Having one foot in the fashion industry and one foot in the sustainability industry is weird, and at times hypocritical. In the last 24 hours, half of the people I know just read scientific proof the world is dying and are reacting appropriately. The other half doesn’t even know that scientific proof exists.
The IPCC Report was released on Monday, and I’m sure you’ve seen some coverage of it on the news, or even a post about it on Instagram.
Often it’s hard to get people to care about things that don’t directly affect them. Studies have proven that we have an ability to have empathy for generations to the third degree – which means that you can genuinely care about your children, your grandchildren, and your great-grandchildren, but anything further removed (unless you’re lucky enough to meet your great-great-grandkids) and we lose connection through our empathy. It just doesn’t directly affect us anymore. We are psychologically unable to care about future generations we will never meet– which is incredibly unhelpful when it comes to caring for our home, Planet Earth.
The IPCC Report is a report that comes out roughly every 7 years, which includes all of the climate work that scientists have been working on about what is happening in terms of our climate and how it relates to us, as well as giving us guidelines and statistics that show different versions of the future, depending on our actions now.
This IPCC Report is the sixth report since 1990, (although this is only the first of three parts of the report – the other two are coming next year), and it’s arguably the most damning.
Mostly about us. The climate crisis in “unequivocally” being caused by human activity, and it’s already affecting every region across the globe.
Scientists have used the benchmark of 1.5ºC in rise of temperature as a benchmark for the point of no return in climate change. Currently, we have a rise of 1.1ºC, and if great and worthwhile changes are not made to global emissions, we will be over the 1.5ºC rise and past the point of no return before the next IPCC report is released at the end of the decade.
If we push past the 1.5ºC boundary, we will have to deal with melting Arctic ice caps, which (no mention of the polar bears) will melt into the sea and consequently cause rising sea levels, which will not only swamp your fancy holiday house in the Bahamas, but will also wipe out huge amounts of habitat for wildlife. Millions will have to migrate inland away from their coastal homes, like the habitants of Bangladesh, who are stuck between flooding homes due to rising sea levels, or urban slums further inland. We will have to deal with crop failures due to saltwater contaminating the soil and making it inviable for farming. And that’s just the rising sea levels.
Storms will become more violent, with typhoons and hurricanes getting stronger and more frequent. Wildfires will burn through more land more frequently. Extreme heat waves will occur every 5 years, making it harder for the environment to take in carbon dioxide due to water shortages. Carbon dioxide levels are at their highest point in 2 million years, and parts of the Amazon rainforest are already starting to emit more carbon dioxide than they take in, due to deforestation to make way for crops and farming. With immediate changes to the way we use non-renewable resources and limiting how much carbon we emit, the natural world will still be able to handle 70% of our carbon. By continuing on the way we’re going, that number falls to 40%.
We always knew we were running out of time, but now it’s down to the crunch, and no amount of individuals recycling plastic bottles or not rinsing their dishes before putting them in the dishwasher will stop the rise in temperature. It is now up to the large corporations – just 20 companies are responsible for over a third of greenhouse gases worldwide – and the governments to put hard and active limitations on companies creating the most pollution.
If there’s one thing we learnt from Covid 19, is that the human race has an incredible ability to pivot, and to adjust to new living conditions. Changing the way we live our lives to proactively save the planet we live on will not make our lives more expensive, more inconvenient, or even stop them all together. You will still be able to eat great food, have amazing holidays, buy beautiful things – it will just look and work slightly different than before. But humans (and as a Taurus, also me) hate change, and change either reluctantly takes a long time, or we have no choice and change happens all at once.
The eco-friendly movement has been gaining steam in the last decade, and it’s far more common for shops to use paper bags than plastic; people to use reusable water bottles rather than buying an Evian; more people are recycling than ever before. Unfortunately, it is still not enough, and individuals are starting to panic, as most of us are doing what we can to benefit the environment.
Actually, the people who make the most impact and have the power to turn the tide are not people at all – they’re corporations and multi-billion-dollar companies. They don’t care about the planet, or climate change, or the melting Arctic ice caps. What they do care about is money, and making money. You may think that you don’t have the power to change policies and the activities of multi-billion-dollar companies – but you do! With your dollar.
Research where you put your money. What you invest in. Try buying from smaller, more eco-friendly businesses. You’ll not only be supporting the planet you live on, but honest people trying to make a living, too.
At the end of the day, the world will go on without us. People paint the “greenies” as hippies who are trying to save the White Rhinos – which sadly did not work – and who sing kumbaya around a campfire. And yes, we are trying to save endangered species – because what a shame it would be to live in a world without lions, or giraffes, or elephants. It’s also called an eco-system for a reason – we are all part of a system, and if one of us falls, the rest of us do too.
The world has been around for billions of years, and human beings are a relatively new addition to the planet. The world has been far hotter and far colder than it is now. There have been ice ages and heat waves that we wouldn’t have been able to live through, and the species that thrived then didn’t survive to live in our changed climate either. The planet will still be around after we go, and what I think some people fail to realize is the climate campaign is not to “save” the planet – the planet will be alright – it’s to save our species and the species that are aligned with us. We are fighting to continue on the human race, and we are collectively committing suicide by making our planet increasingly hostile to live upon.
To finish off, it’s important to realise that under all this frightening and pressing information, there should still be hope and optimism. It’s too easy to look at all the depressing news saying we are past the point of no return, and to give up. What’s the point? We’re screwed anyway!
The thing is – it’s not the end of the world. As Mary Heglar, the renowned environmental essayist, said, “…the thing about warming – whether we’re talking about the globe or an oven – is that it happens in degrees. That means that every slice of a degree matters. And right now, that means everything we do matters. We, quite literally, have no time for nihilism.”
One of my favourite comments to her article was this, “In other words, the pie is already baking hotter than the recipe calls for, but we can still choose whether we want it burned to a char, or just a little overcooked. Either way, we’ll have to eat the pie.”
Being optimistic and having hope not only spurs people to do better, but it stops nihilism from taking hold, and everyone getting depressed and us doing nothing to save the planet, but it’s okay because we’ll all die anyway. No, Marcus Aurelius! Now is the time for action, for hope, for standing up for what you believe in, and for the rights and lives of those less fortunate than us whose lives are already being displaced by climate change. Because soon it will be the privileged, too. There is no escaping the fate of the planet. It’s time to get up and stand up, and save the planet we live on. It’ll only be too late if we do nothing. So let’s do it together.
Image via George Steinmetz, ‘Airplane Shadow’