I always thought I lived as environmentally consciously as I could. I don’t buy plastic bottles and litter pick when I can; I drive a hybrid electric car, use reusable nappies for my baby, vote for local Government candidates who I think will bring in a greener economy and I petition against policies I think are damaging to our planet.
But when I interviewed New York model and sustainability campaigner Renee Elizabeth Peters for Glamour magazine a new wave of frustration about politicians’ inaction over climate change crept over me.
In the story Renee argues that living sustainably is only possible if you’re privileged with enough ‘time, accessibility and money’ to do so.
She was referring to the fact that for many people living on low-incomes, juggling several jobs on top of life’s usual pressures, living sustainably is out of reach. They don’t have the money to buy organic food or clothes, the knowledge or time to invest in planning more vegetarian or vegan meals and they can’t necessarily afford to live in a neighbourhood where waste is collected or where the air and land isn’t polluted.
I’d agree with her. Since trying to go more green this year I have been feeling pretty stressed and overwhelmed. It comes at a time when I’m striving to set up my own freelance business and earn an income while coping with my baby’s sleepless nights all while managing the daily grind of being the best mum, wife, friend and daughter I can be. Not to mention the fact that I’m going green solo in a house of three.
The result is I find I have little time to research and implement greener practices around the home as I’m tired and would rather play with my baby than investigate a plastic and toxic free household cleaning alternative.
The fact is I’m privileged enough live in a nice neighbourhood where good recycling is the norm and I afford that milk bottle delivery instead of buying milk cartons.
But what about those who can’t? What about those who are even more exhausted than I am from dealing with severe health complaints, work 12 hour shifts, or lack the access to information and education to be more green?
In the Glamour article, Renee relieves the intense pressure upon individuals to shift the emphasis on to governments.
Instead she asks what they could do be doing to enact policy that would make a more significant difference to climate change.
As part of the story I had to immerse myself in research on climate change and interrogate what the UK Government was doing to stop it.
I was shocked to realise that there were so many areas of policy that could really make an impact and angered to see such slow progress despite our politicians knowing for 30 years environmental catastrophe was heading our way.
I always supported policies that enabled more renewable energy and been horrified at our Government for allowing fracking in the UK. But I hadn’t, for example, considered that subsidies for organic farming rather than dairy farming, which fuels climate change, could be a progressive policy.
I hadn’t also appreciated how modernising our housing stock to make it energy efficient had stalled because of a lack of political will. And I’d also never felt so angry about the woeful lack of responsibility manufacturers and supermarkets currently have after interviewing Women’s Environmental Network co-director Beth Summers, who is campaigning for more affordable eco-friendly products to be accessible to us all.
I should think that’s the case for many people. We simply don’t have the time to consider these things in the depth they deserve because we are too busy making a living and let’s face it – trying to live our lives as happily as can be with those who are most important to us.
That’s nothing to be ashamed of. On the contrary politicians have access to all the information and they are in power to make the right decisions on our behalf. That’s what they are employed to do.
But the buck has to stop somewhere. And when you’re in power you have to make uncomfortable decisions that may not make you popular.
Yes they are often at the whim of public opinion, which can be limiting in an age of increasing populism. And yes some politicians in power also chose to deny that climate change is happening despite compelling evidence that shows even modest C02 emissions could set off a cascade of melting ice, warming seas and dying forests could send the Earth into a “hothouse” state beyond which human efforts to reduce emissions will be “futile”.
So eschewing that plastic bottle and saving your crisp packets for recycling, is a virtuous act, but it is only scratching the surface.
It’s politicians that can truly facilitate a more sustainable lifestyle for us, so in the absence of them acting on the issue, the single most effective thing you can do is call upon them to do more.
The fact is the future of our planet is up to us if we act collectively and engage in politics. How do we do that? In the article Renee gives some good pointers, but here’s some more ideas to start a climate revolution.
One way could be to approach the candidates of key marginal seats in the upcoming local and general elections to discuss whether they would support serious climate-related legislation.
You can ask them on social media, by email, or by going to one of their surgeries. Don’t worry about constructing a sophisticated argument, a few lines spoken from the heart will do. You can find your MP here. Here’s another good website for knowing how to target your representative.
Supporters of climate-friendly policies then need to leaflet and door knock these constituencies to support them – here’s a few local groups if you want to help, but there will be more.
In doing this a serious grassroots conversation could sprout, turning it into an election issue. With a large group of people outside parliament and inside poised to lobby for the necessary transformative legislation on climate mitigation and adaptation, real change could come.
You could also email or message your favourite clothes brands and tell them how you love their garments, but you don’t love their sustainability practices and want them to do more. You can find out who is hot and who is not in the fashion industry on the Good On You app.
Some of these ideas could only take 10-15 minutes, some may take 10 hours. But given that our environmental impacts are so long-lasting, the future is the politics we make today.
Solving climate change is about power, money, and political will. By adding your voice to growing calls for climate justice you can help change the political will of those in power with all the money. So that’s 10 minutes or 10 hours well spent for a future that’s less impacted by climate change in my opinion.