Feeling a renewed commitment to live more sustainably after watching David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet on Netflix? Same. If you haven’t watched it yet, stay with me, I’ll fill you in along the way.
Maybe it was when he pointed out that a big change in atmospheric carbon “was a feature of all five mass extinctions”. Or maybe it was a few seconds later when he said the last few extinctions “took volcanic activity up to a million years to dredge up enough carbon” to create a disaster, but we've managed to do it in under 200 years. Either way, the climate crisis really hit home when watching this documentary.
Apart from sharing devastating statistics on Instagram, what can we tiny little people actually do to help save this trash fire?
David has the answer: “What do we do? It’s quite straightforward. It’s been staring us in the face all along. To restore stability to our planet, we must restore its biodiversity, the very thing that we’ve removed. It’s the only way out of this crisis that we have created. We must re-wild the world.”
His overall message is that we need to preserve biodiversity. But we can’t go out and be more biodiverse. We need actionable advice to follow. Luckily, he gave it to us. Sort of. Read on.
Use less or renewable energy
“A renewable future will be full of benefits. Energy everywhere will be affordable.”
This is a tough one since very few of us can influence our government’s fuel legislation and not everyone has the resources to take their home off the grid.
I can't install a solar panel on my ground-floor rental flat. The only thing left to do is to use less energy. You know the drill: lower your geyser temperature in summer, layer up clothing before you turn on the heater in winter. Read more about that here.
“It’s crazy that our banks and our pensions are investing in fossil fuels.”
Once you think about this, it’s the wildest thing you’ve ever heard. We’re saving money for the future… in a way that jeopardizes that very future. As someone wise once said, you can’t eat money. Okay fine, I said it. But it’s true. No matter where you invest, you’re unlikely to make enough money to survive an apocalypse. An actual one, not just living through 2020.
Look into sustainable investments. You might just find that you can make just as much while helping to build a world you want to live in. You know, one with oxygen and temperatures compatible with human life. But also, a compassionate, ethical one where the definition of “sustainable” includes fair treatment of workers and kind animal care.
Choose sustainably caught fish
“The living world can’t operate without a healthy ocean, and neither can we.”
You know the saying: “There are plenty more fish in the sea”? Well, it’s nonsense. Industrial-level fishing has already removed 90% of the large fish in the sea. The proposition to address this, on a global scale, is to create “no fish zones” to keep the ocean healthy and fish stocks up.
"Fishing is the world's greatest wild harvest, and if we do it right, we can continue because there is a win-win at play. The healthier the marine habitat, the more fish there will be and the more there will be to eat", says David.
So what can you and I do on an individual level? Yip, it’s cutting back on seafood. And when you do want to eat fish, make sure it’s caught in a way that doesn’t ravage marine health. Depending on where you live, there are different organisations responsible for labelling sustainable fish, so look it up in your area. Make sure to read labels on packaging or buy from a fishmonger you trust.
Eat less meat
“The planet can’t support billions of large meat-eaters, there just isn’t the space.”
There are lots of earth-damaging problems with the way we eat meat today. The animals we raise for meat simply use too many resources. They take up too much land – which has been deforested and is no longer biodiverse.
Need some hard facts to make you more emotional about this? Don’t worry, Dave’s got you:
- Half of the fertile land on earth is now farmland.
- 70% of the birds are domestic – mostly chickens.
- 60% of the mass of mammals on the earth are the animals we eat.
- If we all led largely plant-based diets, we would only need half the land we currently use for food production and even then, we can easily increase the yield of that land.
This one’s answer sounds simple. Eat less meat. Or if you, like me, struggle with moderation then give up meat completely. It might not be easy, but the more people do it, the easier it’ll get. Ask anyone who was vegan ten years ago and had to make their own cheese out of cashews.
Cutting out meat has been much harder for me than I had anticipated. I get bored with my cooking, and sometimes at restaurants, my choice is between fries and a limp side salad.
There are also other challenges I didn’t realize I’d have to tackle, like going to visit my boyfriend’s family in another city and having to explain that I don’t eat meat. I felt like I was “being difficult”. But here’s the thing. That awkward conversation is worth having. Do I want to impress people more than I want to play my part in helping the earth? Of course not. Were they unfazed and liked me anyway? Yes. Did I almost steal a lamb chop off his mom’s plate because it looked so damn delicious? Also yes. Don’t worry, I didn’t do it.
I’ll leave you with one more quote. Read it in his accent: “Whenever we choose a piece of meat, we too are unwittingly demanding a huge expanse of space.”
“Anything we can’t do forever is by definition, unsustainable”
That quote stuck with me.
While this documentary didn’t specifically address things like plastic, fast fashion and many other climate-crisis culprits, the sentiment applies.
So, as I scroll through Black Friday deals on my phone, I repeat this to myself like a mantra and log out.
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