How Can Individuals Really Help Climate Change?

Climate Change affects us all, but what lasting changes can the average person actually make?
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What can we do about climate change?
What can we consumers really do about it? Source: Friends of the Earth

Here I explore just what the average person can actually do actively regarding climate change and deforestation. Like most people after seeing several documentaries and evidence of rapid climate change, I’m moved to act and ask “what can I do to help climate change?”, but the real answer for a layman is nothing. 

An average Google search phrasing the same question will give generic tidbits of advice such as “eat less meat, use less energy, cut down on waste, use recycled products, donate to various causes” but these are almost completely ineffectual moves.

Does some big corporation or illegal logger ploughing down the Amazon rainforest right now really care that a random man in a UK supermarket has chosen to buy 'Ecover' washing up liquid instead of the bottle of Fairy next to it?

Consumerist littering is of course a massive contributing factor to ocean and sea life detriment, with single-use plastics that don't biodegrade chief among them.

While this negligence is the fault of the world public, things will never change unless world governments exact tougher laws that force us all to get on board with the same goal: to de-clutter the oceans and landfills and eradicate single-use plastics as a buying option in the first place.

The point is that the damage will forever be done regardless of the actions of a few individuals. If fifty percent of the world turned vegetarian overnight would that stop deforestation for cattle farming?

Of course, it wouldn’t. Where there’s demand there will always be supply, which is why poaching elephants and rhinos are still rife for black market ivory despite the devaluation.

The crux of the problem is that those responsible aren’t being held to account because they profit from deforestation. And scour as I might through the Internet it’s all very vague and clandestine as to whose to blame.

The consensus is that it’s supermarket packaging product providers, so a solution there might be to petition supermarkets into only selling brands that use recycled packaging. Again this won’t work because of profiteering.

Plastic bottles in a supermarket
Single-use plastic bottles in an average supermarket  Source: Buengo

Supermarkets are never going to convert to less popular, more expensive eco-products that don’t sell as well as common household brands when there’s money to be made, so the cycle continues.

Another solution might be to have only one size bottle for example: on all brands of shampoo, a standard plastic bottle, all uniform size that gets recycled, sterilized, and reused over and over again, regardless of all different brands and shapes.

Yet in a world where most of us recycle these products, how is it that we never see the fruits of this labour? We never hear anymore how our recycled bottles/paper/cardboard has gone on to make something specific.

Where does it actually go? Without knowing why we’re doing it or seeing any benefits it’s hard to incentivize the public into being more vigilant in recycling.

Shampoos should be one uniform reusable bottle
Surely one size standard reusable bottle would be better than all these? Image source: CEL MD

In an increasingly paperless world, it's hard to see why deforestation is necessary.

Especially for the number of recyclable products that are in the world already, the only fresh paper we really need is for toilet rolls. There is one way to reduce the necessity for deforestation and it is to make paper and cardboard a luxury item. Notebooks and sketch paper should be extortionate and it’ll make your average Joe think twice and consider just writing a memo on his phone instead.

Takeaway menus and junk mail posted liberally through every door to be immediately thrown away; even receipts should be rendered obsolete when simple writing software and an email will suffice.

How many times have you seen a cardboard stack in a supermarket to promote a DVD or a game, when a simple metal shelf to hold the product would suffice? A tree was felled there for a pointless promotion that lasts all three days.

Cardboard promotion stands
Is there really any need for all this excessive cardboard?  Source: Global Sources

Now we are free to protest which I can’t see has ever yielded any positive results since the Suffragette movement, and is only seen as a traffic nuisance by the government, or we can donate to rainforest saving causes and never hear what our money has gone towards.

We can physically leave our jobs and families, fly to the Amazon or the Congo and chain ourselves to a tree and try to patrol thousands of miles of what’s left of the forest. Is none sound practical do they?

And that’s my point as to just how powerless we are: unless world governments unite and say no to illegal logging, and force supermarkets not to sell unrecycled packaging, logging will continue to rape this world.

Illegal logging and deforestation
Illegal logging and deforestation Source: Arachnys

Christmas trees: do you really need a real one every year? That just sits dying and turning brown in your living room for a month? I understand that another one gets planted every time but here’s a thought: get a fake one that will last you twenty years, then no spruce tree ever has to be cut down in the first place. Firewood for log burners and Aga's: don’t have them.

They’re a cute and cosy feature but what’s wrong with an electric heater for warmth? Simple baby steps. It sounds petty but I think if real Christmas trees and log burners were made illegal it would greatly help to keep more trees in the world.

Christmas tree breeding
Christmas tree farming Source: Thomasnet

Farming is largely responsible for deforestation as well. The demand for fresh meat from a world of nearly eight billion people is having a devastating impact on the worlds’ ecosystem. Certain fish are being driven to near-extinction through over-fishing all over the world. This is another example of how impotent the general public is to help.

We can’t all drop our jobs and families to go and patrol the whole ocean in a boat, and no amount of donations or protests are going to stop the issue. Here we need all world governments to unite and pass a no-fishing zone treaty or timed fishing seasons to allow the fish to repopulate. But where there’s money to be made, this is another issue that’s being ignored by the higher powers.

Overfishing is killing the oceans
A scene of overfishing  Source: Pressbooks

The invention of plant-based meats has been introduced to encourage fewer cattle farming but it is a more expensive alternative to cheaper, real meats that aren’t going to appeal to every consumer.

So how about as with paper, we hike the prices up and make real meats a luxury item, and make plant-based alternatives more affordable? Money can shift perspectives and go a long way if we price things in the right direction that can help towards saving the planet.

Speaking of shifting prices to more eco-friendly products: electric cars. Electric cars don’t use fossil fuels and have no emissions and yet the prices? Astronomical.

How about being able to pick up an electric car for around five thousand pounds, and petrol and diesel cars minimum price be around twenty thousand? What car do you think a first-timer would opt for?

Then all it takes is for everyone to make similar decisions and before you know it there are fewer emissions and the ozone layer starts to repair itself, which makes the global temperature come down and the polar ice caps melt at a slower rate.

Expensive electric cars
Saving the planet, but not our purse strings  Source: Tesla

It truly baffles me in a world where we can create electricity from infinitely renewable sources such as tidal, solar, and wind that we still insist on funding fossil fuel mining where the same expense could have gone towards sticking some harmless solar panels in a desert or some turbines in the sea. In an ideal world, all petrol stations should be charging stations.

Many sources of renewable energy
There are many sources of renewable energy: why aren't these the only ones used? Source: Irena

To conclude, it’s a despairing issue but not everyone cares about it. Governments need to pass laws that force everybody to recycle, make unnecessary logging and fishing illegal to get everyone on the same page whether they want to be or not.

Because it’s not about what’s best for us it’s about what’s best for the world. Which in turn makes it about what’s better for those that come after us, the next generation. Should they grow up in flooded, choked, and non-arable land?

I wrote this because I feel like it’s the best way I can help. Hopefully, it gets seen by the right people with the power to see potential in certain ideas, and not be just another drop in a fishless, polluted ocean.

Jason is a freelance content writer living in Nottinghamshire whose preferred topics are movie/game reviews and climate change.

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