By Rich Bowden
Have you ever wondered how best to make a difference for our environment?
Over the last six months, it’s been my privilege and pleasure to work with Mark Spencer as co-founder of the podcast Climactic. The show is a collection of interviews with people in the sustainability sector in Australia, with an emphasis on the damage wrought by climate change and how we can best go about repairing our environment. It also contains lively roundtable discussions of interest and has grown to be a quality weekly program gaining in popularity.
It’s also great fun. It’s always a great feeling to bring new information to listeners, practical ideas and strategies they can act on in their lives. Mark’s energy and commitment to the cause of reducing climate change and bringing sustainable ideas to regular folk have been an inspiration. The whole process though has also been a big learning curve for someone like myself.
For I’ve acquired a firm belief (later in life than it should be it must be said!) that you never, ever stop learning, never stop finding new stories, new philosophies, new methods, new ways to approach old or existing problems. The permaculture way of always looking for the solution within the problem itself is a great example of how to approach changes. This includes small changes such as increased sustainability at the household level, to bigger, seemingly insurmountable, problems such as countrywide or even global climate change.
Such has been the case working with Mark on bringing interviews to listeners. However, while I’ve noticed a great deal of wisdom in talking to guests, I’ve also noticed, not exactly a difference of opinion, but a difference in style between some of them over the best way to go about environmental action. Neither “camp” (for want of a better word) is wrong it's just, as I say, a different strategy in combatting climate change.
This has raised the question: Where should we be directing our limited time and energy to create a more sustainable world for our kids? The more I learn, the more I realise the answer is a little more nuanced than I originally believed. For we all have a finite amount of time and energy after work and family commitments to spend on worthy, even imperative causes such as youth homelessness in our community, working to make our schools a better place for our kids, or reducing our carbon footprint, to name but three. Focusing on sustainability and climate change, as that is the topics we cover in Climactic, it’s become apparent to me that finding the approach that suits our household best is paramount.
Many of our guests have wonderful advice and ideas on how to approach leading a more sustainable life. How to reduce one’s carbon footprint and eat a more healthy diet at the same time. How we can best be the change we see. Many have correctly said personal sustainability is a core issue that needs to be addressed by every household if we are to keep global temperatures to within the recommended limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius.
However, a few of our other guests have said that, while this is vitally important that we do change our ways in this way, it really is only half, if not a quarter of the battle. Getting back to that limited amount of time and energy argument, a number of our guests have pointed out that the majority of our time should be spent looking at ways to lobby polluting businesses to reduce their carbon footprint. Also the importance of lobbying local, state and federal governments to enact responsible policies that provide a framework for action on climate change. A number of our interviewees who have served, or are serving, in an elected capacity, pointed out how crucial support for progressive policies is or was to them. On a council level, the argument they put forward is that many people only take an interest in the policies of councillors at election time but ignore the workings between these times.
It’s instructive to look at this from the perspective of the elected councillor. If they believe they have the support of a group of people who back their progressive agenda, on issues such as local ways to mitigate against climate change, Council programs to encourage methods such as composting, waste disposal, education programs and more, they will find it easier to push through Council meetings.
So, to come back to the original question: where to best spend our limited time on efforts to boost sustainability, the answer may lie in spending time on both. Perhaps the best way to do the best for our children is to join a local group concerned about sustainability issues at a local, state and federal level. Become active in their efforts to pressure politicians to implement sustainable programs. Major issues such as whether or not the gigantic Adani mine in the Galilee Basin in Central Queensland will go ahead have been rejected by a vast number of Australians, concerned that the carbon emissions will dwarf that of current fossil fuel emissions in Australia.
However other initiatives are closer to home. We can take an interest in Council waste programs and educational programs at a local level. Fully support those, often lonely, Councillors who attempt to push these initiatives through their local administration. Another powerful way to make your voice heard is where you put your money. Now you may consider that your decision to refuse to buy products that are over-packaged at the supermarket may not amount to much. However, a determined campaign by groups of people will get noticed. Social media awareness campaigns have mobilised thousands to boycott products considered to be unethical or damaging to the environment. Another effective way of backing our environment — possibly even more powerful than consumer boycotts — is carefully selecting where you put your superannuation. Have you considered ethical investments? Ones that steer clear of investing in fossil fuel companies and environmentally destructive operations such as forest clearing. Combine this with a determination to use less single-use plastics to help save ocean creatures and reduce pollution, as well as learning how to grow some of your own vegetables and you’re well on your way to doing something tangible to make the world a better, more livable place.
It’s a great start anyway, despite the enormity of the problem. Please let us know if you have any ideas on the problem of how best to spend to spend precious time and energy on sustainability (and other) issues. We’d love to hear from you.
Rich Bowden is a freelance writer, podcaster, family man, coffee drinker and news junkie. He spends most of his time looking puzzled and saying stuff like “you’re never too old to learn” to anyone who will listen. Likes a laugh. Otherwise harmless. Podcasts at Climactic, The Real Food Chain and Permaculture Plus.