When my family moved to our new home in Alabang in 1991, we enjoyed the nightly spectacle of fireflies glowing in our garden. I soon learned that these beneficial insects were extremely sensitive to environmental conditions and could thrive only in a healthy habitat.
When they completely disappeared after a few years, I found out that many firefly species, of which there were more than 2,000, were actually in danger of extinction due to human activity.
We humans have also been responsible for a more serious phenomenon which today poses the biggest threat to our own species and other life forms on our planet. Global climate change is today’s stark reality. It is the new normal, and is expected to only get worse over time.
With unprecedented heat waves and cold spells, extreme weather disturbances, droughts, floods, uncontrolled forest fires, food and water shortages, resurgent diseases and a host of other climate-related crises around the world, only the most naive, the most selfish and the most callous remain in denial. The great irony is that while nature always survives and heals itself eventually, many of today’s life forms, including humans, have become endangered, and some may not survive.
Gravely wounded planet
Our generation will not see the worst of this unfolding tragedy, but our more immediate descendants will bear the brunt of it. That the next generation is seriously concerned about inheriting a gravely wounded planet was dramatically manifested last September when millions of citizens from some 150 countries, led by students, gathered in thousands of locations and held numerous strikes protesting climate change, citing countries most responsible and condemning the lack of effective action from world leaders.
These protests were timed immediately before the United Nations Climate Action Summit held on Sept. 21-25.
“How dare you!” Greta Thunberg, 16-year-old Swedish student activist and the face of the youth in the ongoing battle against climate change, emphatically rebuked world leaders during the summit, accusing them of continuous inaction on the crisis despite scientific evidence of its threat to the future and the youth.
She continued, “People are suffering, people are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy-tales of economic growth.”
Sadly, many adults today are still only vaguely aware or worse, hardly concerned about the disastrous long-term effects of climate change on human quality of life and survival. Here’s a brief review:
Man’s heavy use of fossil fuels (petroleum, coal, natural gas) to generate energy and electricity for residential, commercial and industrial use results in the emission of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, fluorocarbons, etc.) which in turn cause the earth’s surface temperature to rise (global warming). This is the driver of climate change, manifested by various environmental disruptions, especially in the weather.
Recent examples are record-breaking temperatures (90 degrees in usually cold Anchorage, heat waves causing fatalities in major European cities, e.g. 108 degrees in Paris), accelerated melting of glaciers and rising sea levels, which will eventually inundate low-lying cities and islands.
Extreme weather events (hurricanes, typhoons, tornadoes) are also becoming common; droughts and floods cause food scarcity, forcing many to migrate and become climate refugees. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 18 of the 19 warmest years ever recorded have occurred since 2000 (cited figures are from an article in the Los Angeles Times in google.com).
Although it’s too late to avert or reverse climate change, the consensus is that we can still mitigate its worst long-term consequences if we act individually and collectively (official local and international action and private advocacy initiatives).
To do our share, I sifted through hundreds of suggestions in various internet sites, and I have culled what I believe are the most practical (and common) ones we can do here starting now:
Use less electricity at home. This is probably the most important single action you can take. If enough homes used less electricity, the decreased collective demand to generate it will mean less greenhouse gases released in the atmosphere.
Buy inverter appliances, i.e. air conditioners, refrigerators and freezers. You help the environment while you save money by cutting electrical consumption by 30 to 50 percent; unplug electronic devices (TV, PC), switch off lights when not in use; buy energy-saver light bulbs; install solar panels; hang-dry laundry instead of using the dryer whenever possible; insulate your home.
Travel wisely—buy a hybrid car for your next vehicle; take public transportation whenever practical (a friend, the president of a major bank, regularly takes the P2P bus to and from Makati); car-share/ride-share; fly less (with the travel and tourism boom, this one will probably fall on deaf ears, but think how many thousands of car trips will equal the emissions from 1,000-mile jumbo-jet airplane trip).
Avoid using plastic products as much as possible. Plastic is made from fossil fuels and is very durable, making plastic waste a major pollutant to the environment.
Reduce your digital footprint. Instead of repeatedly streaming your favorite online programs, download them; erase obsolete content and emails from your computer.
Eat more climate-friendly meals—eat less meat, especially beef, because cows are a major source of methane gas emission in the atmosphere; eat more organically grown vegetables and fruits.
Conserve water. Turn off the faucet when you’re not actually using it, while taking a bath, washing up or brushing your teeth; buy water-saving bathroom and kitchen fixtures.
Plant trees. The recent wildfires in the Amazon jungle and Indonesia and the frequent ones in the United States not only deplete the world’s oxygen producing forests, but are a major source of warming air pollution.
Vote for political candidates committed to climate-friendly measures and legislation. —CONTRIBUTED