I went to see Chasing Ice on Sunday, about James Balog’s visionary quest to record the loss of global ice in photographs, clear proof that human beings have caused climate change. His photographs are both awesome and terrifying, cataloguing as they do the dramatic loss of glacial ice in the last few years compared with the last hundred, and the evidence from the ice-cores of the unbelievably high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now, compared with stable levels over the last several thousand years.
This film confirmed for me how essential it is for us all to act now to reverse the changes we have caused to happen to our climate.
I know that it can be tremendously daunting to know what we can do, if there is anything we can do, to make a difference when faced with such global catastrophe. Where do we start, what will work, is it worth trying?
I also know from my own experience of teaching building skills to people who have never done it before, that we can all do things we never thought we could by being given time, permission and encouragement to do so, and that small changes taken together can lead to major change.
I do believe it is worth it, it’s important, and it makes a difference to begin with the small things that are within our power to change. Like throwing a pebble into a lake; the ripples reverberate far beyond where we are. As consumers we have a tremendous amount of collective power and if we all act together we can literally change the world! And if we offer an alternative, it can eventually become the norm. Having been laughed at a lot when I first started encouraging people to build with strawbales, and now seeing the techniques being taken seriously, I see how we can make change happen.
Working on the basis that materials that require little processing and transportation will help revert climate change by reducing the amount of energy or raw materials needed for their production, some of the things we can begin to do right now are:
Clothes – buy local second hand as much as possible. Only buy new clothes made from natural materials. Wool, cotton and leather all come from natural sources and require little processing. Buy clothes made as close as possible to where you live. Start knitting!
Cosmetics – don’t wear them. Believe you are beautiful as you are, and you will be! There are also many products available, made locally from home-grown plants – buy those if you can’t wean yourself off them straight away.
Plant trees! – they take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the atmosphere.
Insulation – put in as much as you can in your house – it will reduce the amount of fuel you need to heat your home. Only use natural or recycled materials: sheepswool, hemp, cotton, woodfibre board, cork, recycled foamglass, recycled paper pulp, straw.
Buildings – only design using natural materials: timber, clay, straw, sheepswool, hemp, woodfibre board. All materials made from plants store carbon dioxide within themselves, easily making it possible to build carbon negative houses.
Household items – stop using manufactured chemicals and use simpler cleaning methods eg elbow grease, white vinegar, bicarbonate of soda. Stop being obsessed with cleaning in the first place – the natural world is friendly and healthy to live in.
Transport – walk, and if you can’t get to where you want to be, ask if it’s necessary to get there. Use public transport, buy an electric car, share cars, hitch hike.
OK so you’ve got the idea – this is not an exhaustive list, it’s my list, it’s a beginning, a suggestion. We have to start from where we are, do what we can, and more people will become empowered by our example and encouragement. Good luck!