The Power of the People – Is this a Climate Change Revolution?

(Photo Source: ABC)

By Issy Shannon – Contributor 

Over recent years Climate Change has increasingly taken over our daily rhetoric, with Attenborough’s ‘Blue Planet’ starting the trend that led to “single use” being the phrase of the year in 2018. But why this sudden interest in Climate Change? Is it just another fad that will fall as quickly as it rose or does this movement have the power to create waves in the political pool and implement real changes to prevent the pessimistic predictions of climate change scientists becoming a reality?

Scientists are suggesting that time is running out for us to reverse the damage that Climate Change has done and that soon it may be too late, with 2035 said to be the point of no return. For decades different pressure groups and activists have been trying to put pressure on governments to mitigate the damage that global warming is doing to the planet. Recently there has been a rise in the number of activists pressurising global governments and it has hit the mainstream media, particularly in the UK. But how significant is this pressure and can anything really be achieved?

One tangible instance in the rise of climate change activists is the remarkable rise in the number of vegans and vegetarians over the last few years. A survey suggests the number of vegans in the UK has risen from 540,000 in 2016 to more than 3.5 million now identifying as such. Whilst many have argued this is just a phase or a popular fad it has lead to real change, for example, Tesco has closed down Meat and Fish counters in some stores due to “low customer demand.” As well as having health benefits, cutting down on red meat is one of the biggest ways one can lower their carbon footprint. The rise of the word ‘Flexitarian’ has also come into use to describe those who try to eat less meat but are not fully vegetarian – this suggests people are much more aware and conscious of how their decisions impact the environment and the real impact individuals can and want to have.

The ‘war on plastic’ is also something which has been increasingly in the mainstream media as something which is highly destructive to our oceans and wildlife. Again because of this we have seen tangible changes, such as many large companies switching to using paper, rather than plastic, straws. Similarly, a huge rise in the sale of reusable water bottles and coffee cups suggests individuals are really trying to do their own part to limit single-use plastic consumption and that this is a widespread movement and something which is here to stay.

This change in attitudes is evident – but is attitude enough to impact politics? Recently thousands of people took part in an act of civil disobedience blocking and closing five major bridges in London to call on the government to take action and put legislation in place to reflect this changing attitude. The 5 pence charge on plastic bags in shops and supermarkets is an example of effective legislation which led to an 80% reduction in the sale of disposable shopping bags. Many have asked why the government has not done more. It is clear that a large part of the population is demanding change to slow the rise of climate change and reverse the already devastating effects, yet the government still seems to be doing little about it.

This may be because politics is overflowing with the discussion of Brexit, or because often the impacts of such legislation will not be immediately tangible and so a government only in office for 5 years may not see enough benefit for themselves. But as pressure on the government continues to grow and the 2035 “point of no return” deadline for meaningful change draws ever nearer, the crunch time for laws to be passed is now. Perhaps the government will be left with no other option but to pass some form of legislation, but many argue why this pressing matter is not higher up the priority list.

But what now? So many people want to do their own bit for the environment but with conflicting messages about what one can do it is hard to be effective. Pressure will continue to grow as this is not an issue which is going away any time soon and maybe real change will have to happen as a last resort.

But in the meantime environmental groups have suggested the best things YOU can do to slow global warming and the damage to our ecosystems:

  • Stop (or reduce) eating meat and dairy
  • Change your car driving habits e.g. walk/bike or use public transport instead.
  • Take note of your water usage
  • Limit your use of single-use plastic e.g. invest in a reusable water bottle and tote bags.
  • Reduce how much you buy, reuse what you do and recycle!

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