At the moment, I can’t help laughing because of how much fun, say, the New York Times is having publishing photos of burning trees. But the issues throughout the news are very, scarily, real. As Elizabeth May so astutely pointed out recently, we consistently press the snooze button on climate issues every time we are given a scary deadline. This very clearly comes from our vulnerably human inability to see our own fragility. We are constantly in denial about how very bad things can get. Why then, have articles about climate issues suddenly expanded like tentacles, creeping their worrying way into every corner of the web?
Recently the IPCC, a UN board which is known for being apolitical and never scaremongering, actually stepped up to the plate and informed the UN of the reality of the issue. We have 12 years to stop global warming from reaching beyond the maximum of 1.5°C. Beyond this point, the same photos of fire which seem like an overreacting become an all too real reality. So what can we do?
All and sundry on Facebook seem to be advocating Veganism and Vegetarianism
All and sundry on Facebook seem to be advocating Veganism and Vegetarianism. There has certainly been a broad cultural shift towards this. Ella Grace Denton, the singer, Instagram star and TOMS ambassador, is constantly posting pictures of beautiful Vegan Chia Bowls. These, while I sit over my desk procrastinating instead of doing my essay at 5AM, make me feel, frankly, terrible. Shouldn’t I, too, have my life together? Am I not selfish and disorganised, that I can’t seem to get my ducks in a row enough to entirely remove meat from my diet, even to save the environment? What if I, alone, am the cause of the world as we know it descending into chaos and drought? The answer to this caffeinated bout of anxiety ridden nonsense is very simple and two fold.
As students, we struggle more with time, money and pressure restraints than ever before. You are constantly attempting to balance coursework, jobs, work experience, applications, domestic chores, exercise, and still actually have a social life. We all need laughter and tequila once in a while. So your mental well-being will not be thanking you for trying to make an impossible change overnight. It is entirely inhuman to go from 100% meat based meals, plastic use, and other environmental impacting actions to 0% overnight. If you do want to make a change, choose one small way, and attempt to stick to it before moving forward. For example, using the Vegetarian NOSH for Students cookbook, you can start reducing your meat from every day, to four times a week. Even having those three days without meat could make a huge difference. Who knows, you may already be doing this without realising it, and saving money in the process. But DO NOT beat yourself up.
whilst your change does make a difference, put that energy where it makes the most impact
We need to shift our thinking. Take a second. Read Martin Lukacs’ piece in the Guardian, ‘Neoliberalism has conned us into fighting climate change as individuals’. Lukacs’ argument is a poignant one, underlining the need for us to look upwards rather than inwards for change. As he says, while you are adding pressure to be more environmentally responsible to a never-ending list of things you need to do during the term, and feeling like a failure, ‘a hundred companies alone are responsible for an astonishing 71% of carbon emissions since 1988.’ So whilst your change does make a difference, put that energy where it makes the most impact. Find out about relevant petitions, query where your money is going, or the relationship between your politicians and companies. Force the big guys to be a bit more woke. Then get back to your essay.