This morning I spent some time in a popular coffee shop between appointments reading and having a late breakfast and latte. I had the fortunate experience of sitting next to a table of two middle-ish aged men having a coffee catch-up. As I read and ate, I overheard snippets of their conversation transition between current events, US politics, world history and the well being of one of their dog's after a recent diabetes diagnosis. What really piqued my interest though was when they began talking about global warming and how they didn't really believe it. There was mention of someone of an authoritative position quoted as saying the Earth is in a warming trend anyways, therefore, it's part of the natural cycle and any real effects wouldn't be apparent for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. However (and this is where I fully stopped reading and really eavesdropped on their conversation), if they were shown their real individual impact on the environment perhaps it would make more sense to them but otherwise there's nothing they could (would?) do to make any difference... so what's the point in changing anything they do day-to-day? This brought to light one of the many disconnects between the scientific evidence of global warming and the skeptic, in which there are many from countless angles. Much of the real science and data that I've seen is on such a huge scale that many individuals simply do not see their part in it... let alone believe the facts that have been repeated and amplified over the years that global warming is real, it is happening at an ever increasing rate and humans are the root cause of a lot of the problem. There are over 7 BILLION people on this giant blue marble spinning around in space so how can one person feel that they could (should?) do anything to make any significant impact? When you live in a land locked province, in a clean city and are generally shielded from the devastating environmental effects occuring around the world (and in our own country & province mind you) it sure is easy to just carry on with consuming and enjoying our decadently fueled lifestyles.
Living in the post-oil market crash economy has been especially interesting lately. There seems to be a growing divide between energy resource exploiters and environment caretakers despite how industry or governments spin their latest sound bite. Capitalism and economic growth are continuing with the same mindset that got us in this situation in the first place. The concepts of "degrowth" or thinking differently about how our future energy needs will be met is tough to have conversations about when 30% of the local workforce are struggling due to lay-offs, lack of good paying jobs to support themselves and being hit with a carbon tax that has been calculated on last year's income. Governments continue to use terms such as "technology", "green energy", and "diversified economy" meanwhile they don't practice what they preach and continue to purchase gas-guzzling vehicles at tax-payers expense because they are "safer"... which is total bullshit.
Many of the big name energy resource exploiters really are using their technologies to be more efficient despite the overwhelming environmental damage that is done in the meantime. However, these companies are not in the business of "protecting the environment". Their goal is to make money for themselves and their shareholders. Also, and obviously, there's a huge demand for energy here and around the world in which they are in the business of supplying and can do extremely well when the markets are available to them.
Most of us are living lives fueled and funded by oil, oil derivatives, and natural gas here in Canada... myself included. We can just flip a switch and lights turn on. If we have a question that needs answering many of us have access to the internet on super computers found in our pockets. When we're hungry there are hundreds of choices at the grocery store brought to us via an unbelievable logistics network from around the world. Want strawberries in January? Sure... they're available at the local Co-op for only $3 a pound!
So what can we really do as individuals though and will any of it make a difference? Well since living off-grid and having little to no negative impact on the environment is next to impossible here are a few ideas to get started: Consume less. Buy local. Eat seasonally. Think critically when deciding on purchases. Organize clothing swaps with friends. Walk, bike or take transit whenever possible. Visit the library and check out books before buying new ones. Use reusable bags. Choose less processed and less packaged products whenever possible. Recycle, reuse or repurpose everything you can. Educate yourself with real science and environmental news. Watch documentaries.
Plant a tree. Grow your own garden.
I honestly don't know how much less carbon any of these ideas produce but I bet there's a study out there with this kind of data. What would happen if every individual made more everyday choices that included the forethought of "how does this choice affect the environment today? Tomorrow?" Again, I don't know the answer but I do know that someday in the future when my body takes it's last breath I will know that I lived a life that tried to do more good to the Earth than harm.