movement that led up to today’s protests began when Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old student from Sweden who began protesting outside the Swedish parliament during her school hours over the effects of climate change. Since then she has gone on to become the face of the movement, and a prominent activist and voice within the environmental activism community.
Thunberg recently travelled to Davos to attend and speak at the World Economic Forum, where she told a panel “Some people, some companies, some decision makers in particular have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.”
The youth who participate in today’s protests, and the protests that will inevitably happen more regularly from now on, are doing what needs to be done in terms of negating the effects of climate change: they are speaking truth to power.
These grassroots movements such as #SchoolStrike4Climate and the work of Extinction Rebellion is being mirrored in political parties across the world, from the UK’s Green Party, to the recent Green New Deal being proposed by American congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. These are not the ineffective climate secretaries we have seen in the past, these are, like the youth that follow and emulate them, people who are more than willing to make drastic change.
Traditionally, climate groups have been passive, nonpartisan; but that is not the case anymore. With the rise of political interaction within the younger generations, and the worsening degrees of ecological destruction, these groups are becoming more militant, more passionate, and more social-media savvy. They call out fossil fuel industries, corporate powerhouses, and climate change deniers to their face, and take no prisoners while doing so.
While some within the older generations may feel a sense of complacency and comfort, the younger generations can see the future that is being given to them, and quite frankly, they fear it. 12 years is the number they have been given, 12 years to alter the course of global history for the better. It’s a gargantuan task, and the weight of failure is something too dark to think about.
17 year old Rosie Smart-Knight, who participated in the strikes, wrote in an opinion piece “Even if the climate strike doesn’t prompt the change we need and demand, it has given so many young people across the country a chance to raise their voice and make it heard. This movement is allowing young people to realise they’re not alone, that others care about the climate, and are worried about the future. I will continue to raise awareness of the climate crisis, and I will continue to demand change”
One hopes that the momentum of the growing climate activism movement, which consists of a myriad of groups across the world, does not falter. Guardian columnist George Monbiot writes that, for the movement to ultimately succeed, it needs a rigorous framework from which it acts from. Monbiot cites the need for a ‘narrative’, writing that it may go something like this:
“The world has been thrown into climate chaos, caused by fossil fuel companies, the billionaires who profit from them and the politicians they have bought. But we, the young heroes, will confront these oligarchs, using our moral authority to create a movement so big and politically dangerous that our governments are forced to shut down the fossil economy and restore the benign conditions in which humans and other species can thrive.”
More strength within the movement will come from proper training, communication, and a strong defence against divisive political intent. Already the School Strike and Thunberg are being targeted by rumours, criticism, and misinformation. They also need to be prepared for the passion-draining effect of emotional despair. Already groups have sprang up on Facebook designed to assuage the effects of climate-based depression or anxiety, with one being aptly-named ‘UK climate grief & eco anxiety hub for academics and concerned citizens‘.
It is clear that while politics and bureaucracy have an important part to play, they will not be enough without the firebrand and emotive voices and actions of the younger generations all over the world, for it is those generations that shall eventually take on ownership of this world. They do not want to be left a barren wasteland, they do not deserve such a poor legacy to inherit.
We need the youth because they are not deeply entrenched within the ideologies of a world which is slowly breaking apart through it’s own devices.
A new diet report, created by the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health, has been proposed as a diet that could both poor global nutrition and avert environmental disaster caused by present-day food production methods.
Key tenets of the diet include a radical change in food production, a great reduction in red meat consumption in traditional western diets, and a reduction in sugar consumption.
“Transformation to healthy diets by 2050 will require substantial dietary shifts.” said Prof. Walter Willet, one of the leaders of the commission. “Global consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes will have to double, and consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar will have to be reduced by more than 50%. A diet rich in plant-based foods and with fewer animal source foods confers both improved health and environmental benefits.”
The main bulk of the report itself is devoted to three sections, the goal, the targets, and the strategies. The goal stated by the EAT-Lancet Commission is ‘To achieve planetary health diets for nearly 10 billion people by 2050″. The targets include and require red meat and sugar consumption to be cut in half globally, while the consumption of vegetables, pulses, fruit, and nuts, must double. This range is not universal, but geographically specific, stating that instead of halving their red meat intake, North Americans need to eat 84% less, and up their bean and lentil consumption six times. In Europe, we must reduce our red meat consumption by 77%.
The introduction of the report stated that their were four scenarios that could develop in the future; win-win, win-lose, lose-win, and lose-lose. According to the scientists behind the report, win-win would prevent the deaths of 11 million people worldwide, and prevent the collapse of the natural world, which is currently under an immense amount of pressure.
Our global food system is inherently broken, with distribution favouring wealthier countries, who both consume more than they need, and waste much. There are also issues with physical production, in terms of the environmental degradation caused by overfishing, and the footprint of the meat industry. Reducing meat and dairy products, or avoiding them altogether, may be the greatest way the individual can reduce their environmental footprint.
In a report published by Springmann et al, it was stated that a 90% drop in red meat consumption and reductions in other meat categories were essential to introduce into our lifestyles in an attempt to avoid the effects of climate breakdown.
“Humanity now poses a threat to the stability of the planet,” said Prof Johan Rockström at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Sweden, another author of the report. “[This requires] nothing less than a new global agricultural revolution.” The ‘planetary health diet’ strongly recommends only one portion of red meat per week, the size of an average beefburger, and stresses that most protein should come from plant alternatives. The steep rise in plant-based and vegan diets in the last two years has shown that, at least in western countries, this change in protein source is highly possible, and no longer a ‘radical’ idea.
Willett emphasises that this is not a diet of ‘depravation’, but rather “a way of eating that can be healthy, flavourful and enjoyable.”
“Global food production threatens climate stability and ecosystem resilience.” said Prof. Johan Rockström, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research & Stockholm Resilience Centre. “It constitutes the single largest driver of environmental degradation and transgression of planetary boundaries. Taken together the outcome is dire. A radical transformation of the global food system is urgently needed. Without action, the world risks failing to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement.”
In all, the report advocates the ‘Great Food Transformation’. “The data are both sufficient and strong enough to warrant immediate action. Delaying action will only increase the likelihood of serious, even disastrous, consequences. ” The report outlines five strategies for this immense change:
Seek international and national commitment to shift toward healthy diets
Reorient agricultural priorities from producing high quantities of food to producing healthy food
Sustainably intensify food production to increase high-quality output
Strong and coordinated governance of land and oceans
At least halve food losses and waste, in line with UN Sustainable Development Goals
The report goes on to state that food will be the “defining issue of the 21st Century”. Richard Horton and Tamara Lucas, editors at Lancet, wrote “Civilisation is in crisis. We can no longer feed our population a healthy diet while balancing planetary resources. If we can eat in a way that works for our planet as well as our bodies, the natural balance will be restored.”
Rapid urbanisation of cities is becoming more and more apparent. This immediately presents issues in terms of the carbon footprints of buildings. The bigger cities get, the taller buildings get, the more greenhouse gas emissions we produce in their construction. In order for us to make our cities bigger, taller, more environmentally-friendly, cities need to find ways to future-proof themselves.
By 2050, the global population is expected to rise to 10 billion, and around two-thirds of us will live in cities. Of course, the solution to this in terms of space will be high-rise complexes.
The materials we use now to build with, mainly concrete and steel, have a large carbon footprint. The answer may lie in something called cross-laminated timber, or CLT.
We are currently in a somewhat renaissance for timber. Wood, of course, is a renewable resource. Currently, the world’s tallest building at 53m tall is the Brock Commons Tallwood House in Vancouver, which was completed in 2017, just beating the then world’s tallest wooden building, the Treet building, at 52.8m, in Bergen. These however may be left in the proverbial timber dust, with a proposed building in Tokyo known as the W350 Project planned to reach 350m (although this is scheduled for completion in 2041).
In Brummundal, Norway, an 81m high residential building is being constructed from Norwegian timber. Vienna is currently working on an 84m high wooden building. In the Parisian district of Terne, an entire wooden building complex is under construction, and in Germany, an eight-story wooden house was built on an area that used to belong to the United States army in the Bavarian town of Bad Aibling. It is a current showpiece for energy-efficient construction.
Concrete and steel are both costly to produce and heavy to transport, whereas wood can be grown sustainably and is far lighter. Concrete manufacturing is the world’s third largest producer of greenhouse gases, and is also 15 times less thermally efficient as timber.
It has been shown that a timber building can reduce it’s carbon footprint by up to 75% in contrast to a building of the same size made of conventional building materials. American architectural firm Skidmore, Owings, and Merrell (SOM) , who designed Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, have designed a 42m tower, which, if built, will have a carbon footprint 60% less than a conventional build.
“Wood environments make people happy”, gleefully asserted the exhibition ‘Timber City‘ at the National Building Museum, which ran from 2016 to 2017. The exhibition included “architectural models, a video about managed forests and a world map that highlights more than 30 notable recent wooden buildings.” There was also a selection of tree stumps, wood manufacturing examples, and different types of lumber waste, nearly all of which can be used commercially and are recyclable in some way or another.
Regular timber unfortunately isn’t malleable like steel or concrete – it cannot be poured and set as those materials can. It is not strong enough to build high. This is where CLT comes in. It is a wood-panel product made by gluing layers of solid-sawn lumber together, with each layer glued perpendicular to one another. By gluing the layers perpendicular, the finished panel achieves better structural rigidity in both directions.
Whole sections can be pre-made and erected quickly on-site. Due to the relative strength and lightness of the wood, it is also suitable for closing gaps, or construction projects on existing buildings.
In April, plans were proposed for an 300m high wooden building, consisting of 80 storeys, which would be integrated with London’s Barbican Centre, a scheme which was developed between Cambridge University’s department of architecture alongside PLP Architecture and the engineers Smith and Wallwork. The project, if realised, could create over 1,000 new residential units.
“If London is going to survive it needs to increasingly densify”, says Dr Micheal Ramage, director of Cambridge’s Centre for Natural Material Innovation. “One way is taller buildings. We believe people have a greater affinity for taller buildings in natural materials rather than steel and concrete towers.”
For those of you whose immediate thought is – are we not forgetting the Great Fire of London? The fires that frequented the city of Edo (The name for 17th century Tokyo)? Fortunately for those afraid of house fires, CLT does not burn like conventional timber, as the above video will testify.
“Every well-trained firefighter knows today that an adequate solid wood construction made from cross-laminated timber will withstand fire long enough for them to rescue the residents,” said architect Tom Kaden.
Using CLT and other wooden materials offers new design potential, and ultimately, space to grow. The transition from concrete and steel to construction using timber may possibly have a wider positive impact on urban environments and build form.
It is possible that these new ideas will allow architects, designers, and engineers to reformulate the aesthetics of architecture, but also the inherent structural methodologies that architecture has generally become accustomed to. New innovations in timber could lead to a greener revolution in architecture for the 21st Century and beyond.
Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson and Danish geologist Minik Rosing have brought twenty-four blocks of Arctic ice to London.
The work, entitled Ice Watch, has been set up outside of the Tate Modern. The small icebergs were taken from the Nuup Kangerlua fjord in Greenland after becoming separated from the main ice sheet. It has been created to increase awareness of man-made climate breakdown.
More and more icebergs are being produced as the planet warms due to man-made climate change, which in turn contributes to rising sea levels, which poses a threat to wildlife and low-lying coastal human settlements.
The hope is that Ice Watch will help people to conceive of the reality of climate breakdown and global heating. The general public has seen photos and videos of ice breaking from sheets, glaciers receding, animals such as polar bears forced to swim for miles as they have no ice to walk across, and yet in this country we never get the full effect from these pieces of evidence. We rarely have that first-hand experience.
The point of the project is interaction. “Put your hands on the ice, listen to it, smell it, look at it” says Eliasson. “Witness the ecological changes our world is undergoing.”
The Greenland ice sheet took millions of years to form. Now, after a long journey, this ice has entered our human city timescale. What might an ancient block of ice have to say to us? #icewatchlondonpic.twitter.com/T7z4herc0p
The artist is known for large installations employing natural materials such as light, water, and air temperature, which are used to enhance the viewer’s experience.
Increasingly warmer global temperatures causes the Greenland ice sheet to lose around 200-300 billion tonnes of ice each year, which is a number that is expected to increase dramatically in the future.
“I’ve been studying behavioural psychology, and looking into the consequences of experience,” says the Icelandic-Danish artist. “What does it mean to experience something? Does it change you or not change you? It turns out that data alone only promotes a small degree of change. So in order to create the massive behavioural change needed [to tackle climate change] we have to emotionalise that data, make it physically tangible.”
Both Eliasson and Rosing believe that when it comes to making the public more aware of climate breakdown, narratives based on fear or worst-case scenarios are the wrong way to go. “Instead of fear-based narratives, you need a positive narrative to make people change their behaviour,” says Eliasson, “and that’s why I think the culture sector has a strong mandate to take on some leadership here.”
“We have to provide a glimpse of hope,” adds Rosing. “People think the scientists come with the bad news about climate change but actually we come with the good news. We understand what’s happening, we know exactly what needs to be done and we actually have the means to fix it. The only reason we’ve been able to upset the global environment system is because we have enormous power. If we direct that same enormous power to improving the system, we can get it back on track.”
The temporary sculpture of Ice Watch, itself almost an homage to ancient sacred stone circles, allows us to see a fragile and yet powerful reverence that this environment has. As we engage with the ice directly, experience it’s cold, it’s age, it’s melting, we are transported to the areas where this happens unseen.
The artwork coincides with COP24, the meeting of United Nations delegates in Poland to determine how to employ strategies to keep to the climate regulations agreed at the Paris Climate Agreement three years ago.
An unfortunate side effect of this installation is the environmental cost. The estimated energy that it cost to bring one of these blocks to London was equal to one person flying from London to the Arctic and back again.
What this temporary sculpture creates is a sense of time, or, more accurately, the knowledge of a time that is running out. Just as the sculpture is only in London from today to the 20th, giving audiences a small time-frame to experience it, so too is the amount of time we have left to limit the damage to ice sheets and their corresponding environments globally.
Ice Watch will be exhibited from the 11th December to 20th December. Well, they will be there until they melt away.
Travel. Everyone’s dream. Seeing parts of the planet you never dreamed of seeing. And yet, with each year roughly 1.2 billion people seeking distant shores, we have to fundamentally rethink the way in which travel is undertaken.
Whether it’s cities, beaches, mountains, or seas that take your fancy, we’ve come up with a few eco-friendly ideas to take into consideration when planning your next sojourn abroad.
Not every destination will champion environmentally-friendly practices. Some will, but may be on the other side of the world from where you reside. Yet there are destinations, that if chosen wisely, demonstrate good-decision making and a commitment to the living planet.
Before setting your sights on a destination, do your research. Selecting destinations that prioritise sustainability, environmental advocacy, using environmentally-friendly business practices, and are actually investing in their own natural heritage is forward thinking. There are countries, like Namibia and Bhutan, that contain within their constitutional doctrines, environmental protection policy. Other countries place their environments in similar high regard and act accordingly,such as Ecuador’s decision to place 97 percent of the Galapagos’s landmass under the watchful gaze of its national park service.
“Selecting a destination that achieves a balance of protecting natural and cultural resources, providing for sustainable livelihoods, and creating a high-quality traveler experience is challenging.” Says the WWF’s Vice President of Travel and Conservation Jim Sano. But all is not hopeless. There are services you can use that help to inform about which destinations are sustainable. A quick Ecosia search provides a whole host of information, with sites such as Ecotourism, Sustainable Tourism, and Green Destinations providing a wealth of advice. Particularly helpful is Green Destinations, who have compiled a list of sustainable destinations against the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s Destination Criteria – “A recognised set of criteria to assess a destination’s management policies and practices. Two hundred destinations have been selected to date.” You’re definitely spoilt for choice.
The 2017 Atmosfair Airline Index is a useful tool when comparing flights for energy efficiency, and last named TUI Airways as the most efficient in both medium and long haul flights, due to its efficient aircraft and passenger to flight ratio. The higher the amount of passengers per flights, the less amount of flights that need to be taken. What you may lose in legroom, you make up for in efficiency. You can also look into airlines that try to offset their carbon production, by investing in projects that try and actively reduce or store carbon in our atmosphere. This is probably the closest direct way of carbon neutral flying. For example, you can look into airlines that work with the International Air Transport Association, using their carbon offset and environmental assessment programs. Another good idea is, regardless of the distance of the flight, look into non-stop trips. Takeoffs and landings are the periods that create the most carbon emissions during a flight, and minimising these instances is a good idea.
You could also consider taking a train instead of a plane. “Excellent railway infrastructure makes trains a viable alternative to flights, including most of Europe and East Asia, and some countries in Southeast Asia.” Says Steve Long, co-founder of The Travel Brief. Many European rail services run on electric power or alternative fuels, and are the most efficient per journey when boasting a high occupancy rate.
A brilliant resource to use when deciding which mode of travel to use is the carbon calculater from EcoPassenger. For example, it calculated that a train journey from London to Rome would produce 223.2kg of carbon dioxide less than a flight would. If time is of no consequence, trains should be considered.
If you fancy giving your sea legs a test, we would advice against taking a cruise. Cruise ships are one of the worst polluters of all transport types, with the industry consuming millions of tonnes of fuel and producing almost a billion tonnes of sewage each year. Friends Of The Earth created an annual report card which compares and contrasts the impacts of well-known cruise lines, rating them based on their sewage treatment, air pollution, water quality compliance, and their transparency, which you can find here. If you still want to experience the seas and all their beauty, you can look into chartering a sailboat, which of course will have an infinitely smaller footprint.
WHERE TO STAY
Hotels can actually represent a huge amount of environmental impact when it comes to travel. We suggest that, when looking into the accommodation you choose, decide upon which issues matter to you the most. The most ‘green’ hotels across the board will work in tandem with the three pillars of sustainable tourism – environmental, social, and economic.
Many major hotel chains as well as independents operate green programs (such as IHG, who work by what they call their Green Engage ™ System, or Accor Hotels, who employ their Planet 21 Sustainable Development program). We recommend that you call where you’re staying and ask some questions, as it is their responsibility to try and satisfy you. Inquire about whether they compost, where they source their energy from, whether they reuse their grey water. Do they recycle? Where do they source their food from?
A good way of searching for hotels that are either approved or accredited by programs such as Green Key, a voluntary eco-label awarded to establishments for their work in environmental sustainability. There is also the U.S. Green Building Council, and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, which oversees the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
“Making environmentally friendly choices on your own during your stay can have a long-term impact on the environment and only takes small changes,” said Rhiannon Jacobsen, vice president of strategic relationships at the U.S. Green Building Council.
In satisfying the aforementioned three pillars of sustainable tourism, you could put your money to good use by helping to invest in local communities. For example, Unique Lodges of the World, a 55-strong collection of properties affiliated with National Geographic, has properties that tick all boxes. The Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve in South Africa helps to protect native species, invests in community programs that provide education, and employs a sustainable wastewater management system.
There are some immediate ways you can help when you arrive at your accommodation. If staying at a hotel, decline having your towels and linens changed every day. Don’t take from your room’s mini-fridge. Decline housekeeping. Decline any form of disposable plates or utensils. Avoid buffets, which usually result in a vast amount of wasted food. If the hotel doesn’t seem to be recycling, suggest it to them. If bikes are available to be borrowed or rented, do so. Refuse using or taking the complimentary small plastic bottles of shampoo or conditioner, bring your own, and if you do bring them home, donate them to homeless shelters.
WHAT TO PACK
Travel requires eating out, drinking out, and carrying items with you that you wouldn’t normally carry, and sometimes buying items you usually normally buy. To limit your both your physical and environmental impact when travelling, it’s good to carry reusables.
Of course you’re going to pack the usual items, the clothes, possible sun tan lotion, toiletries, but are there ways of making these items sustainable? Clothes are simple and reusable, so already have a better environmental footprint in terms of lifetime than something like a plastic bottle. Second-hand clothes are even better. Are you shopping for new holiday clothes? See what you can get second-hand before you buy new.
In terms of toiletries there is a large community for naked (plastic-free), sustainable products. LUSH do an incredible line of naked products that are travel friendly, such as their lasting shampoo bars and shower gels. They also do travel toothpaste in the form of small chewable pills.
Watch out for where you purchase your sun-tan lotion from, as common sunscreens can contain chemicals that lead to coral reef bleaching. Search for reef-friendly products, such as properly biodegradable or mineral-based sunscreens. Or simply wear protective clothing.
Eating out, dining on street food will probably be on the cards for you, so it’s wise to invest in a good set of reusable cutlery to take with you. The set pictured above is by Bright Zine, but there is a vast amount out there, made by many different companies from many different materials. To go along with your set, it’s also good to invest in some sort of hot drink container for those times when you crave tea or coffee on the go. Pictured above is a glass KeepCup, a cute and fantastic addition to anyone’s eco-friendly travel kit. The cork sleeve is made from sustainably-sourced cork, and 15% of the price of this particular KeepCup went to the Australian branch of Sea Shepherd, the marine conservation organisation. Conventional coffee cups made from cardboard and plastic are over-used and difficult to recycle, so show some love for the living planet by getting yourself a reusable. Most big coffee chains also offer money off for using a reusable cup.
Another thing that we at Deeply Good stress is good to have on you at all times (not just when travelling), is a tote bag. These can come in all shapes and sizes, but are fantastic for carrying anything from fresh produce to clothing, and help to make sure we’re not using the waterway-polluting plastic bags. Totes can be bought virtually anywhere, and are easy to customise. They fold down to virtually nothing so can fit in any coat or bag pocket.
A good minimalist traveller will invest in a rugged and durable backpack that fits any occasion or destination. We’re also enjoying the recent trend in cross-body bags (imagine fanny-packs that sling across your chest), as they provide a convenient and trendy way to store items you already have on you, or items you buy.
Last but not least, remember your reusable water bottle. Not only does it prevent you from buying needless single-use plastic bottles, but it also keeps you hydrated, a bonus if you’re travelling somewhere hot.
Our honourable mentions also include; a microfiber travel towel and a mooncup (or other reusable menstrual cup). Also, if you want to stay protected from the Sun, but dislike buying a plastic lotion bottle, LUSH conveniently do a naked sun-tan lotion bar.
INVEST IN GREEN ACTIVITIES, INVEST IN LOCAL COMMUNITIES
“The green movement has changed from how to preserve and protect to how to use less and do good when you’re there,” said Dawn Head, owner and editor of the online resource Go Green Travel Green. The array of any eco-friendly activity in any place you go will be vast. Sailing, snorkelling, scuba-diving, hiking, running, kayaking, paddleboarding, cycling, swimming, even walking around a museum – all of these cause minimal, if no impact at all. Why not visit craft markets, second-hand shops, or even local events? Giving your money to local companies is bother better for the environment and the economy than giving it all to a multinational.
There is also the possibility to give back to the community you visit in other ways: volunteering. Some hotels and tour operators arrange short term volunteer opportunities, but this is fairly rare and may take a little bit of research to discover which hotels offer schemes such as these.
There are also programs such as Pack for a Purpose set up. With Pack For A Purpose, you can select a destination and bring supplies to said destination, if that destination calls for them. For example, in Jamaica, visitors can donate school equipment through Beaches Negril Resort & Spa to Mount Airy All Age school, which educates 650 children. This means you can actively support a community you travel to, and would even mean you would probably travel home with less than you came with.
Visiting and donating to local amusements such as wildlife reserves, parks, and protected marine areas would mean that tourism money would directly benefit the local community and environment.
When it comes to travelling, we will sometimes want to bring a souvenir back from our trips. This is all well and good as souvenirs serve as lasting reminders of a time well-spent. When we see an item for sale, especially in another country, we can never tell where that item has been procured from, or whether it is even legal to purchase. Some items may be made of protected wood that may be illegal to trade in, import, or export. Even worse is the sale of animal-derived products, that will usually do more harm than good to local communities, and definitely do no good for local environments. Imagine going to Africa and buying something made of Ivory? It would be highly damaging.
Ask yourself, before you purchase, what is this item made of and where did it come from? An informed choice may help you dodge fines at customs and also help reduce the demand for unethical or environmentally-unfriendly products. For a list of items to avoid, check out WWF’s Buyer Beware Guide.
Also, it almost doesn’t need to be said, but avoid all places that deal in any kind of animal exploitation.
Finally, eating locally is a wise choice. Chain restaurants will usually import foods from far away, translating to more carbon emissions, increasing the footprint of your trip. To offset the emissions from your travel, you could even try going vegan for the duration of the trip. Meat and dairy contributes more greenhouse gas emissions globally than all of the transport industry combined. While travelling, eating vegan would not only offset this footprint significantly, it would also be a fun challenge, and would possibly help you contribute to local small businesses, as most cities will have specifically vegan cafes and restaurants that you could enjoy. You would probably be at less risk of catching food poisoning from meat or dairy if you made the easy switch while travelling.
Around 200 MPs and former MPs have come together to sign the Divest Parliament Pledge, a pledge calling on the MP’s Pension Fund to divest from fossil fuel companies.
This announcement comes at the same time as global leaders meet for COP24, the climate change summit in Katowice, Poland, to develop plans to actualise on the global heating limitations set out in the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015. As the recent IPCC report stated that we only have 12 years to mitigate the worst of greenhouse gas emissions and global heating, this act from MPs is greatly welcomed.
“We’re now a 200 strong cohort of cross-party MPs who believe it is morally indefensible for Parliamentarians to be investing in companies which profit from wrecking our planet.” Said Green Party MP for Brighton Palivion. “MPs have a duty to take action to prevent the worst of climate change. One simple step we can take is ditching our investments in fossil fuels – and instead invest in clean, renewable energy, and low-carbon technologies”.
If this Divest Parliament Pledge is successful, Parliament would join the Irish National Infrastructure Fund, The New York State Pension fun, and two-thirds of UK universities committed to fossil fuel divestment.
Amongst those MPs that have signed the pledge are Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, SNP MP Mhairi Black, Labour MP David Lammy, and former conservative MP Lord Deben. You can find a full list of MPs who have signed the pledge here, and use the site to inform your local MP if they have not already signed.
“Preventing disastrous climate change will be the defining challenge of the next decade for world leaders.” Said Lord Deben. “The UK must show leadership by demonstrating that we are prepared to make the necessary choices. This includes moving investment out of fossil fuels and towards renewables that are already proving that they can be built at the scale needed to power our homes and businesses. Moving quickly towards the Paris goals is the best way to protect our health and our prosperity for many generations to come.”
Since December 2017, the amount of MPs signing the pledge has doubled, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn being the 100th person to sign. 23 out of 25 SNP MPs have signed, alongside 11 out of 12 Liberal Democrat MPs, including party leader Sir Vince Cable.
Of the MPs that have signed the pledge, roughly 59% are Labour. Conservatives make up roughly 7%, Liberal Democrats 8%, SNP members make up 15%, and other parties make up 20%.
The campaign for transforming our current economy into a green economy had been rhetoric for some time, but now is seemingly becoming actualised, however slowly. Carbon-based fossil fuels drove the first industrial revolution, but have no become part of our downfall, as global temperatures rise, extreme weather events becomes more and more often, and refugees are forced from their homes at the hands of climate breakdown. What we need is a new energy revolution. Divestment is the first step towards this.
The current UK government may employ a green rhetoric, but it’s record is far from clean. Only recently did the Conservative government ratify Caudrilla’s bid to frack for shale gas in the northern county of Lancashire, despite the local council’s attempts to block it. Fortunately, more and more conservative party members seem to be turning away from Fracking.
The government’s Clean Growth Strategy admitted that the measures it had recommended to fulfil the fourth and fifth carbon budgets set by the Paris Climate Agreement would not be enough. This is a legally binding contract, limiting by law the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that can be emitted in a five-year period.
“This campaign is the fastest growing divestment movement of all time, which has seen more than $5tn of assets divested across more than 800 institutions.” writes Rebecca Long-Bailey, MP for Salford & Eccles. “Campaigning for our universities, workplaces, unions, and pension funds to divest is one important way we can help to build a more sustainable society. Parliament must play its part.
On Monday, World-famous environmentalist Sir David Attenborough addressed the UN Climate Change Summit in Poland, appealing to those present that “together we can make real change happen”.
Attenborough’s message “Leaders of the world, you must lead”, was given alongside a gathering of messages from all over the world, pat of the UN’s people’s seat initiative. These messages were presented to the delegates of almost 200 nations who are currently in Katowice, Poland, planning the actualisation of the Paris Climate Agreement agreed three years ago.
In the speech, Attenborough references the UN’s new ActNow Chatbot, a device created to help ordinary people change their lives through taking individual personal action against climate breakdown. The ChatBot, which is open to use through Facebook Messenger, is part of a social media campaign that encourages people to talk about climate breakdown, and gives them ideas and information about how they can alter their lives to make them more eco-friendly.
“Climate change is running faster than we are and we must catch up sooner rather than later before it is too late,” said the UN Secretary General António Guterres. “For many, people, regions and even countries this is already a matter of life or death.” The secretary general also touched upon the move towards sustainable green economies, “Climate action offers a compelling path to transform our world for the better. Governments and investors need to bet on the green economy, not the grey.” This echoes the actions taken by the World Bank recently, who pledged $200bn to combat climate breakdown.
David Attenborough has recently been accused by writer and Guardian columnist George Monbiot of betraying ‘the living world he loves‘ though ‘downplaying our environmental crisis’.
“Knowingly creating a false impression of the world: this is a serious matter.” Writes Monbiot. “It is more serious still when the BBC does it, and yet worse when the presenter is “the most trusted man in Britain”. But, as his latest interview with the Observer reveals, David Attenborough sticks to his line that fully representing environmental issues is a “turn-off”.” Does this speech come as part-response to Monbiot’s comments? It is difficult to say exactly, but we view it as a welcome use of activism considering Attenborough’s large platform.
COP24 has also had it’s fair share of criticism. The summit itself is being sponsored by a Polish company. This act in itself “raises a middle finger to the climate” according to Friends of the Earth International. The Polish president Andrzej Duda, speaking at the opening of the summit, said the use of “efficient” coal processes and technology could be undertaken with no contradiction to taking climate action. While more energy efficient technology has been employed in the country, resulting in a cut of 30% to it’s carbon emissions since 1988, this type of talk is dangerous, although it does not represent the official stance of the Polish government as a whole.
“Safeguarding and creating sustainable employment and decent work are crucial to ensure public support for long-term emission reductions,” states the Silesia Declaration on Solidarity and Just Transition, which is a goal for the Polish government, who want to provide job security to workers in fossil fuel industries as the energy industry changes to more renewables.
We have transcribed Sir David Attenborough’s speech here:
“Right now, we’re facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years: Climate Change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations, and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon. The United Nations provides a unique platform that can unite the whole world, and as the Paris Agreement proved, together we can make real change happen.”
“The world’s people have spoken. Their message is clear. Time is running out. They want you, the decision makers, to act now. They’re behind you, along with civil society represented here today. Supporting you, in making tough decisions, but also willing to make sacrifices in their daily lives. To help make change happen, the United Nations is launching the ActNow bot, helping people to discover simple everyday actions that they can make, because they recognise that they too must play their part. The people have spoken. Leaders of the world, you must lead. The continuation of our civilisations, and the natural world upon which we depend, is in your hands.”
On Saturday, thousands of environmental protesters occupied five bridges in central London, one of the largest acts of co-ordinated civil disobedience this country has ever seen.
The protest, organised by environmental activists, Extinction Rebellion, saw approximately six thousand of people young and old descend on the Waterloo, Lambeth, Blackfriars, Southwark, and Westminster bridges. It one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in the UK in decades, one of the largest of all time. Of the many protesters, eighty-five were arrested.
Protests began amassing on the bridges from as early as 9am on Saturday morning, having travelled from all over the country to take part. The day was brisk but the Sun was shining, perfect conditions for the protest to take place. The scene on Westminster Bridge originally felt a little tense, with police presence seemingly increased. A police officer walks past two women and says jokingly “Good morning ladies, are you here for the protest? Are you gonna be nice?” They laughed. There as a palpable energy to the area, as cars still streaked across the bridge, as the people who gathered on the sides knew what was to come.
While some had been there since 9am, and the roads were meant to be occupied at 10am, it was 11am when the protest began en masse. Police were previously informed this protest would be taking place, so that alternative routes for emergency vehicles could be plotted. Chants of “No more coal, no more oil, keep your carbon in the soil!”, and “What do we want? Climate justice!” can be heard echoing across the bridge. The mood is fun; both spirited and passionate. People have brought musical instruments and perform impromptu songs.
‘Rebellion Day’ as it was named, was put on in an effort to force the governments to treat climate breakdown as a serious issue, influencing them to take more action on the crisis and develop a new set of policies that would change the UK’s environmental stance and emission rate.
“The ‘social contract’ has been broken … [and] it is therefore not only our right but our moral duty to bypass the government’s inaction and flagrant dereliction of duty and to rebel to defend life itself,” said Gail Bradbrook, one of the organisers.
The vast majority of the crowd were those who had either never protested before, or more likely, never taken part in an act of civil disobedience. Most arrests that happened over the course of the day had been for obstruction under the Highways act.
The protest seemed to go incredibly well on Westminster Bridge, which had the largest numbers, but throughout the day the group at Lambeth Bridge struggled, and by 2pm the blockade of Southwark Bridge had been abandoned, although movement of protesters between all remaining bridges continued, with numbers being supplied where needed.
In the afternoon there was a plethora of speakers that stood on a podium with mic in hand. In their democratic, open framework for the event, anyone who wanted to speak was allowed to speak. Poetry was read, songs were sung (with group participation), and environmentalists from all walks of life got to have their say.
The topics of the day ranged from ‘The law of ecocide’, where environmental advocates would hopefully in future be protected by law if classified as a ‘conscientious protector’. Class politics were also on the table, after a member of a eco-conscious communist group took to the podium. In the speech given by Jack Harries, the environmental activist, filmmaker, and YouTuber, Harries exclaimed “It comes down to power”, and that we should in future value “Planet over profit”.
“Climate change doesn’t care about borders. Climate change doesn’t care about fucking Donald Trump”
Jack Harries, in his speech on Saturday.
“Given the scale of the ecological crisis we are facing this is the appropriate scale of expansion,” said Bradbrook. “Occupying the streets to bring about change as our ancestors have done before us. Only this kind of large-scale economic disruption can rapidly bring the government to the table to discuss our demands. We are prepared to risk it all for our futures.”
Later on in the day, the scheduled talks, part of the ‘Extinction Rebellion Assembly’, began, with six environmentalist figures, whose homelands had been disrupted by undemocratic processes through environmental destruction.
The environmentalists were Raki Ap of Free West Papua Campaign, Rumana Hashem of Phulbari Solidarity Group (Bangladesh) as well as representatives from Ecuador, Kenya, Ghana and Mongolia. The final speaker was Tina Louise Rothery from the UK-based Anti-Fracking Lancashire Nanas.
Extinction Rebellion are calling for the government to make sure that the UK’s net carbon emissions are reduced to zero by the year 2025. They also call for a ‘Citizen’s Assembly’ to be established, in an effort to recreate WWII-era mass organisation in an effort to tackle climate breakdown.
The group, in a declaration letter, stated “While our academic perspectives and expertise may differ, we are united on this one point: we will not tolerate the failure of this or any other government to take robust and emergency action in respect of the worsening ecological crisis. The science is clear, the facts are incontrovertible, and it is unconscionable to us that our children and grandchildren should have to bear the terrifying brunt of an unprecedented disaster of our own making.”
It has only been a few months since Extinction Rebellion was established, but it has already founded groups that stretch from one end of the UK to the other, and raised £50k in small donations. It is seemingly the first group to draw in environmentalists of all types.
“Something I have been waiting for, for a very long time, is happening. People are risking their liberty in defence of the living world in very large numbers. It is only when we are prepared to take such action that people begin to recognise the seriousness of our existential crisis.”
George Monbiot, Guardian Columnist & Writer
“Rebellion Day will disrupt London. It is not a step we take lightly. If things continue as is, we face an extinction greater than the one that killed the dinosaurs. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be a worthy ancestor,” said Tiana Jacout of Extinction Rebellion.
“We represent a huge number of concerned citizens. Scientists, academics, politicians, teachers, lawyers, students, children, parents, and grandparents. But we have no choice. We have tried marching, and lobbying, and signing petitions. Nothing has brought about the change that is needed. And no damage that we incur can compare to the criminal inaction of the UK government in the face of climate and ecological breakdown.”
There is a second Rebellion day, Rebellion Day 2, to be held on Saturday November 24th.
You can find out more about Extinction Rebellion on their website.
An action plan on the alarming rates of global deforestation from the EU, which has previously been delayed, has been demanded to be brought forward “as soon as possible”, by the Amsterdam Declaration, a declaration proposed and sign by a number of EU countries, in a letter sent to the European commission.
The letter states that “despite progress in recent years, deforestation and forest degradation continue at alarming rates, in particular in tropical and subtropical regions, with as much as 80 % of global forest loss being driven by expansion of agricultural land, according to FAO estimates.”
The UN has a goal of halting deforestation by 2020, part of their Sustainable Development Goals, with goal 15 referencing the target of halting deforestation, and similarly goal 12, which works towards ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns, notably of palm oil.
The Amsterdam Declaration group letter states that “as a major importer and consumer of many commodities which include embodied deforestation, the EU is both part of the problem and can be part of the solution by stepping up its efforts to address the impacts of the consumption and adopt a more coherent and comprehensive EU approach to the problem of deforestation.”
The Amsterdam Declaration itself aims at promoting “sustainable economic development” as it’s main tenet, but also focuses on an “inter-sectoral and holistic agenda” for poverty reduction, food security, gender equality, water and sanitation, sustainable consumption and production, climate action, and the halting of land degradation and biodiversity loss.
“The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC AR5) states: “total anthropogenic Green House Gas (GHG) emissions have continued to increase over 1970 to 2010 with larger absolute decadal increases toward the end of this period (high confidence)”. In 2010, 24% (12 GtCO2eq) of total net emission was associated to Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Uses – AFOLU – (IPCC AR5). Moreover, according to the FAO (2014) AFOLU emissions may still increase by up to 30% if the status quo remains unchanged.” states the Declaration.
As stated above, agribusiness is responsible for 80% of the current amount of global forest loss. The forests that stretch around the planet are not only responsible for maintaining biodiversity, but for land reclamation and an incredible amount of carbon sequestration. Better forest management and natural climate solutions could possibly provide more than a third of climate breakdown mitigation needed by 2030 if acted upon, which makes this letter from the Amsterdam Declaration group all the more important.
This move comes as tensions and concerns continue to increase over the election of right-wing Jair Bolsonaro as President-elect of Brazil, whose campaign was funded in large by powerful agribusiness interests’ promising to construct a highway through the Amazon rainforest, an act with the potential to spread deforestation to an area of rainforest larger than Germany.
Stronger regulations and laws within the EU could be put in place to lower the ecological footprint of our societies within all levels of the economy, from demand to production to consumption. According to Greenpeace, it is the production of soy, beef, and palm oil which drives deforestation in Brazil today.
Over the last decade, production of palm oil has doubled. This is expected to double again by 2050. Palm oil itself accounted for 65% of all vegetable oils traded internationally in 2006.
Recently an advert from Iceland and Greenpeace went viral, depicting a cartoon orangutan telling the story of the destruction of its home for the production of palm oil. While noble in it’s message, it misses out on the fact that it is not the issue with outright consumption, it is an issue of land management.
It has been claimed that to produce as much oil from a substitute in ‘palm oil free’ products, the amount of land needed increases to as much as 40x for coconut oil and 25x for soya. Soya production has been linked to massive deforestation in the South Americas, and yet is not covered in the mainstream media.
This could be attributed to the lack of coverage for environmental issues caused by the animal agriculture business, with around 90% of soybean production used for animal feed. It is similar in focus to the recent proposed ban on plastic straws across the UK, in an effort to reduce plastic waste in our oceans, when a large majority of plastic waste in our seas comes from discarded fishing gear, and yet the focus falls on plastic straws.
It is possible that for deforestation to become more manageable, it is not simply our consumption that needs to be reduced, but that actual way that we farm these products. These ‘Natural Climate Solutions’, can be read about here.
The full letter from the Amsterdam Declaration can be read here.
This new research, headed up by Dr Marco Springmann, who currently works on the Future of Food project at the Oxford Martin School, uses a standard economic approach, named ‘optimal taxation, to calculate tax rates. The healthcare costs incurred by eating one additional portion of red meat is used to set the tax rate, in contrast to using the total healthcare costs that come about through red meat consumption.
While factually correct, it is still relatively unheard of that processed red meat had been classified as a carcinogen by the World Health Organisation in 2015, and yet despite this announcement, the consumption of red meat is on an upward trend, especially in western countries. For example, in the United Kingdom of 1961, the amount of meat consumption was 69.8kg. In 2002 it was 79.6kg. In the US of 1961, meat consumption per capita was 89.2kg, and in 2002 it was 124.8kg, and increase in 40 years of 35.6kg of meat.
The findings stated that, based on current trends, the health-related costs to society ‘attributable to red and processed meat consumption in 2020 amount to USD 285 billion… three quarters of which were due to processed meat consumption’.
As the prices of processed meat increased by 25% on average under optimal taxation, and prices for red meat increased by 4% on average, the number of deaths attributable to these two foodstuffs decreased by 9% annually, with health costs decreased by 14%, valued at USD 41 billion.
These taxes were created relative to the amount of meat consumed and do not represent a flat global rate. The US would be one of the countries with the highest rates, for example, there would be a 163% levy on ham. Australian meat prices would be met with a 109% tax on processed, and a 18% tax on unprocessed meats. UK rates would 79% and 14% for those food-groups respectively.
“Nobody wants governments to tell people what they can and can’t eat,” Springmann said. “It is totally fine if you want to have [red meat], but this personal consumption decision really puts a strain on public funds. It is not about taking something away from people, it is about being fair.”
The intensive method and global scale of meat demand and subsequent production is also an incredibly damaging industry to the living planet. In a critical report from a group at the University of Oxford published in May, it was stated that reducing meat and dairy products, or avoiding them altogether, is the single biggest way as an individual to reduce your environmental impact. In a similar report, also published by Springmann et al, it was stated that a 90% drop in red meat consumption and reductions in other meat categories are essential to introduce into our lifestyles in an attempt to avoid the effects of climate breakdown.
More than 80% of arable farmland is used for livestock, in both intensive and organic farms, but it produces just 18% of global food calories. We see this a drastic misuse of land, resulting in not only the willing destruction of native habitats, but the production of large amounts of greenhouse gases. Per 100g of beef produced, a further 105kg of greenhouse gases are created. It is possible that the recommended drop in red meat consumption is a conservative figure, and a route more beneficial to the environment would be to give up the foodstuff altogether, replacing it with plant-based alternatives.
These taxes proposed by Springmann et all, would mean a 16% reduction in the processed meat consumed globally, and would result in the greenhouse gas emissions produced by livestock to reduce by 110m tonnes annually.