A daily diet of environmental news from across the planet might sound like quite a radical regime. Yet I firmly believe in the right to know how my species is changing the world into which I have delivered three children. It matters to me that they, and all vulnerable species, are comfortable and protected.
Breaking down this home, our planet, is as good as a gang of people tearing down my house, whilst I have my little ones to protect. Do I want to know what’s going on, so I can respond? Of course. I would want details. How many criminals out there, what are their weapons and tactics. How much time until the door is down? What can I do to remedy the situation?
Some say we hear too much bad news. You just turn off, become numb. In an effort to protect yourself from the strain of knowing—and the responsibility which that brings—you look the other way. But what are we defending ourselves against here? Knowledge. We think looking away is going to somehow save us. Is ignorance going to protect our children?
Be the adults today
Maturity demands that we be the adults here. Just keeping my eyes open, I am empowered daily.
Here is a smattering of what I learned during one week:
- Our oxygen supply is under threat, as the heating oceans kill the phytoplankton which supplies two thirds of our oxygen needs.
- An average person among the richest 1% emits 175 times more carbon than his or her counterpart among the bottom 10%.
- 90-99% of all apex sharks are gone. They hail from 40 million years ago—before the dinosaurs—and have taken care of the ocean ecology all these years.
- We are in a racing extinction. “When you think of mass extinction, you think of a major catastrophe, like the meteor that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago,” says filmmaker Louie Psihoyos. “This time, humanity is the meteor.”
- Globally women are more vulnerable to climate change than men, and so the children suffer with them. In Bangladesh flood support does not reach women farmers, as they don’t have social status.
- In the past few months, record-setting heat waves in Pakistan and India each killed more than 1,000 people.
- According several climate scientists including James Hansen, glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica will melt 10 times faster than previously predicted, resulting in sea level rise of at least 10 feet in the next 50 years.
- Up to 70% of Pacific Island dwellers would have to migrate due to climate change. Only about a quarter of them have financial means to support migration. The rest are trapped. Between 10 and 15% have already migrated.
Knowing things informs not only what I hold in my brain, but also who I am. It helps me make important decisions—like how I spend my time, what I focus on, how I use resources, what sort of holiday I plan, what type of work I do, what I eat, what I teach my children, what I discuss with my friends, who I hang out with. It also expands my heart. It grows my capacity to respond with courage, innovation and creativity and lead a life that matters.
The time is now
For more than two decades scientists have been issuing warnings about the future. It is like paying for life insurance. What can you do today to ensure your children survive better once you are gone? Invest today for tomorrow. It’s no good simply focusing on your comfort today, hoping tomorrow will take care of itself.
Climate scientists study climactic trends and causes of consequences. It is a hard science; the numbers are undeniable. This problem no longer lies in the future. We have left it too long. It is now.
Today the bulk of this country is straining in a national drought. I try to keep my vegetable garden going, irrigating from a natural pond. You can save bathwater to flush the toilet. Use less power—generating Eskom power takes huge quantities of water. Drink water rather than tea and coffee—each take many litres of water to produce.
As maize and wheat prices soar, our hearts go out to those who subsist on these grains. Farms fold, jobs are lost, unemployment soars, crime follows.
We are IN this reality together. What we do now determines the future—not what we talk about, but our actions. Today is an investment in the unfolding tomorrow.
By Elma Pollard