As someone whose identity is tied directly to the outdoors, I've sculpted my life to revolve around spending time in the mountains and the wild places of our planet.
I've been given and created opportunities for myself to experience some truly spectacular landscapes. I've been privileged in being able to follow passions. However, it's hard not to feel connected to these places in more ways than one. To look over crystalline lakes, glaciated peaks and grizzly filled woodlands is truly beautiful and spiritually fulfilling for me (and many others), but so what?
The result is that I care about our environment. I feel particularly attached and responsible in this dilemma we now face regarding climate change.
Maybe you've heard it before, maybe you're tired of hearing about it, but you should continue reading because you're eager like me to to do something and see change. Right? Or maybe you're not convinced this is a pressing issue?
The World Wildlife Foundation recently released this report stating that in one lifetime, 67% of animal populations will have disappeared. Not to mention the loss of biodiversity currently going on in this current mass extinction.
I use this example to point out that environmental changes are happening fast presently! However, it's not all doom and gloom. There are plenty of examples of inspiring and remarkable human efforts. Climate change is no different and is in fact interconnected with everything. And similarly, it's not all a lost cause.
Beyond the outdoorsy environmentalist in me is the socialist. My profession as a guide means that I interact with people a lot. Though I followed the career path due to a love of the outdoors and the sports that take me there, one of the reasons I find the guiding career fits so well is that I like people.
The issue of climate change directly affects so many people, myself and you inclusive. And the effect is devastating. As a humanitarian, the changing climate will bring about more human pain and grief than I care to even imagine.
Climate change is an issue I feel particularly attached to because it is has such incredible ramifications and more than anything, I feel responsible. Responsible for the problem present and responsible for fixing it. That is my generation's burden.
And by all rights, everyone should feel attached to this issue. Devastation of crops, houses being submerged, loss of biodiversity, extreme weather, de-glaciation, drought, warming, cooling, etc.
The list goes on and on and on.
It is with great sadness that I look around every day and see flaws in our culture, our lifestyles, our development, our consumption, etc.
I cannot blame anyone in particular, but as an idealist, I do feel frustration at the inactivity of those with power to enact change.
I believed in the past that those with power were governments and the like. But the greatest power to make change is truly in the collective population. This is a collective issue and requires unity in consciousness to bring about solutions. And this issue isn't something to be dealt with later. In fact it should have been more like half a century ago that we started on the course to solve this.
If you haven't watched this documentary, give it the 1.5 hours of your day. More importantly, let it have a lasting impact and let it re-instate the urgency of this issue. We need to change our governments.
Now, some people might jump on the boat saying that Leonardo is a hypocrite who consumes so much and talks big. Let's look at this differently. Leonardo DiCaprio is an international icon who consumes a lot more than the average individual. But his lifestyle is a product of culture and we all want to emulate that kind of wealth and comfort. Regardless of his footprint, I can only give him credit for using his influence and affluence towards this cause by speaking up about issues in a hope to move mountains.
I hope that Leo will change his lifestyle where possible and demonstrate in popular culture that wealth, prosperity, comfort and consumption aren't what it's all about. If he doesn't take that road (maybe all this is to help his image as an actor), we will just have to rise above him and prove that we can do better than this world-recognized celebrity.
Regardless of Leo, don't let it detract you from the messages in the movie.
The documentary also lists CarboTax (link below) to allow you to get an estimate on your individual carbon footprint.
It was interesting to play around with the options and see what changes your footprint.
I can safely say that I have a fairly large footprint. As a ski guide, flying in helicopters and travelling to work places by plane seriously skyrockets my carbon footprint. However, I'd still be willing to pay a carbon tax if that's what it takes to push for change away from fossil fuels. Can I voluntarily afford to pay one now? Not yet...
Try out the smooth survey to see where you're at and play around with it to see how you can minimize your footprint.
Since the survey is mainly for the US, I used Haines, AK as a representative Zip Code for Pemberton, BC.
So, I'm no exception to the cause of the problem and like Leo, I need to adopt change. So what am I going to do about my footprint and our changing climate?
- I'm going to minimize extracurricular flying. Will I never travel? No. But how I travel and how often will.
- I will minimize how much I drive. Walking, biking, hitchhiking and carpooling when possible and appropriate. Will I bike in the dead of winter? No. But gas and cars are already expensive enough, minimizing driving will only minimize cost.
- Diet: I'm going to commit to minimizing meat (and which meats) in my diet. Already I find meat too expensive as a student. But enzymatically altered dead animal sure tastes good. Will I become a permanent vegan? No. My meal constitution and calorie intake is already something like 15% dairy/eggs, 80% vegetable product, 5% meat. Of that meat, 20% is red meat: 40% is bird (turkey, chicken, etc.) and 40% marine (shrimp, fish, etc.). I don't eat processed or fast food anymore and that's only going to be reinforced.
- I'm committed to eventually gardening, hunting and sourcing foods as locally as possible.
- Not only will I try to recycle or compost as much of my waste as possible, I'm committed to reducing waste in the first place.
- I'm going to be more and more conscious as a consumer. How is what I'm buying packaged? Do I need this item? Currently, I bring cleaned plastic bags to the store to fill with my bulk item favourites. I also won't buy my fruit and veggies in plastic. Just a simple example of reducing waste.
- I'm going to be more outspoken about these issues. This written piece is an example.
- I will support a carbon tax, despite the ramifications.
- I'm going to support sustainable practices, industries and politicians who share an ideal of improving our environment.
- I will live small and simple. Where financially feasible or possible, any house of mine will be as energy efficient as possible.
- I'm going to continue to minimize my energy requirements and cut bad habits (like using paper towels to dry my hands in the school bathroom).
- I will continue to buy used when possible or appropriate.
- I will support sustainable renewable infrastructure.
- I will research and aim to understand non-renewable infrastructure development propositions and oppose all which prove to be of greater cost than benefit.
- etc. this list will continue to grow and evolve over time I'm sure.
Looking back through this list, doing all these things are likely only going to reduce my comfort a little but make me healthier and probably happier... I'd like to point out that I'm not exactly some hippy-hero environmentalist. I'm not out to eliminate my carbon footprint in every extreme way possible. However, these actions are something that I can do and I hope that small actions in general are something that Canadians and Americans might take on collectively.
I'm going to keep working as a ski guide with helicopters just like a farmer is going to keep farming with a tractor. Maybe one day soon though, I might have to find a different job, just like the farmer might not be able to ship his food from California to Northern Canada. I'm alright with that.
More importantly, it's about changing the culture and lifestyle over time. Hopefully, the idealist future I'm imagining will become a reality because people have shaped that reality.
Finally, remember that we have an amazing opportunity here. An opportunity to be leaders in our community, in our province, in our country and globally.