It is now beyond doubt that our actions as humans are having a detrimental effect on the environment. When it comes to the environment, ask yourself, do you fall into the ‘ignorance’ or the ‘rebellion’ camp? There will be a time when it is too late to turn back the clock – when we will have gone too far – if we don’t start making more of an effort to protect and preserve the beautiful world that we live in. Julia Archer founded the Bath Spa Eco Society in her efforts to start taking positive actions. She has one key message to tell us: we bear the responsibility.
In early November last year, I sat in my uni house with my new friend Mil to watch A Plastic Ocean. Although it began as entertainment, it quickly turned into a lesson that expanded our perception of waste. It is not only what we see on a daily basis, but its excess – the broken-down synthetics in microorganisms, the unknown side effects of bioaccumulation of plastics in humans through fish consumption, and the many places these pieces end up on the planet. We ended the night with various questions, the most evident being: “I know, but what can I do about it?” This doubt seems to be notorious to our generation, with its information overload. Mil and I began the Eco Society at Bath Spa that evening.
Along with other concerned citizens who have joined Extinction Rebellion (XR), I have stood outside the Guildhall for many hours on weekends handing out pamphlets and speaking with the public. What keeps me coming back to the sometimes wet, and dreary afternoons is the positive energy those nearer to me hold: when a young family walks by and commiserates with us of their fears of the future; when a councillor walks out of the building where the important decisions are made to side with us in polite discussion; when bikers cycle past and we come together in a celebratory “Whoop! Carbon neutral!”
Still, when a group of people band together to converse about climate change with the public most of the passers-by mock them with gestures of dismissal or grunts of genuine bother. What strikes me most is this apathy. Considering that nations have been warned to triple their efforts to keep warming below 2°C, why is it that the majority of the population continues without caution?
Spending time spreading the word has made me aware of two things: how interested I have become in saving our planet, and how disinterested the general population can be. The following findings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have been stated by the UN:
- Between 1880 and 2012, average global temperatures increased by 0.85°C. However, “emissions grew more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades”.
- Since 1990, global emissions of CO2 have increased by nearly 50 percent.
- By the end of this century, it is likely that the increase in global temperature will exceed 1.5°C compared to 1850 to 1900.
- “Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries even if emissions are stopped”.
Clearly, we are heading towards catastrophe at a quicker pace than ever before. In light of this evidence, and the sixth-mass extinction on the planet well underway, it is no longer wise to simply point the blame. Instead we should be pushing the facts and taking action. “It is still possible, using a wide array of technological measures and changes in behaviour, to limit the increase in global mean temperature to two degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels”, the IPCC states.
XR perseveres in the hopes of change, and in the hopes of progress and growth in our surrounding natural environment and in our closer community. What a person focuses on – be it money and power, or freedom and nurture – becomes the change that is widely felt and seen in society. Responsibility is a weighted word; it is easy to pass the blame to those in authority. Spread amongst many, however, the burden can be lightened. XR is led by no one and run by everyone. It is where I found solace in the overwhelming ambivalence of beliefs between faith and nihilism that pervades our generation.
As a part of the Rebellion community, it is my own decision not to passively observe dwindling life and to instead actively assert my place on the planet. The world is in need of individual responsibility and collective power. ‘Doomsday’ is not what it says on the label – there may be no mass evacuation, no slow-motion action scenes, no 24-hour countdown to blackout. The last day is today. Responsibility falls on the shoulders of those able to see it and lies in the hands of those courageous enough to face it.
Until the end of 2018, I was as indifferent as the passers-by. Sure, I had learned about climate change in a classroom, watched the preachy documentaries and shared the alarming news on Facebook. However, it is only now that I have begun to do something with that knowledge. Showing an interest in conservation and the environment is just the beginning. To be passionate enough to make conscious consumer decisions that reduce my own carbon footprint is a step in the right direction. To partake in demonstrations that broadcast the imminence of the climate emergency we face is imperative. And you can do the same.
Words by Julia Archer
Featured Image: End Climate Injustice, Jon Tyson.
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