Right at this very moment, you are doing nothing. You may be sitting, and you may be reading, and you may even be on public transport, but you are doing nothing. Nothing, in the sense that your actions right at this moment are doing nothing to reverse climate change.
But, at what point did it become the responsibility of the single person to counteract global warming? Single people look to governments, big business and large organisations to set the standard, whereas large collectives like those look to the citizens to support them. What happens when communications become corrupted somewhere in the middle and we get a whole load of nothing?
Well, we get climate change that is happening 170 times faster than if we didn’t exist. Try and deny that, Donald…
Well, we don’t like to use him as an example…
Trump gets plenty of airtime without us talking about him, but the fact that a climate change denier has risen the ranks of power and somehow become a world leader, is worse than doing nothing for the environment, it’s making the damages worse. Trump’s attempts to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency will be saved for another story, on another day.
Here’s how the system works
Your government or environmental authority (usually part of or sponsored by the government) tells you to recycle in your home, to turn off the lights when you’re not using them, to cycle instead of drive or to take public transport.
The benefit for you is this, recycling is good practice, you save energy, you don’t contribute to traffic, or you take share transport to reduce the effects on the environment.
Recycling – When you recycle, your council takes all that material and sells it for a profit, and not only do they do that, they charge you in your council taxes for the privilege. The more you recycle, the more money they make. They encourage you to consume, to buy, to pay tax on everything you buy, then to recycle, and pay more tax. Ever wondered why certain councils don’t recycle certain materials? It’s because they don’t have a buyer. If recycling was purely for environmental reasons, it would be done on a smaller, community level.
Energy – When you use less energy in your house, you expect your energy bills to go down, right? Nope, the government negotiates deals with energy companies so that they benefit, whereas your prices stay the same, or they increase. In 2011, the government reduced winter fuel allowances, meaning that their share of the energy profit became considerably greater, as the elderly froze to death. Surprisingly, Brexit could see the price of gas bills drop, while electricity bills increase. The loser? Still you.
Cycle – That’s right, go and buy an expensive bicycle that you may only use a dozen times. When it rains, snows, or is generally freezing, that bike is going to sit in the garage. Pay tax on the bike, then get back in your car for the other 11 months of the year when it’s not nice enough to cycle to work and pay tax on your fuel and car. Praise is deserved for those who cycle in all weather.
Public transport – It’s interesting that the more the government pushes public transport, the higher the fares get. This wasn’t normal when public transports were publicly owned, but the government businessmen saw a better opportunity to line their pockets by privatising and selling these assets to the highest bidder. The interesting thing to note is, not many people are switching from cars since when you begin with that level of luxury and become accustomed to it, it’s hard to take the bus or train.
What can humans do?
Well, it was claimed by scientist Will Steffen of the Australian National University in The Anthropocene Review that “Human activities now rival the great forces of nature in driving changes to the Earth system”, so, we’re already doing quite a lot right?
In fact, we’re doing almost nothing. If the collective power of humanity can speed up climate change by 170 times, we have the collective power to stop it. What characteristics in the human make-up are stopping us from achieving that? Is it greed, is it apathy, is it fear? Whatever it is, it leaves us somewhat doomed.
“For four billion years, the rate of change of the Earth system (E) has been a complex function of astronomical (A) and geophysical (G) forces plus internal dynamics (I): Earth’s orbit around the sun, gravitational interactions with other planets, the sun’s heat output, colliding continents, volcanoes and evolution, among others.” says science expert Owen Gaffney of Stockholm University.
Since then, the industrial effects and damages through our lifestyles have caused unknown problems for Earth, and we sit back and do nothing as they continue.
What’s the opposite of doing nothing for the environment?
There’s isn’t one.
While we don’t have a solution, or a ‘what should we do’ answer, we have to stop being conned into doing activities that do not serve the environment but instead serve our rulers. We must observe and analyse everything we do with a more sceptical eye so that we can separate the activities that are truly good for the environment from those that are not.