In recent years, the earth’s condition has been deteriorating. Somewhere in the vast Amazon forests, smoke is billowing into the lungs of one of the last living South American Tapirs. Elsewhere, the shimmer of Brazil’s golden beaches is being tarnished by the dulling black of spilt oil. These worrying events are the result of mankind’s actions and selfish agenda, who jeopardize efforts to save the environment by turning a blind eye to climate change.
These ill-effects are not just affecting the environment — all life on Earth has already begun to face the consequences. As the polar ice caps in the Arctic continue to melt, our existing land spaces are gradually being submerged. Could you imagine, perhaps in just a few decades, that all of human progress may be lost under the sea? The only way we can stop this from happening is by taking definitive action now. After all, this is the land that we have painstakingly developed from nothing, the very land we have roamed for thousands of years, and so it is our right and responsibility to save it.
However, the lack of knowledge on climate change’s significance is impeding efforts to save the environment. People are simply taking what they have for granted, ranging from the average person to even those with the power to change our climate situation. This is reality, our desperate truth. Our earth truly is wilting away, and in a future far closer than we’d like to admit, we may even have to leave our home behind in search of a new beginning. Perhaps the moon, maybe even Mars, but this would never compare to the beauty of Mother Nature. By then, would climate change deniers finally see the error of their ways? Would we eventually heed the warnings of activists like Greta Thunberg? Would we only begin to regret our ignorance then?
The brutal reality is that by then, it would already be too late.
Fortunately, some have begun to realize the time-sensitivity of the climate crisis. Social media activism has sparked new discussions about what can be done to save the environment, and this is why you’re probably seeing a lot more people posting about their glossy metal straws and fashionable tote bags on Instagram. The sad reality is that many are doing it just to take part in the trend, rather than to genuinely ‘save the turtles’ as they claim. In addition, because of public perception, companies and governments try to market themselves as ‘eco-friendly’ despite doing things that contradict this. For instance, Mr Trudeau vowed to do more for the changing climate by laying out ambitious climate policies during his federal campaign. Yet, he later approved the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, disrupting the living environment of killer whales in the area and affecting the livelihoods of the nearby indigenous people. To make matters worse, this pipeline is likely to cause extensive greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. Analysing these events, it quickly becomes clear that the push for more environmental awareness is rather superficial. From individuals to hulking corporations and powerful governments, much of the effort to save the Earth isn’t as meaningful as we deceive ourselves into believing. So you may now be wondering, what are the actions that we can take to leave a truly meaningful impact on the environment?
The first and most vital step would be to change our mindsets about our actions’ impacts on the environment. We have to understand that though our individual efforts may be minute, the concerted efforts of everyone can lead to a large improvement to the environment. After all, every big change starts from a small step — and you can be the one taking that first step!
As a reader, we can play our part by practising the 3Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
This may seem cliche, but the benefits of doing so are definitely worth the effort. By practising the 3Rs, we can conserve our limited resources for future generations. Beyond just that, we can reduce carbon emissions and improper waste disposal as well. This is because rather than manufacturing new products, old products can simply be reused or repurposed. The convenience of locating recycling bins around us: in school, at home, and even along the walkways has also made it even more possible for one to recycle. We could also make some changes to our daily school practices by avoiding over-catering food and drinks for school events, ordering smaller, but sufficient portions of food to avoid wastage, or you could even bring your own mugs and cutlery to school! While recycling and reusing does play a huge role, I personally find that reducing our consumption is the most direct and effective way to reduce our waste. We can reduce our personal consumption by several methods, such as reducing the usage of single use plastic bags, plastic straws, and purchases of fast fashion to promote sustainable and ethical production methods. Another prominent way that is growing attention in recent years is to reduce food wastage. This is especially applicable to Singapore, considering the fact that we generated 763 million kg of food waste last year – equivalent to the weight of more than 54,000 double decker buses!
Furthermore, if you have money to spare, donating to tree planting initiatives such as the phenomenal ‘Team Trees’ movement is a great way to play your part.
You may have heard about the ‘Team Trees’ initiative from various influential figures, such as Youtuber ‘MrBeast’ and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. This campaign is a collaborative fundraising challenge that aims to plant 20 million trees by 2020 using funds donated by the public. With every dollar donated, a tree will be planted back into the rainforests. This comes in light of the Amazon forest fires earlier this year, necessitating efforts like ‘Team Trees’ to restore the destroyed ecosystem.
If you want a more direct hand to play in saving the environment, you can join non-profit Singaporean organisations such as Green Drinks and Nature Society that strive to protect the environment. Since these associations do not gain any monetary profit from their work, they require high participation rates to gain recognition and propagate their message. They are also experts in the field of environmental conservation, so you can be sure that your efforts in saving the environment are truly meaningful.
The onus of saving the environment doesn’t lie solely on individuals though; corporations have an equal, if not bigger role to play in conserving our home planet. This is because factories produce roughly 20% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. If these businesses do not take the initiative to opt for environmentally friendly practices, large quantities of pollutants will continue to be emitted, making it unsustainable in the long run. With such a big stake in the climate, it is necessary for these companies to reduce their harmful impacts by choosing cleaner production methods. Doing so would also increase their sales by appealing to environmentalists; contributing to the company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR). For example, LEGO intends to manufacture most of its products and packaging using environmentally friendly materials or recycled sources by 2030, causing it to gain worldwide attention and the support of environmentally friendly customers. Seeking cleaner methods of production will also reduce carbon emissions into the environment, creating products that are sustainable and environmentally friendly.
The government is also significant in promoting meaningful environmental efforts. Instead of doing it to lift the fame and reputation of their countries, they should do it out of genuine concern for the wellbeing of its people. After all, the ultimate goal of the government is to care for its society’s welfare — and a forward-looking government would consider just how destabilising climate change can be to its society’s foundations. Governments should thus emphasise the importance of protecting the environment. They can do so by portraying it as a basic social responsibility of its people and ensuring there are legal frameworks in place to prevent individuals and corporations from contributing to the issue. Imposing taxes to deter corporations from improper waste disposal methods or other laws such as London’s ‘low emission zones’ that encourage citizens to reduce their level of air pollution are a few such methods that countries could take up. As the leaders of their country, they need to lead by example so that their citizens will take the problem of environmental destruction seriously.
To demonstrate their sincerity in the issue, they can support non-governmental conservation efforts like WWF and IPCC as well. These are global organisations that are well recognised for their environmental conservation efforts, which means their practices are effective and sustainable. Partnering with these organisations provides them with more resources to do research into the issue of climate change, and thus find better methods to mitigate its impacts.
Beyond just individual governments, there needs to be a concerted effort by all governments to save the environment. Despite global efforts gaining recognition in recent years, they often lack incentives for countries to follow their aims. For example, the Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty that commits the state party to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the desired level. However, there were no legal consequences if these targets were not met. As a result, countries did not follow these regulations strictly, and many even went against it as they saw it as being detrimental to their goals. Therefore, international organisations like the United Nations can put environmental protection at the forefront of their goals, before overseeing and enforcing global efforts to save our Earth.
Compared to corporations and governments, as individuals we may feel small and insignificant. After all, we’re just another 1 out of the 7.5 billion, and in the face of impending climate threats our efforts can feel trivial. However, I feel that with the collaborative efforts of everyone, we are never too small to make a difference. Even if it’s something small like remembering to recycle your plastic bottles, or even drinking out of your classy metal straws, your small efforts can have big implications when everyone strives to save the planet together. So do come on board and join us in rescuing our home.
Serene Pan Xinlin, 19S311
Additional information provided by:
Wan Ing Ting, 19S311 (President of Earth Culture)
Photos (in order of appearance)