I more or less said it was ugly and, well, dead. So, if there are any mysterious Martian expats out there who think I was a tad harsh about their home planet, I do apologise.
But - dead is precisely what Mars is. No one, as far as I’m aware has yet managed to declare that life ever existed there. Every indication to date seems to suggest, quite strongly, that everything on the Martian surface, from it’s thin atmosphere to its abundance of toxic red dust is actually hostile to life. The notion of colonising such a forbidding place as some sort of furtherance of humanity’s great goals and aspirations seem, to me, quite absurd. Even Elon Musk himself jovially fessed up that people are quite likely to perish in our endeavours to conquer Mars - and that’s without any resistance from angry Martian locals doing their utmost to repel Earthling invaders.
Anyway, right here on Planet Earth, extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and more intense. Sea levels are actually rising, there are prolonged droughts which are putting increasing pressure on food crops and water supplies. Many animal and plant species are being driven to extinction because they simply cannot compete with humanity’s insatiable desire for more and more of their natural habitats. As a species, we are sweeping through every last inch of our world like a plague of hungry locusts and the aftermath is strikingly similar. Decimation, desolation and destruction. A planet literally being gobbled to death by an abundance of careless, single-species gluttony.
I suppose it’s all very well for the likes of me to moan about all this sort of thing from the comfort of a modern home. Another tiresome, tattersall-shirted keyboard warrior with more questions than answers. We all KNOW what the problems are but finding tangible remedies is a much taller order.
So, what can we as individuals do to resolve a problem of this magnitude? One thing is for sure, we can’t rely on politicians to do anything much. God knows, they struggle enough to do their own jobs most of the time, so what chance have they got to help resolve our environmental woes? All they seem to do is fly themselves off to grandiose locations simply to chatter endlessly at our expense. Their only concern, as career politicians, is to get themselves re-elected. It doesn’t matter if they’re left, right or centre - they’re all the same. Talking is all they’re any good at - and talk is cheap.
But amidst the gloom there’s hope. There are people, communities, cities, businesses, schools and other organisations who are taking action. Collectively we must fight as though our lives depend on it - because our lives do depend on it. OK. We can’t all be the next Gretta Thunberg but we can try to listen to the message that she and others are trying to convey and do our best to act in a responsible manner. We can’t just sit back and simply think that all this is somebody else’s problem.
There are lots of seemingly menial things that we can do to mitigate our impact on the global environment. On their own, these things won’t look like much but as a collective effort by millions of us, they can perhaps buy us the time we need to try and address bigger issues.
For example, we can all try to use energy more wisely and by so-doing save money in the process. By becoming more energy-efficient and frugal, we can actually pollute a lot less individually. Collectively, this can be a significant and positive move to reduce emissions including CO2. It may sound a bit ridiculous but simply unplugging computers, TVs and other household electronics when they are not in use saves an astonishing amount of energy over 12 months. Washing clothes in cold water helps reduce domestic energy consumption. Hang-drying clothes can save a huge amount of energy and can save us a lot of money on laundry expenditure to boot. If this outlook was to be repeated by millions of households, we could make serious cuts to global emissions.
Better insulated homes prevent heat from escaping. Insulation also helps keep us cool during the hot summer months without having to resort to expensive, energy consuming air conditioners. We can also swap to energy-efficient LED light bulbs because they use up to 80% less energy than the older types.
We can even munch our way towards a better world. Believe it or not, even the decisions we make about our food can have a profound effect on our environment. There are some remarkably simple things we can all do to help both the environment as well as our general health and wellbeing.
No one is suggesting that we should all become seed-nibbling gerbils but we can definitely eat more meat-free meals and by so-doing eat a more balanced and healthy diet overall. Where possible we can even go organic and buy more by way of local seasonal foods whenever possible. I think this is quite an easy and cost effective way to source beautifully fresh food especially in Portugal where every municipal market is crammed full of great local produce, with hardly any of it shrink wrapped in harmful plastic packaging. Now - there’s a BIG bonus for starters.
The other big one is not to waste our food. Clever, resourceful cooking can produce the most excellent meals by simply using leftover ingredients. I rather imagine if we forged a habit of growing more of our own fresh produce, wastage would automatically become a huge anathema. Surely, few of us would presumably go to all that effort to grow beautiful fresh produce and then just throw away all the joyous fruits of our labour? Maybe picking up cheap bags of shop-bought produce has been far too easy? Easy come, easy go? Doesn’t food deserve respect simply because far too many good people around the world have so little of it. That’s a massive travesty in itself. We can do so much better than this? All of us can.
I genuinely hope we can start a serious conversation about the state of our world. Slowing climate-change will require all of us to work together. To do that, we must find common ground with those who may not quite share our way of thinking. People often trust peers, family members, respected friends and loved ones far more than they will ever trust experts, politicians, scientists, environmentalists or even journalists for that matter. So, it’s down to all of us.
So what can we lose by having these conversations about our environment in ways that decrease divisiveness and help cultivate a climate of empathy in order to find common ground? Our world is our ‘common ground’ after all? Overcoming polarisation is the only way to move forward and find workable climate solutions. Together we can open people’s minds and hopefully make a positive difference. Inaction is no longer an option.