Rising consumption is overtaking the physical limits of our planet Earth. Everyone wants everything, especially around this time of the year. Christmas is the time of giving; the question is: do we really need more?
During the year I wrote about the sea of plastic we are creating, the adverse effects of microbeads and microfibre on the inhabitants of the sea. Plastic glitter can be added to this list of negative effects on sea life.
Even if we dispose of plastics responsibly by putting them into the recycling bin, too much of it still ends up in the sea. The only way to avoid microbeads, microfibre and glitter adversely affecting our waterways and ocean is by not using products that contain them.
A study shows that, sadly, environmental awareness does not necessarily lead to better environmental behaviour. So, there is a disconnect: while we are aware, we still don’t seem to put into action what we know.
The Story of Stuff, researched by Annie Leonard, who created a film with the same title in 2007, emphasises that only 1% of “stuff” remains in use after six months. Even things we expect to last and keep using have the same plight, either through breaking, as a result of inferior quality, or becoming unfashionable too quickly and thus not being used any longer.
As environmental author George Monbiot recently pointed out: “Normalised consumption shifts. Who would have thought 30 years ago we would buy bottled water? In those days, tap water was clean and abundant. Now, a million plastic bottles a minute are used.”
An Oxfam media briefing (December 2015) pointed out that the Paris climate deal must put the poorest, lowest-emitting and most vulnerable people first. It states: “The poorest half of the global population are responsible for only around 10% of global emissions yet live overwhelmingly in the countries most vulnerable to climate change – while the richest 10% of people in the world are responsible for around 50% of global emissions.”
How can we be kind to our planet and reduce the burden this Christmas? There is no need to talk to the converted; action is needed if we are serious about leaving a better legacy for the next generation.
Wishing you all an environmentally friendly festive season.
Ines Stager is a landscape architect based in Geraldine, a board member of the Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society and a committee member of the local branch.