How can we take control of the future and begin to save the planet that we call home?
It should be the priority of every single government, but it’s not. Sustainability should be a subject at school, but it’s not. Sustainable living advice should be on the news informing us how to take action, but it’s not. So where does that leave us?
If you are reading this, you probably want to make a change. You want to help reverse the damage done to the planet. You want to make a difference. Never underestimate the importance of an individual’s actions, lifestyle changes, knowledge, and skills have the power to restore the planet to its former glory.
What is the situation like at the moment?
Originally, we resourcefully worked with, rather than against, nature to satisfy our needs. However, the population boomed much like our demands. Solutions to problems, endless human activity, and inventions facilitating our day-to-day lives have ultimately led us to a new phase of existence referred to by scientists as the Anthropocene age. This geological period began in 1950, marking a time in which human activity started to have a substantial impact on the planet’s climate and ecosystems. We are out of balance with nature.
Here are just some of the mistakes that we continue to make. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “the area of primary forest worldwide has decreased by over 80 million hectares since 1990.” Deforestation puts our planet at risk of adverse levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, while areas become less wild harming its inhabitants. A United Nations report warns that decreased biodiversity of the planet carries serious consequences for the rest of life on Earth. In 2019, the UN declared that one million species were at risk of extinction.
In areas of the ocean, which constitutes 66% of our blue planet, little life remains but green slime. The accumulation of plastic in our waters, and overfishing damage our oceans. Ocean acidification further highlights the consequences of human an activity. This refers to the decrease in the pH of the Earth’s oceans due to the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, mainly caused by the burning of fossil fuels. The loss of sea ice, accelerated sea levels rising, and longer, more intense heat waves are just some effects of climate change that we see today.
What could happen if we don’t take action?
David Attenborough’s film ‘A Life on Our Planet’ reveals daunting scientific predictions for the upcoming decades. He predicts what awaits us and the planet if we continue on this current path. Here are just a few notable changes forecast:
- 2030s: The Amazon rainforest will be cut down and degraded to the extent that it will no long produce moisture, thus turning into a dry savanna. As a result of deforestation, our biodiversity and global water cycle will face devastating consequences. The Arctic will be ice-free in summer. The lack of white ice caps will lead to a reflection of the sun’s energy into space, further accelerating global warming.
- 2040s: Throughout the North, frozen soils thaw releasing methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. This will dramatically accelerate the rate of climate change.
- 2050s: With water levels and temperatures rising, global coral reefs will die from bleaching. As a result, sea life will suffer. Those that rely on fishing for livelihood or food will be greatly affected.
- 2080s: Global food production will enter a crisis due to soils exhausted from overuse. Soils will become infertile and pollinating insects will disappear. The weather will be even more unpredictable.
- 2100s: Global temperatures will be four degrees Celsius warmer, leaving many parts of the Earth uninhabitable. Irreversible damage will render millions of people homeless with mass extinction underway.
Solutions: How to Save the Planet
The good news is that these gloomy predictions are avoidable. We can still reverse climate change. Let’s look at some solutions on how to save the planet.
We must work with nature’s incredible resources by allowing the prevalence of renewable energy sources, thus divesting from fossil fuels. Renewable energy sources include: wind energy, hydro energy, tidal energy, geothermal energy, solar energy and bioenergy. Take Denmark as an exemplary country with ambitious energy targets. The country aims for renewable energy sources to cover at least 50% of the country’s energy consumption by 2030. By 2050, Denmark aims to be a low-carbon country no longer depending on fossil fuels. By opting for renewable energy sources, we too can proactively reduce pollution levels.
Deforestation is a major cause of climate change. The planet’s natural carbon cycle is plummeting, as the rainforests that regulate our atmospheres are decimated for commercial purposes. Corporations and governments have the power to destroy the world’s rainforests. Likewise, they also have the power to save them. Nevertheless, we as consumers can be proactive and conscious about what we purchase. Avoid palm oil, shop for sustainably certified products, and eat less meat and dairy as farmland heavily contributes to deforestation.
Restore Ecosystems and Biodiversity
The more diverse our ecosystems, the more effective its functions such as carbon sequestration. That is, the process by which nature naturally minimises the CO2 in the atmosphere to a sustainable degree. By reducing farmland space, we can make way for returning wilderness. Similarly, by creating no-fishing zones, we are better able to restore fish stock and sea life. Now, let’s look at what we as can do as individuals. A largely plant-based diet has been noted as one of the most effective ways to restore our ecosystems. That’s because a largely plant-based diet would require just half the land we use now, while demanding less water, fewer pesticides and fertilisers that emit carbon.
The problems the planet faces are somewhat overwhelming. Thanks to David Attenborough’s documentary ‘A Life on Our Planet,’ we can understand the urgency of the situation. I highly recommend watching this (it’s available on Netflix) for a more detailed, visual account of his wisdom. It’s the people like you reading this that seek to make a difference by learning how to save the planet. Let’s re-establish our relationship with nature by working with it instead of against it. After all, it’s the reason we are here today. There is hope.