“I don’t care anymore. I’m joking, I never did”, says Ricky Gervais in his provocative Golden Globes welcome, but if there is one thing we need in this new decade, it is to care – enough to change!
Early 2020 is all about the devastating fires in Australia and the renewed tension between the US and the Middle East. Not surprisingly, they echo some of the biggest stories of the past decade. Climate change, Donald Trump, wildfires, Osama Bin Ladin, global warming, the environment and war in the Islamic states are some of the last decade’s top stories as listed by NBC News.
It’s no surprise that the top stories of the last ten years will not just disappear. One would, however, think that in a world were news and information are so accessible, these important and topical issues will be addressed – that there will be action and not only reaction from a caring society.
The public cares. Consumers keeping brands responsible for their environmental and ethic choices is even indicated as one of the trends for the new year. Celebrities donate millions to help fight the veld fires and save the wildlife. But do we care enough to change? Veganism is on the rise and many list environmental concerns as the reason for this lifestyle choice. Quite a commitment to change, I think. But what more than omitting animal products from our diet, can each of us practically do to help reduce climate change?
- Say no to plastic. Perhaps the most practical of all the things you can do. Use recyclable cloth bags for your shopping. Go back to using glass, steel, clay and copper when it comes to utensils and containers.
- Open up to solar power. If there is one country where this can work, it is South Africa! We have plenty of sun and we have a dire need for reliable electricity. The big obstacle is the set-up costs and politics being in the way of subsidised solar panels and solar infrastructure. Here, just as in the US, voting wisely can also have an effect on the environment!
- Do your part to educate the community. While it is true that we have more access to information than ever before, not everyone is informed. Many are still ignorant, especially, but definitely not limited to, remote and rural communities. We have an obligation to teach younger generations and to lead by example.
- Use public transport. Can we please stop burning our trains! I guess education is also at play in this instance, and I’m not only talking environmental knowledge – also insight into how destroying such resources negatively affects whole communities. Safer and reliable public transport is of the essence in South Africa – and we can do it, just look at the Gautrain!
- Forego fossil fuels. While the installation of solar panels is doable at home, making use of hydroelectric power and wind turbines are not an option to the average Joe. We can, however, influence government and decision makers through our spending power and voting rights to opt for renewable and sustainable resources.
- Waste not, want not. Famine or even just a shortage of food is something many of us can’t even imagine. While climate change will definitely impact on reliable food production, it is also unethical to waste food when many are going hungry. We are all responsible to minimise food waste – from production and supply to our own kitchens.
- Stop deforestation. It is of course not a case of putting away your own axe, but responsible choices and pressure on decision makers are in our hands.
- Suppress population growth. Family planning is important when it comes to finances and opportunities, but also when it comes to environmental responsibility. Over-population has a serious impact on the environment. We all know the added pressure of over-population on the water resources of the Western Cape during the drought a few years back.
- Unplug! We are all guilty, but we can easily change this basic principle. Unplug unused devices and stop the unnecessary flow of energy.
- Go electric. While they are still quite expensive, electric cars are increasingly popular. They cause less pollution, do not demand fossil fuel and due to their smaller size might even assist in the congestion of our cities.
Last year South Africans had their chance and this year, US voters have an opportunity for change when they go to the polls in November. While it is important to use your vote wisely, each of us can do more. Perhaps this year, our New Year resolutions should be broader than getting into shape, limiting weekday drinking or committing to our exercise routine. Perhaps we should care enough about each other and the environment to actually make a few important lifestyle changes to limit our impact on the environment.