I guess that's what a lot of the climate crisis goes back to for me, it's the inequality of it all. How we can live spontaneously consuming and divulging in what we like which ultimately leads to the consequences being felt first by others across the world.
As Ireland is a nation that's not too bad in terms of economic development and our situation across the globe, isn't it mad to think that for example, our plastic waste could be what's entering our seas and leading to issues across the globe for others who can't afford to fight these problems back? (and shouldn't have to might I add).
So yes, I guess that's what a lot of this goes back to for me; INTEGRITY! aka, doing the right thing even when no one is watching.
aka recycling properly at home, removing plastics from your home, making conscious efforts to change our own behaviours and habits (***choose Narcissips reusables) no matter who sees or even notices.
aka I will get back to the rest of the blog now where I will discuss some quick wins & ways we can each change individually :)
As I always say, two of the great things in this world are that we are all different, and should embrace that and secondly, no one can do everything right all the time, especially regarding the climate crisis. Therefore, there is always somewhere we can all start to make change that suits us individually that we should embrace.
So, 2020 was a blur. I doubt there are too many people who didn't feel some part of the rollercoaster highs and lows that it was. I say highs as I personally felt some benefits, the swap to working from the office to working from home greatly improved my personal care, mental health and activity levels which I am happy about #SmallWins.
I also didn't have to commute every day which meant I had more time to myself each day, and you know what else - was reducing my carbon footprint by doing so! It's that easy folks...
Anyway, with this post, for those who may read it, I want to discuss a few things can help us all ditch "New Year’s Resolutions" and lead to "Narcissips New Year Revolutions" to take our first steps towards a greener Ireland and brighter future this year.
Let's face it, 2021 is still going to be a tough year but that doesn't mean we still can't personally improve. Also, like many psychologist always say, without the bad, we can't appreciate the good and by surviving these tough times, our adversity and resilience levels can improve dramatically making the rest of our hopeful lives seem easier and more positive.
That doesn't take away from the fact that the pandemic is horrendous though and my heart goes out to anyone who has or knows anyone who has held its negative grasp.
So the juicy part; every action adds up. No matter who you are, where you are or what you are (climate crisis & sustainability doesn't engage with picking and choosing).
There are 5 main elements I will review here being 1) Climate, 2) Food, 3) Ocean, 4) Water & 5) Forests & Wildlife
As always mentioned, climate change is the greatest challenge humanity will face. It will take more cohesion, more investment, more strong will than anything ever seen before to combat.
This potentially in my eyes could be seen as our World War III.
Unlike wars however, we are all involved and climate change has the ability to impact every one of us in terms of sea level rise, lack of access to clean water, extreme weather events, issues with agriculture due to deforestation or non-farmable land to mention but a few.
So what can we do here to limit climate change individually? As it all goes back to Carbon the big thing here for a lot of us would be to avoid "taking unnecessary journeys" as the great RTE presenter Teresa Mannion. (if you haven’t seen the video, check this out – it’s gold hah)
Therefore, for 2021 my goals are to;
1) Take the bike, walk or avoid taking the car when not needed! It will help you save some calories and a little bit of Mother Earth as transport in Ireland contributes to over 30% of our emissions. Cycling 1km produces about 21g of carbon emissions considering the manufacturing of the bike & energy (food) required whereas driving can produce over 220g of emissions per km. (but you don't burn calories sitting in your car).
To ask but a simple question, what would we do without food? How important is it to us? Exactly....
To put it into context, food not only gives us what we need to survive from a nutrient point of view but think of it as a business, it provides jobs, security and purpose to more than we could imagine.
Think of the supply chain of your food, farm to plate, and think of everyone involved in that who relies on food production or consumption not only to survive, but to provide for their own families too. Farmers, pickers, drivers, packers to even retailers and there's a lot more in between too.
Not to mention that the production of food is one of the most water intensive areas in the world right now requiring over 60% of our fresh water and also uses over 30% of our land surface.
The issue here, and the easy thing we can do here is think about our food waste. Not only will it save us money each month helping us avoid throwing out food but food waste is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases in the world right now at over 20%. Not to mention the inequality of us actually throwing out perfectly edible food.
Therefore, another small goal of 2021 is to;
2) Consciously consume; to stop throwing out food, to stop overbuying, to stop letting bananas go off (Banana pancakes & banana bread to the rescue)... #SaveourBananas
So Cathal, why are the oceans important. Well... I’m sure if we all think back to our Junior Cert Geography and science classes we would remember that the ocean supplies us with a lot of the oxygen we breathe as well as providing vital supplies of food and livelihood to hundreds of millions of people across the world.
So yes, pretty important.
So what's the issue with the oceans at the moment, well to name but a few I'm also sure we have all heard the scientists reporting since 2018 regarding the estimates that by 2050, there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish... So, think of your Sushi that you may love.
Imagine you found plastic in that, how would you feel?.
The oceans also play an integral role in regulating the earth’s temperature whilst also acting as a carbon sink too, similar to trees but amazingly, store over 80% of our carbon produced. As we continue to produce more carbon though e.g. from driving / excessive use of fossil fuels etc. it leads to a tipping point where as the ocean temperature rise, it leads to the melting ice caps (sea level rise, Ireland - we are an island), more extreme & adverse weather events that can destroy towns and villages, but worst of all - the increased acidity of the oceans from the additional carbon leads to the destruction of Coral Reefs which will negatively impact the habitats of millions of species.
Therefore, another small goal of mine for 2021 is to;
3) Reduce my waste and ensure I recycle correctly and never dispose of anything unethically (aka fling something on the ground) that may inevitably enter the seas and impact marine wildlife.
To do this, I also want to make my apartment that little bit more plastic free e.g. back to old school soap bars, use reusable razors (shout out to @Suds Johnson where I got my James Bond-esque razor from), I also want to continue collecting rubbish on my walks, luckily I live near two beaches/stands. Yes, Covid and all but I feel ok doing that as I have sanitiser readily available but this could be something you could do either. A) Others will see you and feel bad cause it’s their rubbish and they'll stop, B) Others will see you and follow suit and C) you're still playing your part in taking pride in your village even if nothing else... win-win
Now, to one of my favourite areas to discuss at Narcissips as it just blows my mind that we can walk to our kitchen for the most part for access to clean water unlike so many across the world.
While it’s a basic right, it can sadly also be seen as a commodity.
So what does Water mean to you? Not much right? Well it means a hell of a lot to many others who don't have the instant access we have.
Its widely known that 2-3 billion people across the world will have to battle with water scarcity or unsanitary water supplies by 2030 without immediate action.
There was two main places that stand out too, Chennai in India and Cape Town in South Africa who both almost had their own Day Zeros were they almost ran out of water and had to battle with rationing & taxing water.
It was also scary to see the average person in Chennai was living off 33 litres of water a day, almost the same amount of 3 toilet flushes in Ireland the equivalent to la family leaving their tap running whilst brushing your teeth for a week (which we are all guilty of).
It's also worth noting that in Ireland, we are battling our own issues here too. Almost half of our own water supply is lost each year due to poor water infrastructure too which blows my mind.
Aren’t we lucky to be in such a position to battle against those pesky water taxes yet still get access to the water we need as well? #Perspective #Spoilt
So a few of my goals here are to;
4) Never run my tap whilst brushing my teeth / shaving, take shorter showers (I know we all love a bit of hot TLC in the evenings but anyway). Cool water in the fridge in a (Narcissips bottle), glass bottle or even a used plastic bottle to get the most of it rather than running your tap until it gets cold.
I personally also want to continue to ensure Narcissips heavily contributes to providing access to clean water across nations less well-off in comparison to us in Ireland.
**BTW World Water day is 22 March each year
This is one of the scarier parts for me as it can be easily understood in the end the quantum of the issue. (I didn't know I knew that word until I typed it – small wins).
Like the oceans, the forests as we all know are vital to our supply of clean, regulated oxygen. Unfortunately though, humans have led to the destruction of over 40% of the world’s forests.
The forests do more than just provide oxygen too. They absorb carbon before releasing the oxygen, regulate our water supply and ensure millions of species and humans can have a home as well, not to mention that they are a vital source of fuel, food, medicines and building materials. I also can't fathom how much we could rely on for our own livelihoods too. I remember reading about the importance of Bees and it blew my mind like.
But imagine it like this, your back garden is your forest. Your lovely Dog is the equivalent to the animal life in the forests across the world.
How would you feel if someone else came into your back garden and started robbing your plants, roses and digging up the garden that you love watching your Dog run around?
Again, I always go back to perspective as that is what makes me think and want to do more, yet also realise how lucky we are.
Therefore, another small goal of 2021 is to;
5) Support tree planting initiatives (which is under way with several dozen trees to be planted in 2021, some named after the following people by following the link embedded here ).
I also want to choose more recycled paper products and reduce my meat consumption as the meat industry leads to large amounts of deforestation to provide the land required for grazing. I was a heavy meat eater too, no one’s perfect - but changing slowly but surely :)
To summarise the easy steps some of us may start to take that are working for me;
1) Cycle, walk or use public transport as much as possible.
As an avid cyclist, I know for a fact it’s almost always faster to cycle from A to B in Dublin (pending the weather which is a pain I know)
2) Consciously consume; ensure I manage my food waste.
To do this, I walk to the shops daily and only buy what I need which assists with limiting food-waste of perishable goods. I also have swapped away from my once heavy meat diet in favour of more greens and fish. (no one’s perfect). Simultaneously, by walking each day it's saving approx 250-375g per trip of Carbon from driving which is often what I would have done.
3) Ensure I recycle correctly and never dispose of anything unethically or by “wish-cycling” pretending something is recyclable.
Remember, recycling isn’t the holy grail and always best to “avoid” where possible. Various studies have shown that most plastic bottles can only be recycled 2-3 times before they inevitably make their way towards landfill due to their poor chemical compound structure making it impossible for infinite recycling (unlike Glass / Aluminium).
4) Minimise water wastage in the apartment.
Again, I am a lover of a long aul Hot Shower but unless the muscles are in a hape after an aul Hike, it will be avoided.
5) Support tree planting, clean water & educational initiatives (which is under way with several dozen trees to be planted in 2021, some named after the following people by following the link embedded here ) to ensure we can help others live equitably.
So, did you notice anything here?
I hoped you noticed how easy it was to build some of these changes and practices into our own lives.
They're all small, easily manageable and very doable. As always, I feel it’s our behaviours and habits that play a massive part in the climate crisis. We also can only control what we do as individuals. Unfortunately, we can't change the petrochemical or fossil fuel industry overnight but we can each change our behaviours.
And that is the most powerful thing I have ever thought of in my life and said since 2018.
As always, thank you.
Cathal O'Reilly aka Narcissips