This past Friday, I had the opportunity to speak at Phase Shift, a new platform for young people to share and talk about the things they are passionate about. This event was similar to TED Talks but unique as it gave the opportunity for ordinary people to share their extraordinary ideas. I delivered a speech on how the destruction of our environment will affect us, as human beings. When we think of environmental issues, our demise usually does not come to mind. However, we are headed on a path, which will affect our survival as a species but we do not realize it. Here are excerpts of the speech, condensed into a blog form.
Every month in 2016 has been the hottest month globally, and we are on track for it being the hottest year ever. Here, in Toronto, we had countless heat warnings and, it was actually too hot during the summer. In addition, if we do not do anything, global temperature will raise 4C by 2100, which will lead to disastrous results. In addition, last Monday, August 8, we passed Ecological Debt Day, meaning we used more resources than the Earth can be regenerate annually. In 1971, we passed this day near the end of the year but this year, we crossed this day with over 4 more months to go.
When we think of environmental issues such as climate change, we usually think of polar bears and cutting down trees, right? Problems humans face such as poverty, illness, war and food insecurity usually do not come to mind. Well, those problems are interconnected with the degradation of our environment, far more than we think. Humans are being affected by our natural environment not just physically but mentally, socially, psychologically and economically. We think, we are somehow superior to nature but the truth is, we are very dependent on it too
Part 1 - Climate Change and Poverty/Financial Loss
First and foremost, climate change will lead to a lot more poverty and financial losses. According to the World Bank, Climate Change could push 100 Million people into extreme poverty by 2030! Yes thats the time when people like me will be in our early thirties hoping to be at the peaks of our carreers, looking for bigger houses and raisning happy families. But would that dream come true for all of us as 100 million is a big number around three times the population of Canada. Do we still think its not a huge problem and we have all the time in the world to fix it.
With climate change, comes a lot more extreme weather such as fires, floods and droughts which can result in crop failures, and in turn food shortages and the loss of livelihoods. According to that World Bank report, crop losses as large as 5 per cent by 2030 and 30 per cent by 2080 are predicted. With these crop losses means less food ,higher prices, unaffordability and poverty.
Increased natural disasters will also lead to more devastation, damage to infrastructure, physical and economic losses. A few months ago, it happened right here at home, in Canada when forest fires devastated Fort McMurray. Climate change is suspected as a prime culprit in the rise of these fires. It has been the biggest financial burden on the Canadian government in years and the money comes from tax payers. So you are actually paying for it, literally. Industry insured losses from the fire were estimated at between $4.4 billion to $9.0 billion! The actual number is probably a lot more,. And, now, this month there's floods in Fort McMurray, on top of that too! Many people say that increased environmental regulation is bad for the economy and hurts industries, which it can to an extent. however climate change and increased natural disasters will lead to a lot of financial losses.
Part 2 - Illness and The Environment
Climate change also results in the spread of diseases such as malaria and more recently, the Zika virus. With warming temperatures, mosquitoes can go into regions that were too cold for them previously and spread the disease to more people. So, climate change will make you sick...literally.
There are also the health concerns associated with air pollution. Did you know that around 7 million deaths in 2012 were a result of air pollution! Or that asthma rates in the US rose more than 15% between 2001 and 2010, as a result of polluted air? And yes, canned air is a real thing.
There's a meme that went around social media not too long ago, which said " If trees gave off free WiFi, we would be planting them everywhere. Too bad they only produce the oxygen that we breathe," you guys have probably seen that on social media. It represents how, we are so engrossed in our lives and material goods that we forget about the very things that keep us alive.
In addition, since last year, the city of Flint in Michigan, has been plagued by a water crisis. The city's tap water had been contaminated with lead, and trihalomethanes leading to lead poisoning. Governor Snyder admitted that the water was unsafe to drink, declared a state of emergency and gave an official apology. Since then, the government, the National Guard and charities have been distributing bottled water and water filters to residents. As of this July, after filtering the tap water, the EPA has declared it safe for consumption. You can read the backstory in another blog post.
Part 3 - Indigenous Communities and The Environment
Many indigenous communities are on the forefront of environmental destruction as they are more connected to their natural environment. To this day, rivers and lakes in the Grassy Narrows First Nation, right here in Ontario are contaminated with mercury! Remember today if we are not going to stand up for the wrong practices that hurt others tomorrow nobody would help us when its going to be our turn. Action and Action now is the key.
Part 4 - The Basic Solutions
We can play a big role in protecting our environment, In the same way as we play quiet a decent role in destroying it. If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make the change. We will be at the forefront of many of these problems because we will be living through it more than our forefathers . We can start with personal solutions, such as conserving energy, reducing, reusing and recycling. In fact, did you know that recycling 1 aluminum can save enough energy to run our TVs for at least 3 hours.
You can also walk, bike and take transit as well as eating local, and organic food, Disclaimer, I am not sponosred by whole foods and I also find the organic apples a bit too pricey.
we can reduce our meat consumption. The livestock industry, accounts for 18% of the world's greenhouse gases and uses a lot of resources. In fact to produce one kg of beef, it would take 5-7 kg's of grains, and between 5,000 - 20,000 litres of water! Please don't hate me all Atkins and low carb high protein diets adovocates.
Part 5 - Get Involved and Have Your Voice Heard
But even if you follow all these conservation habits, there's something else you can do too at all levels. You can get involved at grassroots levels in your schools and communities.You can make neighbourhood watch teams focusing on environmental issues, or organize small events, how about picnics where people plant trees . What about making a fruit and vegetable patch in your back yards. I've started growing tomatoes in my garden and I hope to grow more fruits and vegetables. But don't take my word for it, Jessica Alba does it too, and her Honest company based on eco friendly products is worth one billion. Upcycling, sharing and swapping goods & shopping at thrift shops are also helpful solutions. You can also consider reclaimed and refinished furniture. My sister recently purchased a refinished desk and it looks just as good, if not better than a brand new one and is substantially cheaper.
You can Encourage your family to make positive changes and be part of organizations dedicated to awareness, education and the preservation of our natural environment. The Peel Environmental Youth Alliance, or PEYA for short, is one of those organizations, in the Peel Region, where I am on the executive council. involved in educating youth across Peel Region about environmental issues and mobilizing them to make a difference. You can get involved on a political level too, by reaching out to your local politicians to tell them how important a clean, healthy environment is to you and to advocate for policy. You can rally and get your voices heard, like the thousands who came out ot the March for jobs, justice and climate last summer. Our government is already doing a lot of great things such as signing the COP 21 agreement, Working on a climate change plan and creating the Prime Minister's Youth Council for youth to have their voices heard, but there is still a long way to go. There is so much we can do and every little bit counts.
Many people will say that the environment is not important or that we have all the time in the world to fix it but we don't. Many people don't realize is that it's not just about the extinct tigers, polar bears and elephants but it's about our existence too! Environmental issues are human rights issues. They are social justice issues. They are issues of our survival! We are a generation of creators and innovators and we can and we should make a positive change to reduce our carbon foot print and make this world really a better place for you and for me and the entire human race.
As James Hansen, former NASA director said, "Either we will change our ways, or they will be changed for us". Let's start changing our way before it's