Yesterday, on Sunday 21st September over 675,000 worldwide marched to raise their voices and send a message that they are concerned about climate change and implore world leaders to act to mitigate the near inevitable changes in climate as much as is humanly possible. I myself marched in London, part of a 40-50,000 strong climate army. It felt brilliant to be a part of something that felt truly historic. This was a march that felt different to most climate events in the past. This march surpassed all previous events in size and commitment but is clearly only the beginning of a long discussion about how future generations should live in the world. Whilst marching I met many people from across the country – from Dorset to Suffolk, from Hammersmith to Hertford – who had travelled to London for many different reasons, mostly very personal. Most had something tangible to lose in their local area should sea levels continue to rise at the current rate or if weather becomes more unpredictable but also had an awareness that they were part of a global family and had a responsibility to stand up for other members of that family. However, something that clearly came from my discussions with people was that there is a feeling that we have left things too late. What can we really do now? It may appear that global temperatures have remained stable for the past decade or so but most credible scientists say that this is only a temporary hold. What we can do is mitigate the effects as much as we can but also adapt our behaviour to live in a new world. We are all responsible for taking action, however small, as well as embracing technology that allows us to live more sustainably.
I still take issue with the industrial economic view that a growing population is a good thing – personally I would not be unhappy if we saw a drop in population levels – but this is the reality. We will continue to exploit the earth’s resources but we need to slow the pace of this extraction and take responsibility for the planet. It is not just our species that will suffer but countless others, big and small, and we need to ensure that we don’t forget this. The golden toad (Bufo periglenes) and the harlequin frog (Atelopus varius) of Costa Rica have disappeared as a direct result of global warming. Polar bears in the Hudson Bay area of Canada are losing weight because the ice breaks up 2 weeks earlier in spring, robbing them of 2 weeks’ hunting. Fish stocks that used to stay in Cornwall have moved as far north as the Shetland Islands. This is the reality that people (especially our leaders) need to wake up to. The seasons themselves are changing affecting food production and with it the stability of a global economy that relies on stable food prices – if anything, instability is the current future vision. It is easy to appear gloomy when talking about this issue and perhaps that is why many shy away from it but it is something that we cannot ignore; for the sake of ourselves, other species and future generations of ourselves and other species. If we change the average person’s view on climate change we can also bring them to think about biodiversity loss, about soil erosion, about overfishing, about the instability and unsustainable practices involves in mineral extraction. Acting on climate change provides a chance for us to reflect on our whole global society and ways of living. Let’s try and imagine a different future and then make it happen.