The time has come for ur­gent change

The Leader (Tasman) - - GARDENING - SARAH LANGI

OPIN­ION: The time is now.

Cli­mate change is in the news as I write this piece: with the tragic fa­tal­i­ties caused by the wild­fires in Cal­i­for­nia.

The lat­est IPCC (In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change) re­port con­firms what we see in the news: the im­pacts of cli­mate change are al­ready hap­pen­ing, with ‘‘high risk lev­els for spread of dis­ease in Africa; prop­erty loss and mor­tal­ity due to wild­fires in North Amer­ica; and de­creased food pro­duc­tion and food qual­ity in South Amer­ica’’ http://ipcc.ch/.

Other dire and weighty pre­dic­tions bom­bard us, such as: ‘‘More plas­tic than fish in the sea by 2050’’ [https://www.el­len­macarthur­foun­da­tion.org/pub­li­ca­tions/the­new-plas­tics-econ­omy-re­think­ingthe-fu­ture-of-plas­tics.

Just today, a vis­i­tor to Nelson En­vi­ron­ment Cen­tre said: ‘‘You do your bit but it seems over­whelm­ing at times, ev­ery­thing you buy is wrapped in plas­tic.

I was heart­bro­ken to see Richard At­ten­bor­ough’s pro­gramme show­ing a mother al­ba­tross re­gur­gi­tat­ing her food to feed her chick. What do you think she re­gur­gi­tated?’’

Sadly, we know the an­swer, plas­tic in the ocean is an enor­mous prob­lem, and a scar­ily re­cent one. Like the al­ba­tross, we too are un­der threat from eating plas­tic and other pol­lu­tants, as plas­tic mi­crobeads from cos­met­ics and mi­crofi­bres from syn­thetic cloth­ing en­ter our food chain at the ba­sic level of the plank­ton.

Never has the health of the planet been in such cri­sis. Cli­mate change; fos­sil fu­els; plas­tic in the oceans; so­cial in­equity; poverty; the hous­ing cri­sis; the bee cri­sis; the grow­ing moun­tain of waste; pol­luted rivers, seas and soils; loss of for­est; mass species ex­tinc­tion: the list goes on.

Never be­fore has the call to ac­tion been so ur­gent but, iron­i­cally, prom­i­nent world lead­ers seem to be fo­cus­ing on war mon­ger­ing and caus­ing more dam­age, rather than work­ing to­gether glob­ally to mit­i­gate our

‘‘Never has the health of the planet been in such cri­sis.’’

dead­li­est threats.

It’s easy to feel over­whelmed by the scale of the world’s prob­lems and pow­er­less to make any mean­ing­ful change.

But I know that if I sit back and do noth­ing I rapidly be­come de­pressed; whereas if I per­son­ally en­gage in ac­tion to cre­ate a health­ier world, I im­me­di­ately feel hope­ful for the fu­ture. There is so much we can do as in­di­vid­u­als, as com­mu­ni­ties and as a coun­try.

Be­gin­ning with one small, sim­ple ac­tion may lead us to take an­other step and if we can en­cour­age oth­ers to join us, soon the new be­hav­iour will be­come the norm.

Twelve years ago I be­gan teach­ing chil­dren about re­cy­cling, then about re-us­ing, then re­duc­ing, and then avoid­ing waste.

Now ‘‘zero-waste’’ is a con­cept un­der­stood by most lo­cal school­child­ren. Work­ing with chil­dren to de­sign an ex­cit­ing fu­ture with zero waste, clean en­ergy, and healthy food, is very em­pow­er­ing.

And I am so re­lieved that, fi­nally, here in New Zealand, we have a gov­ern­ment that recog­nises and looks at the big global is­sues – we’ve been fac­ing them for re­ally quite some time now.

Hope­fully this new gov­ern­ment may be able to ad­dress some of them, but it’s a big job and we need to get be­hind them. I’m hop­ing the gov­ern­ment has the same things on their to-do list as I have.

A good start to ad­dress­ing cli­mate change is sup­port­ing the tran­si­tion from fos­sil fu­els to clean re­new­able en­ergy (so­lar en­ergy is a no-brainer in Nelson), elec­tric ve­hi­cles and e-bikes. Dirty dairy­ing also needs a re­think: more than half of NZ’s emis­sions are caused by this in­dus­try and it’s also caus­ing havoc with our rivers.

We need a se­ri­ous re-think about how we use and dis­pose of our re­sources, at home, in our lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, na­tion­ally and glob­ally. We need to move away from our cur­rent model of a lin­ear econ­omy, whereby we ex­tract re­sources, make stuff out of them and then throw them away, to a cir­cu­lar econ­omy, whereby re­sources are kept in cir­cu­la­tion through long-last­ing de­sign, main­te­nance, re­pair, re-use, re­man­u­fac­tur­ing, and re­cy­cling.

New Zealand needs manda­tory prod­uct stew­ard­ship schemes, whereby man­u­fac­tur­ers are re­spon­si­ble for their prod­ucts at end-of-life, start­ing with the prod­ucts that cause the most harm in land­fills, i.e. tyres and elec­tron­ics; the new gov­ern­ment al­ready has tyres on its pri­or­ity list in the coali­tion agree­ment – yay.

For the sake of our grand­chil­dren and those who will come af­ter us, we as in­di­vid­u­als need to change pri­or­i­ties: the heady days of ram­pant ex­ces­sive con­sumerism in or­der to im­press oth­ers with our suc­cess, wealth, and celebrity style are over. It’s im­por­tant to be­lieve that we all can do some­thing; even small ac­tions make a dif­fer­ence, like say­ing no to plas­tic bags.

As a shop­per, we have enor­mous power to cre­ate change: ‘‘The fu­ture of the planet is in your shop­ping bag’’ is a pow­er­ful state­ment. If we all stop buy­ing goods that are harm­ful to our health and en­vi­ron­ment, e.g. junk food, items wrapped in non­re­cy­clable pack­ag­ing, toxic clean­ing and cos­metic prod­ucts, cloth­ing that has ex­ploited for­eign work­ers, etc., the com­pa­nies will stop mak­ing them, and fo­cus on cre­at­ing health­ier, more sus­tain­able prod­ucts.

Thank­fully, a lot of changes are al­ready hap­pen­ing: en­vi­ron­men­tal education is hap­pen­ing in schools; China is forg­ing ahead with en­vi­ron­men­tal ini­tia­tives; cer­tain banks are di­vest­ing from fos­sil fu­els; so­lar tech­nol­ogy is get­ting clev­erer and cheaper; elec­tric and so­lar ve­hi­cles are be­com­ing the norm; Count­down and New World su­per­mar­kets are ban­ning plas­tic bags lo­cally.

Boomerang bags are flood­ing su­per­mar­kets with free cloth bags, neigh­bour­hood com­mu­ni­ties are grow­ing and res­cu­ing food for those in need, and a whole lot more.

So I urge you to get in­spired and get in­volved, take one small step for the planet: make your voice heard, sign pe­ti­tions for what you be­lieve in, get a worm farm or a bike, rein­vent a gar­ment, grab a boomerang bag and please, please, think about the planet when you are out shop­ping.

Wild­fires rage be­hind Dis­ney­land in Cal­i­for­nia.

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