Simple steps to combat climate change

Increased fossil fuel combustion has been as close to lighting a conflagration right on Earth’s axis. Our global emissions are having unhindered consequences including melting glaciers, warming oceans, rising sea levels and changing oceanic current movements.

Climate change is the destabilising of weather conditions that prevailed in an area in general over a long period of time. Today it is the prime source of our planet’s destruction. People also call this ‘global warming’.

90 percent of the world’s mountain glaciers are already visibly retreating as the planet warms. The Himalayan glaciers provide hundreds of millions of people water in the dry season in Asia. However, their shrinking has led to, paradoxically, increased floods as well as water scarcity in Pakistan. In 2016, a flash flood in Satpara lake 4 km from the town of Skardu, Gilgit-Baltistan, took with it all recreational businesses, locals and tourists in the area – never to be seen again, whilst Thar Pakkar is suffering the fourth consecutive year of drought. Pakistan constitutes 20% of world exports for guar gum – a food additive used by all food industries – that is grown in this region. One can well imagine the blow to the economy when this production fails due to the ongoing drought.

The Global South will be the hardest hit with climate change occurrences and much of it has become evident. Bangladesh is slowly drowning as sea levels rise, the Maldives will cease to exist very soon, drought has taken over in parts of Australia and Asia, and extreme heat waves are killing thousands in India and Pakistan. A new war is at our doorstep bringing climate change ‘refugees’ to the fore. We may see the biggest global refugee crisis in the next decade.

Yet, many are under the assumption that the problem is too big to manage singlehandedly and thus there is nothing they can do to alleviate it. However, there are a few simple steps that we can take as global citizens that would truly assist in combatting climate change.

1) Reduce your carbon footprint

Your carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a consequence of an individual’s, community’s and organisation’s activities. This is from the amount of time you spend in a car, to the amount of electricity you use, how much you air-travel and to every single product you consume.

The consumer’s alienation from the production process prevents him/her from truly realising the amount of energy that was used to bring a single product to their table. For every manufacturing process, trees were cut, soil was eroded, fossil fuels were burnt, waste was multiplied and water was squandered. We as the consumer’s now need to become conscious. In short, pollute as less as you can. Remember the 3 R’s i.e Recycle, Reuse and Reduce. Recycle paper, reuse all plastic and generally reduce consumption of certain items you do not need.

2) Waste not want not

If you use a resource efficiently and carefully, you will never be in dire need of that resource again. Paper, water, electricity, gas are all resources we take for granted. Not many realise that every time they leave an unnecessary light running, they are wasting vast amounts of water in hyrdropower plants and burning fossil fuels needed to keep that light running. This wastage, many don’t realise, also adds to the circular debt in our economy which has resulted in continuous load-shedding.

Another waste is that of plastic. 300 million tonnes of plastic are produced each year and a million plastic bottles are bought every minute across the globe. Plastic does not decompose. A single plastic bottle may take up to 400 years to decompose, if at all. This means that every plastic item produced ever still exists on earth. The market is run primarily by demand, and when demands shift so does the market. You as a consumer have ultimate buying power, which you can use to shift market morals and values. By simply refusing to use plastic shopper bags and using reusable bags every time you make a purchase you may diminish its production, when producers begin to see it as unprofitable.

3) Compost, compost, compost

Separating organic waste from non-organic too can help combat climate change. Nature is self-sustaining, and created a process for herself whereby all energy used is returned back. It is a balance between the biological, nutrient and water cycles with community dynamics. You as a community need only simply ensure that all organic material from your house, is returned back to the soil i.e all leftover peels of fruit, vegetables etcetera can be composted in your own backyards. Healthy soil actively pulls carbon from the air and back into the Earth.

4) Plant a tree

It is the roots of plants that ensure the composting process continues. To ensure healthy and efficient composting, we need greater vegetation. This means curbing all forms of deforestation (urban and natural). With a greater root system, the microbes from the compost and the soil work in tandem with roots to create nutrients. This is what makes the soil fertile. Plants also suck in carbon from the air to release oxygen, and this can only happen when the soil is fertile. Thus soil and vegetation together act as carbon sinks. Meaning all carbon from the atmosphere is sucked in and restored to where it belongs.

It is important to remember to plant local trees and plants, however. These are carefully adapted and suited to the environment of Pakistan. Trees such as eucalyptus (safeda) are harmful to the Pakistani environment.

5) Climate communication

Educating the public about climate change is even more imperative especially when a climate change denier is sitting at the helm of politics – Mr. Trump. Climate Nexus is one such organization that is doing the job. We need similar organizations in Pakistan. One cannot get others to make a change in attitude when they cannot fathom what it means. Have a conversation with your friends, family and those who work in your homes. Spread fact based articles, educate on the steps one can take and overall set an example by taking these easy steps yourself. Do not forget to support programs that are working towards climate change. Organisations such as Combatting Poverty and Climate Change Foundation in Pakistan need your support now more than ever.

The writer holds a Master’s degree in Environmental Conservation from New York University.

Many are under the assumption that the problem is too big to manage singlehandedly and thus there is nothing they can do to alleviate it.

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