Over the past few years, there has been much talk about climate change and the devastating impact it is having and is likely to have, on communities and the world as a whole.
On Thursday, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said that cyclones in the Caribbean and Pacific, devastating bushfires in Australia, recurrent floods and droughts in Asia and Africa, increasingly bring tragic loss of life to our nations and communities, inflicting physical and mental trauma on survivors, and causing irreparable damage to centuries-old ways of life and undermining prospects for future prosperity and growth.
The current bushfires in Australia have been among the most distressing manifestations, leading the Government to declare a state of emergency. There is a devastating impact on the precious biodiversity of flora and fauna, threatening drastically to affect the ecology of the region. Heightened levels of air pollution in the affected and adjoining regions are having adverse impacts on the respiratory health of scores of people.
Such extreme events are occurring with rising frequency, destroying the means of livelihood for millions of people in Commonwealth countries, increasing vulnerability and reducing resilience, she added. The Commonwealth collectively recognises that without well-planned and integrated national and international action, natural disasters and extreme events will continue to challenge the resilience of affected communities and smaller countries. The Commonwealth Secretariat is working alongside member nations to protect the environmental health of fragile and susceptible ecosystems, including through increased national preparedness for tackling natural disasters and mobilising resources.
However, while Governments and policymakers are busy debating the issues at the national and international levels, enough is not being done in terms of designing and implementing critical projects at the community levels to encourage and sensitise individuals about the need to play their part in mitigating the effects of climate change.
In fact, it could be argued that on the global level, not many persons are educated about the issue especially it relates to the kind of impact climate change has on the environment and on individuals themselves. Citizens still do take the issue for granted and do not pay much heed to the various messages about the need to change lifestyle patterns and so on.
Scientists have argued that the planet is indeed threatened by lifestyle patterns of individuals and if persons continue to use resources the way we currently do, the planet’s reserves will be exhausted at an increasingly rapid pace. For many countries, there is still the challenge of getting everyone to not only understand and appreciate the idea of the need to work towards sustainable consumption, but also to take practical steps to move in this direction.
Certainly, Governments can and businesses and industries together with researchers can provide the solutions, but, in the end, the consumers have the power of the purse, whether they buy green products or not. The highly-touted ‘green model,’ reduces our ecological footprint, emits fewer greenhouse gases, uses less energy and raw materials, and can create new sources of growth and employment.
In essence, achieving economic growth and sustainable development requires that we urgently reduce our ecological footprint by changing the way we produce and consume goods and resources. As stated by UNDP, the efficient management of our shared natural resources, and the way we dispose of toxic waste and pollutants, are important targets to achieve this goal.
Based on statistics, the world’s population is growing rapidly, as more than a billion new people will enter the middle class by 2050. Experts have predicted that if citizens do not change their consumption patterns, the global use of resources will be multiplied by 15, which is considered dangerous for our planet as it would not be able to satisfy the needs of everyone.
At the individual level, every individual does play a crucial role in defining his/her own consumption patterns, and can in a way also contribute to the fight against climate change. For example, we can reduce the level of energy utilised and the money that is saved on energy could be used instead to develop climate-friendly technologies and appliances.
Here in Guyana, we still continue to dump garbage carelessly. For example, persons continue to dispose of plastics and Styrofoam items in a reckless manner resulting in the clogging of drains and trenches, thereby leading to flooding etc.
For sure, there is a need for more effective public education campaigns on climate change and to highlight the effects of poor environmental practices. There is also a need for more ‘green projects’ to be implemented at the local levels to encourage communities to work towards achieving a cleaner and healthier environment. As for “green projects”, already it was disclosed on Wednesday that none of the Government’s renewable energy projects have been completed. This, in itself, speaks to Government’s true intention of “going green” if after five years, these projects are still incomplete.