Cli­mate Change: I Do My Part, You Do Yours!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Chris­tiane Beaubrun

Cli­mate change is a hot topic for so­called First World coun­tries with sev­eral pledg­ing to do their part to com­bat global warm­ing. The Caribbean, though small and with a lower car­bon foot­print than most, can also do its part. Re­ports from the Arc­tic on the ice caps melting demon­strate the alarm­ing rate at which the earth is heat­ing up. Re­gard­less of our size, cli­mate change (the long-term change of the planet’s cli­mate) will af­fect us just as it will the rest of the planet. Sci­en­tists are pre­dict­ing an in­crease in trop­i­cal storms and hur­ri­canes, in droughts, a rise in sea lev­els, which would im­pact our forests due to an in­crease in salin­iza­tion and re­sult in a loss of land, and an im­pact on coastal, fresh­wa­ter and ter­res­trial re­sources. All of these will then im­pact tourism—our main source of rev­enue.

A start­ing point for us could be ex­am­in­ing our use of plas­tic bags. Bangladesh banned plas­tic bags from as early as 2002. Other coun­tries have put some form of tax­a­tion on re­tail­ers, re­sult­ing in a manda­tory charge of some­times 10 cents, which has led in some cases to a re­duc­tion of 400 mil­lion plas­tic bags be­ing used. Uganda, So­ma­lia, Rwanda, Botswana, Kenya, South Africa and Ethiopia have com­plete bans on plas­tic bags. Closer to home, An­tigua and the U.S. Vir­gin Is­lands have also banned them, while Guyana and Do­minica are work­ing on ban­ning Sty­ro­foam prod­ucts. Some may won­der about the link be­tween plas­tic bags and cli­mate change. These bags can af­fect the qual­ity of air, lead to an in­crease in fos­sil fuel emis­sions and ocean tox­i­c­ity, and re­sult in the de­struc­tion of animal habi­tats. Some stud­ies are show­ing that at the cur­rent rate, come 2050 plas­tic bags will out­weigh fish in the ocean, pound for pound.

As a na­tion, we can work to­gether to do our part in help­ing the rest of the world re­duce cli­mate change. Our lo­cal supermarkets in­tro­duced re­us­able bags sev­eral years ago but with­out a cost ap­plied to the use of plas­tic bags, try­ing to change the habit is close to a mis­sion im­pos­si­ble. It’s not enough to have the re­us­able bags avail­able—there needs to be a real-time cost to con­sumers for us­ing plas­tic bags. It’s sim­ple psy­chol­ogy: neg­a­tive re­in­force­ment, where we’re pro­mot­ing pos­i­tive be­hav­ior by adding a per­sonal cost to the neg­a­tive be­hav­ior. To avoid pay­ing ad­di­tional money, con­sumers will turn to their re­us­able bags.

It’s not just plas­tic bags. Also prob­lem­atic are plas­tic bot­tles, Sty­ro­foam con­tain­ers, even Christ­mas trees! For a fake Christ­mas tree to be en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly, it has to be used for 15-20 years for it to have less of an im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment than cut­ting a real tree. On top of the en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors, many of these ar­ti­fi­cial trees pro­duce car­cino­gens dur­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing and dis­posal be­cause they con­tain PVC. Al­ter­na­tives don’t have to be ex­pen­sive ei­ther; buy re­us­able wa­ter bot­tles and ther­moses. Can­vas or re­us­able plas­tic bags for shop­ping are ideal; glass con­tain­ers in­stead of the plas­tic va­ri­ety.

Here are some facts about plas­tic that may change the way you think and, hope­fully, the way you be­have (source – www. ecow­atch.com):

One mil­lion sea birds and 100,000 marine mam­mals are killed an­nu­ally from plas­tic in our oceans; 44 per­cent of all seabird species, 22 per­cent of cetaceans, all sea tur­tle species and a grow­ing list of fish species have been doc­u­mented with plas­tic in or around their bod­ies; 50 per­cent of the plas­tic we use, we use just once and throw away; over the last ten years we have pro­duced more plas­tic than dur­ing the whole of the last cen­tury; an­nu­ally ap­prox­i­mately 500 bil­lion plas­tic bags are used world­wide—more than one mil­lion ev­ery minute.

Per­haps it is time for our lead­ers to de­velop leg­is­la­tion to make con­sumers pay through the nose for their use of plas­tic bags!

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