There seems to be a sudden increase in the number of environmental advocates among us, at least, ever since the Amazon fires came to light.
For the longest time, advocates have been campaigning for more environmental awareness among the masses, and all it took was news of the Amazon fires for people to suddenly develop a deep concern for our Earth.
Don’t get me wrong. We should be concerned about the Amazon fires and I am heartened to know that people still care, but it is amusing to see people turning into overnight environmental advocates because of the Amazon fires.
If you think about it, there’s always been many occurences of forest fires in the past, not only Amazon, but also in many other forests in the world. For example, we’ve felt the effects of air pollution (haze) when Indonesia battled forest fires from illegal logging, but you hear more people complaining about the haze than being concerned about Mother Earth back then.
Now we are worried, and for a forest that’s 18,435km away.
“The lungs of the Earth are in flames,” and “Amazon produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen,” are among the most common phrases prompting people to take action.
I’ve seen friends reposting on IG Stories, posts from accounts that claim that they will donate $1 for every “like” or “share”. And I applaud all of those who shared with a genuine intention of wanting to help in the little ways that they can.
At the same time, it’s exasperating to see that this is as far as many of us will go to to ‘save our environment’, despite claiming to be so passionate about a cause.
The worst of the lot are the people behind the IG profiles that claim to be raising funds to help the Amazon. One such account even doctored images to ‘prove’ that the funds they have received have been paid to the Amazon Conservation Team.
If you haven’t caught on yet, it was a scam, and when I checked last night, their gofundme campaign was receiving a substantial amount of money, donated by people all over the world.
As of 11.30am today, this IG profile had already been removed.
I’m not even going to talk about the immorality of riding on a calamity to scam people. Because on the other hand, I’d question if the donors even knew the purpose of the money they donated. If one had read up on the current predicament Brazil is facing with its president Jair Bolsonaro, you’d laugh at the relevance of money as a solution to the Amazon fires.
To be fair, even if we had really wanted to help, none of us would have known how. Besides, the magnitude of the problem isn’t one that can be solved by an average Singaporean.
However, there are plenty of other things we should be concerned about back at home.
Do We Honestly Care About Climate Change?
Here we are moaning the loss of a forest, ‘our planet’s lungs’, when there are so many other things we can actually do to make an impact.
Singapore has long been driving the messages of climate change and the importance of leading a ‘greener’ lifestyle, and it’s not like a lot of us care about it.
Singapore designated 2018 as the Year of Climate Action, and this year, in line with Singapore’s aim of being a zero-waste nation, our leaders had designated it as the Year Towards Zero Waste. But how many of us are even aware of this, and even if we are, do we even know what this means or what it encompasses?
I, for one, didn’t have a clue, besides the message that our government is currently working on it.
Take for example the simple movement we have here, where for the past year of so, we’ve been encouraged to switch out single-use plastics for eco-friendly alternatives like metal straws and reusable shopping bags.
More companies are adopting this, and we’ve seen how many F&B outlets are removing straws or even offering discounts to people who bring their own containers for takeaways.
But judging from personal experience, there’s still a large number of Singaporeans that aren’t on board. And even if we do switch out to our metal straws and reusable bags, how much is that going to help?
If you think that these metal straws and reusable bags are going to save the environment, you will be disappointed. Because these supposed eco-friendly products aren’t going to do much except make you feel better about yourself.
In an article that dived into the environmental repercussions of such products, it’s even shown that you have to use the green bag (reusable shopping bag) “at least 104 times to make a difference to the environment.” None of us knew this when we bought into the movement.
A lot of us are so absorbed with the action of cutting plastics that we don’t realise what we are even trying to achieve.
Lastrina, a youth environmental advocate who co-founded Singapore Youth Climate Action, shared an example with me awhile back, about how an organisation was trying to launch a programme where they were encouraging people to bring 10 plastics bags in to exchange for 1 reusable tote bag.
She explained about sustainability and how this does nothing to help: “If you got 10 plastic bags, why aren’t you using them?”
The Fight Against Consumerism
But what use is cutting single-use plastics when we are still so wasteful?
For the past year, there’s been an increasing number of brands and individual sellers promoting eco-friendly products. It’s come to a point where these fancy metal straws and reusable tote bags with pretty prints seem more like a fashion statement. People are buying into it just because everyone’s doing so—it’s a trend, it’s cool.
Many of us whom have bought into it at some point end up with sets of metal or bamboo straws, and reusable tupperwares or bags that we hardly use. These eco-friendly alternatives will find its home in some obscure corner of our cabinets, after we realise that it is just so much more convenient to go back to using plastics. I’m guilty of this myself.
“Most of the initiatives come with good intentions, but I think we are missing the point of it. A lot of it doesn’t address the root problem, which is our habit of consumerism and personal consumption,” explained Lastrina.
It’s Not Just About The Plastics
One straw saved is but a speck of dust if we are still unconsciously generating waste in many other aspects of our life.
There’s many other factors, and one of which we contribute to climate change is our carbon footprints.
We’ve learnt this in primary school. From a young age, we know what greenhouse gases (GHG) does to Earth, but because of how intangible the effects of climate change is in our everyday life, we tend to dismiss them.
We know that it’s getting way too hot these days, but then we forget that these are all effects are by-products of what we do. Individually, we contribute to the emission of these harmful GHG through the simplest things like turning on our air-conditioner. We don’t see the harm in that since it’s something that we have been so accustomed to doing.
Which brings me back to the point that for all the noise we are making about caring for our environment, we’re not doing anything substantial to help at all.
We go around pledging our support for various movements. We publicise our worry about the Amazon fires killing our Earth. We show our support by getting metal straws and pretty eco-bags, but let’s be honest: All these aren’t going to do jack shit on the grand scheme of things if we don’t even know exactly how our actions will impact the environment.
Our metal straws aren’t going to help the environment when we’ll still buying takeaways and throwing out the plastic boxes that hold our food. Even if we switched to eco-friendly products, we’d still be sitting in our air-conditioned rooms and contributing to the gases that’ll kill our Earth.
In other words, the only way for us to truly help reduce climate change, or to help saving our earth is if we completely change the way we live. From leading a zero-waste life (through the practice of 3Rs) to taking the conscious steps to reduce our carbon footprints—created through the use of things like our air-con and automobiles.
For all the noise we are making, are we doing any of that?
(Header Image Credit: Time Magazine)