Our arrogance will cripple us, and our ignorance will deal the killing blow. Truly, our species holds its own fate in its hands and yet we cast it aside for shiny toys and easy living- short term profit set above long term prosperity. The point of no return is coming for our planet, and unless the environment is pushed right to the top of the political agenda, right now, we really are in danger of acting too late.
Environmental issues may have entered the political lexicon, but they’re still seen as over-indulgent luxuries by the political elite, much like other unimportant issues like looking out for the most vulnerable in society or fundamental human rights. When Mr. Cameron wants to score some points with the voters he’s happy to cut the “green crap” from energy bills and small business regulation, but still has the audacity to defend his “greenest government ever” pledge. We DON’T need politicians that take our impending environmental crisis seriously- that aren’t afraid to put it at the top of their priorities- we already have them with the Green Party. What we need is for the urgency and seriousness of the disaster that is enfolding to permeate into the public mind set. We desperately need the public to put the environment at the top of its agenda if we have a hope of taking real action to reverse the devastating effects of 300 years of unbridled industrial power. In short, the solution doesn’t rest with Westminster, but with the voters.
Why has it not already? Not many can feign ignorance of the green movement now- the battle to have environmental issues heard has long been won- everyone and their dog knows how harmful carbon emissions and dumping waste in rivers can be- in a vague sort of way at least. Partly it is to do with having lived under an economic system (that really came into its own in the 80’s) that prioritises short term gains over long term investment, and pushes rational self-interest as a panacea for the societies woes whilst degrading collective action and responsibility. Partly it’s because the Tory’s and big business have managed to some degree to do to environmentalists what they’ve done to benefit claimants and immigrants- paint them as the bad guys and the cause of all the common man’s problems (look no further than the discourse around green levies). And ultimately it all seems a long way off and it’s harder to incentivise people when the negative consequences of not acting are so distant in their mind. So what do we do about all this? How can we put the environment at the top of people’s agenda and push forward real change- before it’s too late?
- More of the same from the Green Party– fighting tirelessly to push environmental issues to the top of the agenda and putting it in the mainstream media. We need to focus specifically on how it effects people’s everyday lives, and challenging the current view that all “green crap” does is heap more money onto peoples bills.
- Challenging neo-liberal dogma. The short sightedness and self-interested mind set of our economic system needs to be changed, and quickly if we are to combat climate change and save our planet. This twisted ideology permeates so many areas of our lives, and de-incentivises business into getting on board as well. The Greens have already been vocal in opposing the damaging idea of infinite growth, let’s tackle the rest of the Thatcher legacy as well.
- We need to foster stronger ties between academic disciplines. I strongly believe we’ve only discovered the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the effects climate change will have upon our societies, economies, and eco-systems. Greater incentive to research what these effects will be on all areas of human life, not just the environmental sciences but the social sciences and economics and business as well, will help drive home the impact these issues do and increasingly will have on individuals and their children. We need to bring the holistic vision of the Greens that everything in our world is intricately connected to the forefront of our debates and campaigns, so the public can see the bigger picture and how the environment impacts them. This needs to be given far more emphasis early on in school as well, so the next generation don’t repeat our mistakes.
- The Green way is a way of life- Environmental issues are perhaps where people ironically feel they have the least chance of having an impact- it’s all so big we often don’t know where to start. Yet this is the place where we can have the most impact. The Green way is not just voting for the Greens as mentioned above (though that certainly helps!) it’s a way of life. Recycling more, refusing to buy from companies that break environmental regulations, shopping at the local market and butchers rather than the local Asda- all these are political statements as well as lifestyle choices. This is an area where you can have a say and an influence over the economy and the debate beyond a vote every 4/5 years. It’s a snowball effect- the more of us that are already passionate about this the more others will see that it is not too big to handle and that they can put the environment higher in their priorities.
Finally, let’s be bold. The crisis we are facing is staggering, and we need to convey that to the world. Most know that how we treat the earth isn’t great, but I’m not sure the seriousness of our plight is fully realised by the majority. By 2030, climate change could push food prices up by 50-90 percent more than they would otherwise be expected to rise, according to a recent report by Oxfam (brought on by two-thirds of the arable land in Africa being wiped out- leading to huge people displacement and crippling poverty on the continent). 40% of the world’s population get their drinking water from glaciers in the Himalayas- glaciers that are quickly disappearing. Climate related natural disasters are predicted to effect more than 375 million next year alone. More than a million species face extinction from disappearing habitat, altering ecosystems, and acidifying oceans*. We need to be unequivocal in our message- this is the single biggest threat humanity has ever faced.
And many of the ways that combat it actually have positive effects on the people undertaking them. Using your bike instead of your car not only cuts your carbon footprint but keeps you fit as well- the same goes for eating local, organic produce as well, and doesn’t hurt your wallet nearly as much as you’ve been made to believe.
In short the problem isn’t in Westminster, it’s with all of us. We have, for a multitude of reasons, failed to put the environment at the top of our agenda for far too long. Once we do however, real change can be made and we can stop this impending crisis, whilst reaping the benefits of a healthier lifestyle at the same time. The Tories have had their chance and failed- put the environment at the top of your agenda and vote Green- not just at the next election but with your whole lifestyle. Together, we can put our fates back in our own hands and save ourselves before it’s too late.