It means, we are out of time. We need to find our way out of this paper bag of our own making called climate change. Not a decade from now, not even 12 months from now – today. We have entered the 6th mass extinction and have been living in the age of Anthropocene for some time now, officially recognized or not. The official recommendation to the International Geological Congress was made by a group of scientist at the end of August. They say the age should start in the 1950s for that was the turning point in terms of waste we’ve produced that has changed the world for good. We have driven ourself out of the Holocene period.
This is depressing, I won’t lie to you. If it makes you want to crawl into bed and throw the covers over your head, you’re not alone. But that’s simply not an option anymore. Every single one of us has to decide what kind of world we want to live in and what we’re willing to do for it. It’s not just increasing storms– it’s losses of whole islands (and with that their communities and history), it’s oceans without coral reefs, it’s living in-land due to rising seas, it’s rolling blackouts, it’s environment related illnesses, it’s competing for resources– it’s a future of worry and uncertainty. Hope may only be a whisper right now but that’s enough for me to hang onto rather than resign myself to that.
I’ve had three illumination experiences in the last couple of months; 1. I drove through the land of dust bowls, fires and factory farms, 2. I read the book How to Breath Underwater (which chronicles the intersections between tech and the environment over the last 15+ years) and 3. I watched the film Before the Flood. All while being acutely aware the age of Anthropocene will soon be officially recognized. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, here is the definition:
Anthropocene: Relating to or denoting the current geological age, viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.
We’ve changed so much, so irresponsibly.
Let me introduce you to the Salton Sea, it was a dry lake bed created by the Colorado River. In the early 1900s while engineers were trying to improve irrigation for agriculture in the surrounding area they accidentally flooded a canal and the overflow filled the lake bed. A colourful sea side community popped up and prospered, for a time. Eventually the pollution from the agriculture run-off and rising salinity turned the lake into a stinking mess of rotting fish and algae blooms. The beaches are made of bones, the houses are empty, the people are gone. And yet, it’s shrugged off as ‘well, it wasn’t supposed to be there anyways’. How is this not something we have learned from? This, all in a state that is pissed and I mean pissed at their Congress about the impact drought has had on their farms but yet haven’t stopped factory farming… As if there is no connection? I’m sure the issues are more complex than I realize but it’s the attitude that’s concerning– someone else’s fault, someone else’s job to fix.
In the book How to Breath Underwater the author, Chris Turner visits different countries around the world exploring how the times and planet are changing. It really makes you think about just how much we have and what the cost of that has been to other societies. We in the western world are prospering on the backs of others and killing people (and animals, and entire ecosystems) with our consumption. It is absolute madness that we don’t even see. Imagine if every morning all of us in the fossil fuel addicted west woke up to the sounds of our destruction. If every day, you had to listen to the screams of factory workers being beaten or trapped in crumbling buildings, the cries of the broken hearted as their homes and land are taken by the rising seas and storms, the whimpers of scared children being sold into slavery to make our goods, the howls from orangutans as their habitat burns down around them to make way for palm oil plantations, the dying moans of whales sick from oil spills and on and on. How long would it take to change then?
Distract, consume, destroy, repeat. We’ve allowed ourselves to be lulled into this reality where we have so much to distract ourselves with and so much at our disposal we don’t even have to think about our impact. But it won’t save us, we are in no less trouble than the rest of the world. We’re the ones chasing material items and wealth for happiness and sense of self – we’re the ones that don’t know how to live without comfort and convenience.
If we pollute the air, water and soil that keep us alive and well, and destroy the biodiversity that allows natural systems to function, no amount of money will save us.
But here’s the big secret, you can opt out. You can think for yourself, you can measure the impact of your actions, you can change the way you live. The rising costs of housing here in BC is has caused one of the biggest shifts in lifestyle. More people are filling big ‘single-family’ homes, other people are living smaller– all conserving energy. There has already been a change but just for different reasons, proving it is possible. We can keep on this vein but change the motivation, grow our own food not because we can’t afford it but because environmentally we can’t afford not to.
In Before the Flood, Leonardo DiCaprio drives home the biggest issues we are currently facing – fossil fuels, deforestation, and warming oceans. So let’s break it down, here are a few ways we can weather this age:
Consume less, way less, of everything – be honest with yourself, what do you really need to live and normalize that. Be careful who you consumer from, how many slaves work for you? The less you consume the less harm you do. Yes, if we do this en masse it will affect the economy, but we need a sustainable economy not one that is killing us.
Raise your consumer voice – call on the big corporations for change, they have the technologies to change our options but they won’t until we as their market demand the move away from fossil fuels and the end of constant releases of shiny new models.
Raise your citizen voice – vote for those who will take action on climate change at every level; municipally, provincially, federally and if there are currently no options where you live then hold those in power accountable. Remember your leaders work for you – they are supposed to serve the peoples’ best interests not corporations. Petition them for stricter regulations around emissions and conflict ingredients.
Cut out beef – even if it’s just to half, cows are the leading producers of methane (a greenhouse gas) and one of the biggest causes of deforestation.
Avoid palm oil – know what is in what you’re buying and if you can’t find what you need without it then make homemade products. Palm oil plantations are another one of the biggest causes of deforestation.
Educate yourself – learn and keep up with what is really going on so you don’t become a part of the problem.
It may seem like we have a lot of overwhelming lifestyle changes ahead of us but I assure you, it is better than the alternative. It’s time we save ourselves before this becomes the last age we live through.
The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.