You have heard it a million times over. “Climate change” this and “renewable energy” that. You were told all about it in science at school and we have grown up with it being a constant topic of hot debate everywhere from TV to public bathrooms. Whenever it’s mentioned it’s normally followed by two lies, “it’s just a myth” and “it won’t even affect us in our life time anyway”. Both of which can be discredited immediately by something as simple as looking out of the window.
But hey! Why should you care? I mean you occasionally remember to recycle and you’ve gotten into the habit of turning off the lights when you leave a room. You’re doing your bit, right?
Unfortunately it’s not that simple…
The destructive path of climate change goes much further than the ice caps melting. That may be the beginning, but the knock on effects will affect the whole world.
Let us look at Bangladesh. Since its independence from India, it has been a country known for its levels of inequality, debt, and poverty. It is officially recognised as one of the world’s poorest countries by the UN. Almost all of Bangladesh is on a flood plain meaning it is at, or below sea level. This means, global sea levels rising could be catastrophic for them. Currently, Bangladesh has an estimated land area of 134’000 km squared which is lived in by approximately 112 million people.
At the current rate of rising sea levels thanks to the melting of the polar ice caps by the year 2030 Bangladesh will have lost 22’000 km squared, an area lived in by 17 million humans. That’s 17 million human beings left homeless, thanks to preventable natural disaster in our lifetime.
The “Bangladesh scenario” was first calculated in 1989 when we still had a chance to prevent it from happening. 1989. That’s four years before I was born yet nothing has been done about it and now it may be too late. Why? There are many reasons, but let’s face it, the West, with it’s resources to deal with such crises, seems to have little sympathy with the situations this nation is facing.
This isn’t confined to developing nations, similar situations are happening in the Western world. The Netherlands, for example. Famous for being the world’s biggest exporter of Tulips, making wooden shoes and, of course, being mostly fake. That’s right, fake. Not as in, it isn’t actually there, more that a lot of it didn’t used to be there.
When the Romans first settled in the region, prior to their invasion of Germany it was a highly defendable, almost impossible to attack marshland, and a large bay to keep a fleet of supply ships docked. Since then, thanks to the ever changing nature of warfare, the need to use natural features as defence has become more or less redundant so it made sense to start the mass “reclaiming” of land to accommodate the ever growing population.
There are many ways to achieve this but, over the centuries the Dutch government has always preferred the technique of water draining. This is effective, but it leaves the land under sea level. The aforementioned large bay is now highly populated land, including the capital city of Amsterdam. 26% of their land is below sea level.
In order to understand this as a problem we must look at how the water was drained in the first place. Walls of earth (or “dykes”) were built along the newly formed coastline cutting off the source of the water and nature did the rest. Unfortunately, much like North Yorkshire (UK) discovered in the winter of 2015, wall are not always able to hold back water. Walls have a top and when the sea rises above that height it will spill just like an over filled glass. For the moment these walls have been heightened above the level of predicted water rising. A classic approach to anything, build a higher wall and pretend nothing is happening. But what happens when it gets higher than that? Well only time will tell us.
By now you are probably wondering the exact same thing I asked myself upon finding out about the situations in both Bangladesh and the Netherlands: “why has nothing been done about it?”
It can be argued the major reason is money.
Conservative/neo-liberal governments currently dominate Western politics. This is focused on privatisation, low taxes, and, some would say, blaming the poor for problems that governments cannot fix. Private companies that are drilling for oil, fracking for gas, and dumping toxic waste can be seen to not want to help the environment as this would lose them money. And science programs which are wanting to investigate and help the environment lack government funding for their important research.
Then there’s everyone else. “Recycle!” we shout, “turn off the lights” we’re reminded. These buzz terms of the environmentalist world were created for one purpose, making us believe we are bringing an end to the crisis, by helping a little as a time. Which would have been great when we still has the time left to change things.
Now, I am not telling you not to recycle. It is something simple that everyone should do and does have positive effects, for example, recycling metal reduces the need to extract fresh ore from the Earth and use energy smelting it.
However it is not all sunshine and rainbows. You finished drinking from a can, you put it in the recycling and probably didn’t give it much thought after that. What happens next is a truck powered by fossil fuels comes along pumping CO2 into the air as it goes to pick up the recycling. It then takes it to a recycling plant built on land once dominated by nature. This disturbs ecosystems of the area, and furthermore, more fossil fuels are used to power the machinery. Your can is then compacted into a cube with a few thousand other metal things which is sold onto a company which makes things out of metal (probably other cans). It is transported by yet another truck until it reaches the smelter, where yet more fossil fuels are used to melt it to a liquid (although some of the metal will turn to gas and escape into the atmosphere). This is then poured out into sheets and from there it is turned into the new product. This new product with “100% recycled” proudly stamped upon it is then sent out into the world.
So, if simply recycling (which once again I must emphasise I am not telling you to stop doing!) is not the answer, what is?
You may be asking “what can I do?”
First of all you need to start asking the right questions. It is not “I” but “we”. One person can frankly, do nothing, which is fine and far from your fault! It’s just this is a big planet and it needs all of us to save it.
So what can we do?
We need to make sure the governments listen to our demands. It is their planet too and they need to take their heads out of their wallets and face the truth of climate change. We need science funding, we need subsidies for renewable energy, and we need to help the people who are going to be hit by this first.
We must come together to fight this! This needs to be done in our lifetimes. We must stand together, united, to bring an end to one of the greatest problems affecting this world we all inhabit.
The time to wait is over. The time to fight has come.