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What do Governments Need to do to Tackle the Climate Crisis?

As world leaders gather in Glasgow for COP26, we take a look at some ways that governments can begin dealing with the climate crisis.

Whose responsibility is it to face down the climate crisis?

It’s a question with many avenues but really only one answer – everyone’s.

It goes without saying that governments play a huge role in combatting the crisis – something that is starkly crystallised in all our minds as world leaders gather in Glasgow for the COP26 summit. We’re sure you don’t need to be told just how important this summit is for establishing a blueprint for the world to reach net-zero, but perhaps the focus on government’s role in dealing with the climate crisis is a bit of an over-simplification.

Unless they have more authoritarian tendencies or an iron grasp over the economy in a way that a country like China does, governments simply don’t have the power to implement the society-wide changes necessary to fully solve the climate crisis.

That’s not to say that there aren’t vital things that governments should be doing like ending fossil fuel subsidies, making public transport cheaper, and creating social programs to support things like insulation to name but a few.

However, what is really needed is a campaign to change public thinking across all sectors of society, from businesses to schools to everyday homes.

One of the most powerful things about the government’s response to COVID-19 was not its stay-at-home order; it was the campaign that convinced people that it was the thing that they needed to do. The vast majority of people shut themselves away from their loved ones and any kind of social gatherings for an entire year, not necessarily because the law dictated it, but because we knew it was the right thing to do; the only thing to do.

The same can be true of dealing with the climate crisis.

Thus far, activism has been one of the few voices advocating for action on the climate crisis, be it from groups like Extinction Rebellion, public figures like David Attenborough, or articles like this one.

Activism is essential but is, by nature, counter to the establishment. The establishment needs to endorse these messages. No one needs convincing that the climate crisis is real anymore, nor that action is required. People need to be told by institutional figures what can and needs to be done, building consensus and co-operation across our society.

What we need is a civilisation-wide ideological shift – so that the world of business turns towards greener pastures, so that people know what changes they need to make in their homes, so that no one is wondering why nothing’s being done because we’re all doing it.

It’s not the government’s responsibility to solve the climate crisis, it’s all of ours. But government does need to nurture the environment for that knowledge to become ingrained in our social psyche, as well as righting all the systematic wrongs that is exacerbating this emergency.

The climate crisis is not something that can be solved by one single authoritative body, it needs co-operation and constant pressure from the incredible power of the collective.

Together we are mighty – it’s time that government started utilising that power.

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What Does it Mean to be ‘Connected’ to Nature?

Having a meaningful connection with nature is essential to our mental health and wellbeing, but what does that really mean?

This May, Mental Health Awareness Week was centred around an important and intriguing subject – nature. Whether one finds it in time spent in green spaces, by a meandering waterway, or lovingly tending to your houseplants, your connection to nature is a crucial element of supporting good mental health in all of us. 

Spending time in nature can have some astounding effects on one’s mental health, significantly reducing anxiety, depression, stress, and anger, as well as greatly improving feelings of self-actualisation, relaxation, and your self-esteem. 

However, interestingly, the Mental Health Foundation states that it’s not necessarily the quantity of time that we spend in nature that counts, but the quality of that time. 

In other words, it’s really important that we connect with nature

two people in field

‘Connecting with nature’ is a term that can get thrown around a lot. So much so, you’d be forgiven if it conjures images of ‘hippy-dippy-tree-huggers’ rather than your own relationship with nature. Although trees definitely give some of the best cuddles, these kinds of connotations tend to be more abstract and out of reach, which isn’t particularly productive when we’re talking about something that is very real, and very important to our relationship with ourselves, our minds, and our world.

 So, what does it really mean to connect with nature? 

Connecting with nature is all about feeling like you have a close relationship and emotional attachment with the natural world. These can be feelings of empathy, care, and even love. 

We can bring this about through mindful, focused, sensual activities in nature: really paying attention to the way that your houseplants are growing, listening intently to the beauty of birdsong and the wind in the trees, feeling the grass and soil beneath your feet and fingers, or a tree’s bark beneath the palm of your hand. 

It’s important to stop, turn your attention to nature and really feel the impact it has on you – the feelings of peace, prosperity and partnership. We call it a connection to nature because it’s about realising that we are connected to it in a way that the modern world doesn’t often acknowledge.

We are, in the most objective sense, animals. We grew up in nature, depended upon it, and lived amongst it for hundreds of thousands of years. In many ways, we still do. It is our natural habitat and that hasn’t changed in the last couple of centuries. 

But more than that, we are a part of nature, not apart from it, in just the same way that the trees, the birds, and all the animals of the world are. 

It can be incredibly easy to forget that – each of us becoming so trapped within the cube of human civilisation with our phones, jobs, and everyday worries that we lose that sense of being a piece of the world that we live upon. 

Even with our words, we draw a sharp distinction between ‘the natural world’ and our own, as if we are inhabiting an entirely different place, born of some different ancestry, utterly apart from all else that we know of the universe.

It’s here that problems start to arise. 

leaf

Returning to our ancestral home can be a wonderful antidote – noticing the place from which we come, the incredible beauty within it, and therefore within us. There is an astounding amount to be learned from nature, and an inconceivable amount of solace to be found in it. 

One can see everything in the world around us and draw comfort in it. You can see seasons and weather come and go with beauty and wonder, heartbreak and horror, but must importantly, an infinite capacity for healing and growth. 

All you have to do is look.

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Stating the Obvious: Why do Sustainable Products Cost More?

Contamination

Ethically and sustainably sourced items may be a little more expensive, but it depends on how we judge the true cost of our purchases. 

We’ve all been there – stood in the toothbrush aisle of the supermarket, confronted by hundreds of options in a brain-frazzling array of colours, with nothing to really differentiate between them except price. Obviously, you instinctively reach for the cheapest one, perhaps available for a grand total of 50p.

But then you catch yourself, silently scold yourself, and reach dutifully for the only bamboo toothbrush on the shelf, pretending not to wince when you see that it’s £3.50…on sale. 

Although living sustainably is so much cheaper in so many ways, the fact of the matter is that if you want to buy new products that are good to both the planet and the people on it, there’s a bit of a premium attached. 

But why? 

Bamboo

Well, there’s a number of reasons, most of which come down to materials and processes.

First of all, the widespread commercialisation of sustainable products like bamboo toothbrushes is a fairly recent occurrence, and as such, neither the consumer demand nor the infrastructure for sourcing the materials is as readily available as it is for more traditional items. For all the countless factories that make plastic, there are sadly only a limited number of bamboo farms thus far.

However, as demand grows for sustainable products, so will the infrastructure around their production. This means you get to feel twice as good when you do buy ethical alternatives, because on top of saving the planet, you’re also helping to build a future in which they’re the norm. So good job!

The second reason, whilst similar, is a bit more complex. It concerns greater problems relating to the state of capitalism and commerce as a whole, and is the primary reason why you should buy from small, ethical businesses

The standard argument for free market capitalism reads a bit like this: increased competition pushes prices down, which is better for consumers because then they pay less and lead happier lives.

In an idealistic haze this makes a lot of sense, but we all know that in reality it doesn’t quite work like that. 

In an effort to reduce their costs, big companies will outsource production to developing countries with lax environmental and labour protections, poisoning the local environment and running sweatshops with horrific working conditions that essentially amount to slave labour. This is particularly prevalent in industries such as high-street fashion. It also means that they will use low quality – ergo environmentally harmful – materials like polyester or plastic, both of which are made from fossil fuels.

Take a moment for that to sink in. When you’re wearing a cheap t-shirt, you’re actually wearing reconstituted oil.

Most small businesses don’t take this route; in an effort to create high-quality products that represent their work as artists, they will take the time and effort necessary to source good materials and create their pieces with loving care. 

This is especially true for small businesses that are specifically devoted to a more ethical and sustainable means of production, as they will make sure that they use high quality organic materials, and either pay their workers fairly or make the items themselves. 

This translates to a higher price-tag, but its cost is significantly lower.  Allow us to explain.

If we begin framing our purchases within the context of its cost rather than its price, we begin to see that in actual fact, ethical and sustainable products cost a lot less.

In monetary terms, if you buy one high-quality item for £50 and it lasts for years, does that actually cost more than buying a low-quality £10 version if you have to keep replacing it every few months? 

But more importantly than that, what is the true, larger cost of the materials and processes behind these ‘cheap’ products? 

What is the cost of a changing climate and complete ecological breakdown? 

What is the cost of inhumane working conditions, where children are forced to work 16-hour days for 11p per hour in a building that can collapse and kill over 1,000 people

What is the cost to a society that can justify the reprehensible consequences of our actions in the name of fast fashion and cheap products? 

These may not be the quantifiable, numerical costs of our purchases – but rest assured, it’s the people and planet who pay the price. So, in the end, are ethical and sustainable products actually that expensive?