Last month, according to the Washington Post, temperatures in Antartica reached a record high of 70 degrees Fahrenheit or 21 degrees Celsius. This is meant to be the coldest place on earth. But these are also summer temperatures in the south of France. Err? Wait, there's more.
Text: Conrad Egbert
Antartica, which is the size of the US and Mexico combined according to NASA, is made up of ice sheets three miles thick and contains 90% of the planet’s fresh water. Ninety percent!! Now imagine an ice block the size of a continent melting into our oceans and raising sea levels across the globe. Sounds like a winning Hollywood blockbuster, doesn’t it? But it’s reality. And coming soon to a shore near you!
Over the past two months, there have been two peaceful protests outside the Australian Embassy in Copenhagen over the construction of a new coal mine. I quietly watched the protesters from my window; they were mostly young Danish students and real heroes. These weren’t masked cowards smashing banks and looting shops out of jealousy or hatred but evolved human beings singing parodies of songs (including Nelly’s Hot in here) with a message to protect our environment, and us, from a looming climatic apocalypse. So what was my contribution?
I tried to go vegetarian a few years ago. I made grand announcements about it on social media, and then a year later, I lapsed. I failed. But my failure taught me two important lessons. One, I’m not perfect. And two, we mustn’t give up trying to be. Because it is in this endless trying that we end up being the best versions of ourselves. It matters less about what we do and more that we try.
This month I turn a year older; another year has gone by, but also another chance to do my best. I’ve not only changed my attitude towards the environment but my habits too. Here are five new things I’m going to be doing (and not doing). Perhaps you’d like to join me in some of them?
"The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it” – Robert Swan OBE, environmentalist and the first person to walk to both poles."
#1 Buy loose tea There’s nothing like a good old cup of granny-style homemade brew; loose tea leaves in a pot poured over with boiling water. But teabags are so convenient right? True! But apart from their obvious eco-footprint (imagine the energy used to package and process each one), there’s also the small matter of our health. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, teabags are treated with a probable carcinogenic compound called epichlorohydrin that has proved to cause cancer in animals, mar fertility and rot our immune system. If it’s convenience you’re after, why not get yourself an infuser tea-tong? It’ll cost you less in the long run and save you from future health troubles. #2 Refuse vegetables wrapped in plastic Wherever you shop, if you see vegetables wrapped in plastic, go beyond refusal and let the shop know it’s unacceptable and highly irresponsible. Sorry, why again do we need cucumbers wrapped in plastic? #3 Carry your own shopping bags This really is sustainability 101. If you don’t carry your own shopping bags and end up buying new ones at check-out each time, you’re not just a (insert French), but also an active part of the problem. And in the not so distant future, Hollywood will make movies about you being gunned down and hacked to death like zombies in films today. I will gladly watch those films. #4 Attach 50% water-saving faucets to your taps and shower Technology has advanced so much today that you won’t even feel the difference when you do this. Plus, you’ll not only reduce your water consumption by half but also save 50% of your water bill. It’s a win-win. #5 Like charity, recycling begins at home While most of Denmark is well equipped in sorting out hard plastics, metal, cardboard, etc., it’s the bio and non-recyclable waste where we slip up. We’ve started sorting this already. It’s a pain, but it lets us sleep at night.
A few additional things you can do are eating less meat (promise, it’s possible!) stop using straws – you’ve got lips; use them and demand loose sugar at cafés. Individually packed sugar sachets are as bad as teabags.
A few close friends have joined me on this little experiment. Perhaps you and some of your friends could do it too? We’re always stronger together. And if enough of us change our attitudes and habits, we might just be able to buy Mother Nature enough time to heal herself and save us all.
Borrowing from environmentalist Robert Swan: “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” Let’s all be that someone else.