If We Want a Greener World, We Have to Do It Ourselves
Do we want a world where fracking and GMO are considered green, and where clean energy sources are penalized? No. We want a world where the environment is protected for future generations. Now more than ever, we need to support initiatives that work with nature and invest in green energy sources.
It has been over a year since world leaders signed the United Nations 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change with great pomp, ceremony, and mutual back slapping, but it is debatable whether we are any closer to a greener world. Since the historic signing, some governments are forging ahead with policies and trade agreements that are incompatible with the agreement’s core goals. If we want sustainability, it looks like we are going to have to do it ourselves.
So far, 2017 has not been resplendent when it comes to the fight against climate change. In January, the United Kingdom announced plans to allow fracking in national parks. Hardly a “green” initiative. Many studies have denounced the practice as dangerous, stating that the chemicals used in fracking are carcinogenic, mutagenic, and linked to coronary heart disease and hormone disorders. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns of severe air pollution, groundwater contamination, and threats to wildlife.
Furthermore, while the doors are being swung open for the fracking industry, green energy is facing problems of its own. The UK government announced in February that it will impose higher taxes on businesses, schools, and hospitals that use solar power. Surely, in light of our climate crisis, the use of solar and wind power should be encouraged. Instead, many businesses using green energy will be forced to revert to cheaper, dirtier, energy suppliers. Experts fear this will spell disaster for the UK solar industry, but this issue is global. Some of the trade deals being discussed at the moment could make fighting climate change impossible. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) being negotiated allows corporations to sue governments in secret courts if those governments’ policies affect profits. In effect, this could undo the Paris Agreement’s positive potential.
When it comes to agriculture, while the organic movement is growing, the global market for pesticides has nearly doubled in the last five years. In spite of studies demonstrating just how polluting traditional intensive agriculture is, with its reliance on synthetic fertilizers (human-made compounds derived from the by-products of the petroleum industry) and organophosphates (used as pesticides and herbicides). At a time when we need to nurture, support, and clean up our planet, these industrial practices are speedily dirtying our drinking water, poisoning our soils, polluting our air, and decimating essential species like honey bees.
Hand in hand with these toxic “agricultural aids” are GMO crops, which are designed to withstand huge amounts of pesticides. They are sold as the solution to feeding the world, promising more food with less land, but the contrary is true. According to a Union of Concerned Scientists’ (UCS) report entitled Failure to Yield, organic agricultural practices lead to better yields than genetic engineering and crop spraying. What is more, weeds and pests can develop a tolerance to pesticides, so increasing amounts of chemicals need to be used—good news for the pesticide and petroleum industries, less so for the environment, farmers, and those of us who eat the crops.
Because there are health implications too, these foods are less nutritious. They are engineered using antibiotic-resistant genes, which could have severe public health implications. They contain heavy metals and other toxic substances. A recent study published in Environmental Sciences Europe observed the effects of genetically modified corn and glyphosate pesticides on rats, and found they caused chronic kidney failure, hormone disruption, and tumors. Genetically modified foods have also been linked to autoimmune disorders like celiac disease.
With environmental scientists warning of devastating consequences if we do not step back from our reliance on fossil fuels and the social implications of a world where food is scarce, toxic, and controlled by just a handful of corporations, it is vital that we take action.
You would be forgiven for feeling powerless in the face of all this or frustrated by governments saying one thing, but doing another. However, there is a growing movement towards a greener, fairer world. People are wising up to the environmental and health implications of the status quo, and want to do something about it. This is illustrated by the huge growth of the organic movement, an increasing demand for local, sustainable, and fair-traded produce, as well as the emergence of clean energy providers.
If we want change, we need to start small—with the choices we make every day:
• Choose local and organic: ditch the supermarket, with its produce shipped halfway across the world and packaged in plastic, and find a local farmers’ market where the vegetables are seasonal and grown without synthetic pesticides. This is also a great way to support small independent businesses and your local community.
• Buy mindfully: do a little research and buy from companies that are socially and environmentally responsible.
There has never been a better time to support and invest in green initiatives—these are the initiatives of the future. Now is the time to work with nature and create the world we want: cleaner, greener, fairer, and sustainable.