Choices – The Right One, Or The Convenient One?

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By Dominic O’Sullivan

Everyday, we are faced with choices.  Some are easy, like I fancy a cheese sandwich, or maybe salmon!  Some not so easy, shall I resign and get another job, or stay here?  However, there is nothing easy about the choices we are going to have to make over the next decade.  Yes, I am talking about the Climate Emergency!

How did we get there?

Everyday, I get up and begin to ponder where we are, and what folly we are capable of next.  This world, this God-given world, was the Garden of Eden, and we, its custodians. We have literally destroyed the garden and made it into a concrete jungle of urban communities.  Nature has been largely banished, even outlawed, from this environment in which some 60% of the world’s population now lives, and we have singularly failed to establish and maintain intrinsic values to love, enjoy and respect nature.  Instead, over time, we have inbred Greed, Ignorance and Indifference to a point where global destruction is just something that happens somewhere away from us, and we do not consider how it is cumulatively killing the very planet we call our home.

Jane Goodall was already seeing the writing on the wall in the 1960s – NMH Graphics by DH.

People Wake Up!  There is nowhere else for us to go!

What we are now facing!

We have totally failed to consider that each generation is born into the environment we leave behind for them. Like hatchling ducks, we latch onto the first thing we see and follow blindly, and what we see, we assume, is the norm!

Well, it clearly is not!  It is not the norm to lay waste the wilderness, it is not the norm to exploit the minerals of the earth, to pollute the rivers and the very air that we breath; it is not the norm to ‘pave
paradise and put up a parking lot’.

Our reliance on and abuse of fossil fuels (even when other technologies and innovations were available) is coming home to roost.  The Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) emitted are already at limits that will continue to have a hugely damaging effect on our planet for decades to come, even if we, everyone of us, stopped using fossil fuels tomorrow.  So, what will be the effect of NOT ceasing to use fossil fuels?

Jane Goodall’s message to the Global Leaders and Politicians – NMH Graphics by DH.

In the global context, our leaders and politicians have been deaf and blind to the mounting evidence, and have chosen instead to stay on a course towards economic development at almost any cost. In the short term, this has enabled them to draw our attention away from the evidence, dire though it is. In many cases, their populations have been kept in the dark by the crisis rarely appearing on the news, nor in the media. In Malaysia, I understand that environmental studies do not even appear in educational curriculum, which is strange for a land so rich in natural resources and biodiversity. Instead, when pressed to comment, there has been a string of denials that there is even a problem (a position the USA has held for years), or a smokescreen of statements confirming commitment to the cause and assurances that ‘we are on track’ but then there is no follow up and no way of getting reliable data.

For example, from my own studies and searches, I was expecting that Malaysia’s rainforest was perhaps
around 40%, until I heard an alleged government statistic (quoted at the KLEFF – KL Environmental Film
Festival – in 2018) by a representative of one of the bigger oil palm producers) that Malaysia was still 60%
tree covered. It turned out ‘tree covered’ included plantations. In the last week, a high-profile activist
at the hearing for the Degazettement of the Kuala Langat North Forest Reserve stated that Malaysia has
maybe only 20% of its virgin forest remaining. Despite this, our state leaders sanction further
degazettement of remaining forest pockets for yet more ‘economic development and palm oil’, when
the planet needs at least 50% of its forest to remain self-sustaining i.e. keeping us alive and healthy.

What, therefore, are our Choices?  What are our Priorities? 

If it really comes down to it, may I assume that our children, and their children, take first priority?

Good! Then we need to consider how this pending Climate Catastrophe is affecting them now and in the next 50 years.  We need to take seriously the fact that if we do not change our ways, they will inherit a dying earth (and it is seriously ill) with a bleak outlook for recovery. That means we have to be prepared to forgo many of the conveniences that we take for granted today; to change our travel habits; to change our shopping habits; to go without certain luxuries (including those which some of us have come to consider as essentials). 

We absolutely must be prepared to educate ourselves as to what we really need to do to survive this, and then take the hard decisions, make the right choices!  

Jane Goodall puts it really well – NMH Graphics by DH.

I recently qualified as a Climate Reality Leader as part of US VP Al Gore’s campaign to raise Climate Crisis awareness.  It was sobering.  In it, he asked three questions:

  •             Must We Change?
  •             Can We Change?
  •             Will We Change?

Let’s consider Question 3: Will We Change?

For too long, Greed, Ignorance and Indifference have dominated the way the world works, and we have all been accomplices to a plan that has benefitted a few, misled many, and subjugated nearly all of us to a state of mental incapacity to think for ourselves and to adopt common sense.  The casualties of this ‘progress’ have been our relationship with Nature and the Environment, an escalation of Inequality across the globe, and the total undermining of Global Public Health, of which our current pandemic stands out as the prime example.

We have slid into bad habits.  We have allowed ourselves to be herded like sheep, to follow the piper, believing there is safety in numbers and, like lemmings, we simply hurtle on to imminent disaster.

Somehow, we have lost wisdom and our capacity to see past the neon lights, the adverts and the constant encouragement of immediate gratification, and it will be a hard habit to break.  But, if we agree that the threat is real, and that the things we hold most dear are at risk, then we must act, and we must change.

However, Change is difficult.  Moving into a discomfort zone is usually avoided, but that is the challenge for all of us.  Are we prepared to make changes that may involve sacrificing much of what we currently value for the sake of future generations, for the sake of our planet, for the sake of our families?

Now, we have to make HARD CHOICES! The Inconvenient Truth that Al Gore wrote about nearly twenty years ago has arrived, and can no longer be avoided.

Are You Ready?

What Can We Do Now? Today.

Individually, we can start with our daily habits which might include:

  1. Reduce our GHG emissions by reducing fossil fuel consumption, use car less, car share, don’t idle, use AC less, consider changing to an electric car.
  2. Promote Renewable Energy (RE) – Solar Panels; energy efficient buildings; LED lighting etc
  3. Protect the environment everywhere – peatlands, mangroves, wetlands, forests. Preserve Carbon sinks (Peat deposits). Regulate urban developments – challenge what you see such as tree removal and river disturbance
  4. Encourage and Adopt Circular Economy – buy eco-friendly and reusable products whenever you can
  5. Better waste management – prioritise RRR (especially plastics), separate your waste
  6. Reduce food waste. Eat less meat and buy local to reduce Carbon footprint e.g. strawberries and blueberries flown from another continent
  7. Join a Conservation group – plant trees, protect wildlife, develop an appreciation of nature, and that we are part of it
  8. LOBBY YOUR MP to act and to seek information on what the government is doing to address this most serious issue that mankind has ever faced

To become better informed about the nature of the challenge we now face, you can also approach Climate Reality and ask for a Climate Reality Leader to address you community, your company, your club or society, and that will be arranged; it can even be done remotely.

The World depends on us, you and I, making the right choices NOW!

Our future generations depend on what we do next. No, what we do now! – Photocredit: Dominic O’Sullivan

Our families depend on YOU and I making the right choices NOW! – New Malaysia Herald

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