by Thaqif Aris
Whether we like to admit it or not, we are currently in the midst of a looming climate crisis. With the ongoing pandemic, it is understandable that climate change has taken a back seat, but this should not be the case. With temperatures projected to increase by 2.0 °C by the year 2050, problems such as submerging coastal areas, droughts that threaten international food supplies, and extreme weather are increasingly becoming our new reality. That is unless we take action now.
This article focuses on how youth can respond positively towards the crisis in ways that are beneficial to the planet. As cliché as it sounds, we will inherit the world from our elders, and it is therefore our duty to reverse the actions and practices that have damaged Mother Earth. This may seem like a daunting task, but small steps ¬ when done collectively- can have a significant impact in solving the problem.
When addressing climate change, a simple approach is to ask yourself, “How can I reduce my personal emissions of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs)?”. This is important when noting that it is these gases that trap heat within our atmosphere.
1. Get Thrifty
With the rise of consumerism and “fast” fashion, this industry has increasingly been placed under a harsh spotlight for its enormous emissions of GHGs. It is estimated that the production, transportation, and waste management of this industry alone releases 1.2 billion tonnes of GHGs every year (greater than international flights and shipping combined!). We therefore need to adopt a more sustainable approach to purchasing clothes. An increasingly popular practice is thrifting. The thrill of finding your clothes through racks and racks of random low-cost clothing (and discovering hidden gems) makes this particularly attractive among the youth. Currently, only 1% of textiles that are used to make clothes are ever recycled. By thrifting, we reduce the need to constantly supply large amounts of clothing, and incentivise existing companies to take on a much more sustainable approach in production.
2. Carpool and Use Public Transport
Some 22% of all GHGs are released by transportation. The increased use of hybrid and electric cars is not enough to reduce large carbon emission levels. Malaysia’s new network of public transportation projects makes it a no-brainer to utilise public transport to travel, especially in urban areas. Not only will you skip massive traffic jams, you will also do your bit in making the air cleaner. Vehicles emit significant amounts of Methane, Nitrous Oxide, and Carbon Monoxide that contribute to problems like acid rain and respiratory diseases. A lower concentration of these gases would make for a more comfortable environment as well as protect the more vulnerable among us, especially children and the poor, from the harmful effects of pollution.
3. Use Eco-Friendly Products
As a consumer, we have to be aware of the items that we consume. As a green consumer, we need to look out for items that emit low amounts of GHGs into the atmosphere. This is where a little research can go a long way. Can the products we consume be reused and recycled? Are they biodegradable? This may seem expensive and tiresome, but the benefits are long term! “Green” goods tend to last longer as they are made of sturdier material (think of metal straws compared to their plastic counterparts).
4. Support Independent and Sustainable Businesses
Being selective on the items we purchase is a great first step in being a greener individual, but knowing the companies that produce them is equally important. It is no surprise that big business is one of the biggest contributors towards climate change due to their profit maximisation and cost minimisation ethos. Rather than viewing capitalism as an obstacle towards mitigating climate change, we should utilise market forces to our advantage.
By educating consumers on corporate responsibility, we will gradually demand for the products of companies that ignore environmental concerns. This in turn will force them to alter their business models while in the meantime encourage the growth of small, independent, and eco-friendly businesses.
5. Starting Conversations on Climate Change
Starting conversations on climate change is a simple yet effective way to increase awareness. Having discussions with your friends and family about the scale and scope of the issue and what we can do will encourage the adoption of greener habits in our daily lives. Recognising the issue is a necessary step before any form of collective action can effectively take place. Conversations allow space for people to bounce off ideas on how they and their community can take part in a global effort, and provides a jumping point for innovations and incentives to flourish.
6. Become a Green Activist!
A good way to get public attention on any issue is to organise events such as a speakers’ rally, fora and discussions, or even peaceful demonstrations. Environmentalists, especially young influencers such as Greta Thurberg, can speak at these events to highlight the urgency of climate action, and whip up awareness as well as support for green policies. Youth need to step up to speak out on matters that the older generation may be oblivious to. Malaysia is seeing more and more young people speak up for the environment. We also have organisations such as WWF and Klima Action Malaysia voicing opposition to mass deforestation, open burning, and reclamation projects.
In conclusion, we do not need to be leading science experts to help mitigate climate change. Individual acts, when done properly and consistently, are sufficient in reducing GHGs within our atmosphere. Armed with this information, we need to realise the big part we play in preserving our earth. Remember, there is no Planet B for future generations to inhabit, and we owe it to them to ensure a resource-rich environment. As the saying goes, “We do not inherit this planet from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children”.
Have other great ideas that you are willing to share? Join the Writing and Photo Contest 2020 jointly organised by Maybank Foundation and Perdana Leadership Foundation and stand a chance to win amazing prizes! Visit www.empoweringaseanyouth.com to find out more.
We cannot wait to see how you harness your creativity with your entries.