Is it just me, or has climate change fallen a few places in our agenda this year?
Thinking back to a couple of years ago, when it seemed like anyone with an altruistic bone in their bodies was getting to grips with the inconvenient truth that a) the is world heating up, b) the consequences are fairly terrible, and c) we’re the ones responsible. Buoyed by the urgency of the situation, we all swiftly began recycling our rubbish and calculating our carbon footprints. I think it was the Christmas of 2007 that my brother told us instead of giving us regular presents, he had put money towards planting trees in Wales to offset all the flights we had taken that year.
But no one is talking about climate change anymore. Instead, we’re focused on cash flow. We’re interested in reducing our gas bills, but that’s because it’ll save us some money. We’re not flying as much, but who can afford to go to Europe when the euro is so strong. Up and down the country people are organising clothes swap shops and growing their veggies in their back gardens. But ultimately, the underlying reason for our new found excitement for sustainable living has been the possibility of saving some cash, with saving the planet being a welcomed side-effect. And once the economy gets back on its feet, the chances are that most of us will forget our sustainable credentials in favour of long-haul holidays and a new wardrobe.
The stark reality is that, in the short term at least, a strong economy does not make for a sustainable environment. And while green fuels, electric cars and low-carbon technologies might help the situation in the longer term, in the short term the planet is just going to keep getting hotter, having a devastating effect not just here in the UK, but more importantly on people already living in hot countries in extreme poverty, who are reliant on farming, agriculture and rapidly depleting water supplies to stay alive.
According to DFID, climate change means that in just 10 years time farming harvests in Africa will have been cut in half. At the same time as thousands of farmers are losing their livelihoods, up to 270 million people will be struggling to get hold of the water they need to stay alive. And in those areas where the annual rainy season makes water shortages less of an issue, longer and more intense monsoons will not only destroy homes and communities, but make malaria, dengue fever and polio even more prevalent.
Climate change is an inconvenience for us in the UK. But for people in developing countries, it’s an ongoing and life-threatening catastrophe. And they’re not the ones pumping carbon into the atmosphere, so it’s a pretty cruel twist of fate that they would be the ones to bear the brunt of decades of Western industrialisation, rather than us.
So, as the economy drags itself out of recession, why not hold onto some of those new found sustainable habits and help our friends in the developing world? Why not take the bus or ride your bike instead of driving? Why not discover what the English coastline has to offer before jetting off to the southern hemisphere? You’ve already started on the vegetable patch, so why not keep it up? And if you must rush back to the high street, choose your purchases wisely – trying to buy ethically can be a bit of a minefield in terms of what actually helps people in developing countries, but at least fair trade can be a good place to start. None of these things will be too terrible for us to endure, and while no one thing is going to save the situation, together these small changes could actually make a big difference not for us, but for the lives of people who live not so far away.
Written for Blog Action Day. To take part, visit http://www.blogactionday.org/