It’s been three months since this magazine was launched, and – ecologically speaking – things seem to have gone from bad to worse. Greenland is melting 50 years ahead of some expectations. The Arctic is ablaze, and the burning of the Amazon has reached record proportions, not to mention the worsening of yearly bush fire seasons the world over. Climate change is crippling some of the world’s poorest countries, even while providing a temporary financial boon to some of the wealthier ones. Too many politicians still lack the will to take action. And, perhaps worse of all, several elections have resulted in parties gaining, or remaining in, power despite an outspoken anti-climate agenda. We’ve discussed the Australian election here and here, one of the outcomes of which was this amusing yet poignant meme:
As if that weren’t bad enough, Europe is going to war with itself over the refugee migration crisis, the Fall ArmyWorm is causing havoc across Africa and Asia (worsened by the changing climate), and our capitalist system of economics seems destined to burden us with an ever-increasing amount of unrecyclable garbage.
Then there’s the plastic problem. “plague proportions” is a phrase that fails to do it justice. The Black Death killed only around 200 million people (according to the highest estimates) over its entire duration. Plastic, on the other hand, kills around 100 million marine animals every year. That’s only marine animals and only deaths caused by macro plastics. Sure, in some circles, the use of disposable plastic – be it water bottles, takeaway food containers, or even straws and spoons – is seen to be as much of a social faux pas as smoking cigarettes; but these social circles are still very small, and uninfluential on global scales. It will be a long time before this becomes the norm. A hundred years from now, if our species survives, our descendants will look back with the same disbelief and sense of ancestral shame that we feel, or at least we should feel, when we look back at institutional sexism and slavery.
And yet, there have been reasons for the occasional and cautious smile. Small victories continue to accrue the world over. Ethiopia set a new record for the number of trees planted in a single day. Greta’s voyage across the Atlantic to join the New York Climate Summit, after vowing never again to use air travel, has been a touching reminder of what dedication can achieve. And the School Strike for Climate movement that she helped to spark has gone global; this year, more than a million people demonstrated in March, in around 125 countries.
Day 12. We are getting closer to the North American mainland. Rough conditions, but downwind sailing. pic.twitter.com/n9huwHUSGI— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) August 25, 2019
Making small changes to one’s daily life is likewise becoming ever more popular, and an ever more accessible way for people all over the world to join in the movement to safeguard the future, and perhaps in this way such a movement can begin to have sway. More people are switching to recycled paper, there’s the lofty yet critical goal of living carbon neutral, the cotton industry is finally being exposed for the harm it has caused (and businesses are changing the way they source such materials), philanthropy is becoming ever more mainstream, and organic farming and gardening are becoming more common, more well-understood, and better at reducing the harm that their alternatives have wrought.
If you’ve been following us since our inception, I hope you have appreciated the work we are putting out. If you’re just joining us now, welcome. There is lots more to come. Catastrophe lies ahead; and the war for the future of our small world wages on.