By Anders Lorenzen
Could you imagine it? In line with the rest of the country who seem to be shutting down at the end of this week to celebrate Christmas and New Year and hardly do not reappear before early January, so would climate change – and for a ten day period completely halt flooding, melting of ice and restore an equal balance of weather events just as it should be, but sadly this is not the case and the world we have created does not look like that.
For a while we, in the developed world, go away and lock ourselves inside our warm homes, shut out the rest of the world and enjoy our festive break, climate change will go on harming and exploiting the most vulnerable on our fragile, warming planet.
In fact, our violence against the natural world throughout December is bringing on climate change more than the rest of the year. You might feel that you personally can’t recognise that, but our consumer needs explode in the festive month across all areas of food to energy. You might not be surprised to know that December is also the month where we create the largest amount of waste. We seem to have adapted to a world of living where our consumer needs grow larger and larger at this time year on year. But we don’t seem to benefit from it – every year what also increases is our stress levels, with the increasing number events to attend and the pressure heaped upon us to buy more, does not actually give us a great deal of satisfaction. We end up mass buying a lot of cheap mass-produced products at a great human and environmental cost and the only benefactor is the largest corporations who, because of us, grow more rich and powerful, squeezing out small sustainable businesses.
For a long time, the argument has been that the true root of our environmental problems lies in politics and it’s responsibility to adopt laws and regulations; the individual person is not to blame. For me, that is a flawed argument. Political legislation has a large role to play without a doubt, we depend on and will continue to depend on government legislation to deal with environmental problems and climate change, but these two issues do not stand alone. For example, it’s no good for the government to subsidise micro-renewables like solar panels if no one is going to invest in it.
A great deal of environmental troubleshooting will have to be found around personal sacrifices. The narrative ‘oh well is not down to me, the government will sort out’ it’s just not good enough. The idea of what we think we need is more evident at Christmas than at any other time throughout the year ever. But changing our habits alone is not such a bad thing, in some cases, we might even reap benefits from it. We need to create a better understanding of where our products come from and spend some time doing research instead of just tearing down the cheapest products from the shelf and rushing to the till before someone else gets there. For instance, if we see a t-shirt that costs £2, we should think twice before we buy it and understand that it’s impossible to produce a sustainable product that costs that little and that the product was most likely produced by a developing country that does not comply with either EU human rights or environmental standards. And on a materialistic level, that product is unlikely to last for a very long time, chances are that it will have to be replaced in six months time or less, putting extra pressure on our resources and that t-shirt will go to one of the ever expanding landfill sites. On a health note, you do not know what chemicals have been used to produce it with, as it’s very cheap it would most likely be some of the cheapest chemicals and therefore also very likely to be produced with cancer causing chemicals.
Cutting down on transport is vital too and might bring social benefits. We spend large amount at Christmas being stressed out, and travel from one place to another and we forget what Christmas is all about: it’s not about displaying material wealth or proudly display how many car miles we can crank up but it should be returned to the ideology of spending more time together, let the car stand and go out enjoy your surroundings.
The bottom line is that we all have to think along the lines of quality, not quantity if we buy less but buy higher quality stuff and spend a bit of time checking how it has been produced we will own stuff for longer. And when it comes to food using organic local produce for your Christmas meal is always going to taste a lot better than something mass produced and a shipped thousands of miles.
If you do still feel like giving and want to contribute more, you could always give to a charity that works with people in the developing world. People there, who because of our addiction to mass consumption, are suffering the very impact of climate change. You could also go straight to the problem and support a charity that is engaged directly with climate change. Christmas is a giving season, we just have to establish, who is it important we give to? But if you do one thing, just think, really carefully before you buy a product and think what implications buying that product might have on you, the environment, the world around us and the kids of tomorrow.