The first snow of the autumn has reached Cottbus and we are freezing, sitting in Uni and trying not to think about what happened yesterday. We are a bunch of hopeful people. At least we try to be.
We discussed the events a lot today and one particular thought haunted us. What will happen to our environment? All that we try to fight for?
In International Environmental Law, our lecturer suggested that we took a good look at the Paris Agreement, Article 28:
At any time after three years from the date on which this Agreement has entered into force for a Party, that Party may withdraw from this Agreement by giving written notification to the Depositary. (…)
Even if Trump wanted to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, it would take 3 years for him to hand in that note and another year until he really would get out of it. So well done, Obama, for signing it just in time. That’s what we read in the law. The problem is – there is also the possibility to simply not do what’s in the law. In this very case, the Paris Agreement is not as harsh as the Kyoto Protocol. The US hasn’t signed that one, by the way. And Canada withdrew to not face the fines they had to pay because they didn’t fulfil the regulations. Germany isn’t much better either…
For many people, the Paris Agreement is a groundbreaking accomplishment. It may be, for all that I know. I’ll go a bit into detail once we have discussed it in uni. There are a lot of things I don’t really understand yet. Law is so confusing! The difficulty with treaties is this: It will not change single people. There is a lot of talking without saying anything. There are a lot of action plans never implemented. There are a lot of recommendations never considered.
My dad believes that the real change has to be made economically. I can see his point. We live in a world where money is playing a vital part in our lives. Who am I kidding, The part in our lives. Which ever way we might argue, we are not going to change that. Therefore, we have to work on that basis. There are lots of economical solutions we were taught in our Economics classes. Standards, Taxes, Tradable Permits. Very simplified they mean the following: Standards set the pollution to a certain level. Taxes often provide the incentive to emit even less because you still have to pay taxes on even little emissions. Tradable Permits are based on the idea that there is a polluter with more emissions and one with less. Both own emission permits. The one with higher emissions can buy those from the one with smaller emissions. Thereby the one who emits less, makes a profit. We could even implement that on a private level: If you want to drive long distance with your car, there has to be someone who creates energy by a solar plant, for example. Trade the permissions and everyone is happy.
The idea is this: If you pollute, you have to pay. This is a lovely principle which can be found written down in the Rio Declaration of 1992. It has a legal basis in International Law. However, it isn’t really implemented on a global scale. In the end, the consumer has to pay. It’s as simple as that.
I also really like the idea of a carbon tax for people. Every action that increases the greenhouse gas emissions has to be paid for. Make meat and fish so expensive that no one is able to buy them anymore and no one will do so.
This strategy seems nice but I doubt it would work like that. Furthermore, the implementation is just not possible. We have such a strong lobby especially behind the biggest emitters – the food, transport and energy industry. This is where people need to make changes.
Emily Hunter (http://emilyhunter.ca/), the daughter of two of the founders of greenpeace, speaks in a Ted Talk (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsB2qtDaiRw&list=WL&index=36) about modern activism. She has been everywhere, fighting and campaigning for environmentalism. Until she found that this kind of activism might not be for her. Going with boats into every corner of our oceans to stop whale hunting. That’s so seventies! Instead, she started to make films and write books, make documentaries about activists and share their stories. She is a journalist and calls herself storyteller. Her activism is storytelling.
She points out that our generation is the biggest to ever have existed on this planet. And we are the ones to bring the change. Maybe not by old-fashioned campaigning anymore but by media. We are able to write and film and make this earth a better place. Our voices are completely different from those of the 1970s. Now, the environment should concern all of us and it does. Therefore, we should all be environmentalists in our own ways. You don’t have to buy yourself a boat and fight against whaling in the Antarctic. You might not be a part of huge protests or demonstrations. You might simply share the message that this planet needs our help and we therefore have to stand up to make it happen. If you can, though, try to make your message heard to as many people as possible.
She also mentions that the movement has to become much more radical. At the moment there are many actions which are on a local level. Or which go viral for a few weeks and disappear again. We need to change that. Our planet has to be on the agenda permanently. Not on a negative note, though. It has to fill our news with hopeful messages and not ones of despair.
I believe our future lies in technology. My father is an engineer, that should explain a lot. Renewable energies and technology to help us with all the problems we face. In many rural areas solar panels and mobile phones have transformed the business life. The education system. People are empowered and find new ways to use their potential. There is another wonderful TedTalk I would like to suggest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDo2mx5aBts. The Future of Environmentalism.
We face many environmental challenges in this world but they can be solved by investing in human brain power and technology. This sustainable innovation can be our way to save this world and make our lives better. I just found out, that there is some research done to make solar panels out of carbon and not silicon.
There are projects to make artificial photosynthesis work, much more effective than the real ones of plants. Still, it is a very good idea to plant trees. We should never underestimate the power of our vegetation. I love trees, I also hug them sometimes.
The past environmentalism has been based on two things. Fear and Guilt. Fear doesn’t work. Guilt doesn’t work. In industrialised countries, we have caused the problem of climate change. Maybe guilt works for us. But not for those who suffer from the consequences of our irresponsible behaviour!
We love doing stuff. So instead of telling people what not to do, we should encourage them to make stuff! To come up with new technologies and innovations! Humans are so good at that!
“The new environmentalism is got to be about doing more, not doing less. About inspiring people to tackle climate change but also giving people a better life in the here and now.” Martin Wright
Today, I want to motivate you to change things by doing some little things that may have a widespread impact.
- All around the globe, small businesses try to bring changes in their communities. On https://www.kiva.org/ you can find them and help them with giving micro-credits. They pay you the money back and you can invest in the next project. This way innovative people are supported, especially women who normally do not have the chance to do so in many developing countries.
- Invest in crowd-funding. There are incredible minds out there working on the environmental technology of the future. You can find them on crowd-funding websites – help support their projects or spread the word!
- Watch the videos I suggested and share them with other people. Inspire them to take action and tell them that it is important to you. Talk to them about how you can make a difference.
- Most importantly, though, is to inform yourself. Read an article about renewable energies, about new technologies, about trees if you like, everything that excites you! If you are an engineer, maybe you can find ways to work on environmental projects or share your knowledge with others.
- For my fellow WordPress bloggers: If you are interested in photography, I challenge you to make a photo report about environmental problems in your region or hometown. It can be water pollution, waste, air pollution, mining … anything that you recognise as a problem. Whatever difficulties you find in your neighbourhood. Go out and take a photo. Write about it. Share it with other people. This is a small contribution but in our modern age, it is not that hard to get your voice heard. The WordPress community is an absolutely lovely one and I enjoy so much being part of it.
In the end I will dedicate a post to your topic and I will do a lot of research to back it with some facts. Thereby, we will have stories from everywhere shared on different platforms to underline their importance.
In Cottbus, for example, we have a big problem with open cast and lignite mining. The pollution and environmental damage it has caused is unbelievable. Habitats are destroyed, people have to move, whole ecosystems are ruined. For long periods of time. The lakes build after the mining will never have the same biodiversity as before.
Those are the stories I’m looking for. Share them, make them important. Let them be your contribution, your activism 2.0, your new environmentalism.
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