Michael Jackson sang many great songs, but one strikes a chord with me – Man in the Mirror: “I'm starting with the man in the mirror. And no message could've been any clearer. If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change.”
The message here is clear – if we don’t do something, who will? My wife and I recycle everything; we green box or compost down to the smallest scrap; we mulch our leaves and grass; we try to buy locally; we use machines with timers to do laundry and dishes in the middle of the night; we turn out lights when we’re not in the room; and everything possible is on a timer to limit usage and respect off peak hours when possible. We are not seeking recognition or compensation because we believe in what we do and the small part it plays in helping our fragile earth. But it’s frustrating in a couple of ways. Despite our efforts we are treated as equals to those who do nothing. Our taxes don’t go down because we care. Those who do nothing are not ‘punished’ or sanctioned. We all remain equal and there is neither reward nor benefit for being good. So why bother? Well, do it because you care!
I will continue to do my part and ask each of you to consider doing likewise, but don’t stop living - just try to do it in a manner that is respectful of the environment and of others. If we listened to the government we would never travel as our increased carbon footprint is the most dangerous contribution we can make to the demise of the earth. This is coming from politicians who feel it is necessary to fly all over the world to talk to each other to decide what WE should do. Maybe if they stayed home, the negative impacts would be less.
I have always contended that our government’s focus of looking always inward and rarely outward is flawed. If our contribution to climate change is a tiny fraction of the global contribution, we should not ignore that, but we should also not focus entirely on that while ignoring the larger contributions of other countries. World leaders talk to each other regularly, yet no-one ever sanctions the ‘higher polluting’ countries. Why should India, China, the EU, Russia and the USA not be punished for their contributions? According to the Canadian government, China releases 26% of the world’s greenhouse gases (GHGs), while USA, EU-27 and India contribute 12.7, 7.5 and 7.1% respectively, while all the rest of the world contributes the remaining 47% and of that Canada contributes 1.5%. The point is that world leaders should be working to get the biggest polluters to step up to the plate while still encouraging but not entirely focussing on us to do our part. If China reduced their output of GHGs by just 2% that would exceed Canada’s entire contribution! Think how good it would be if the USA and the other big polluters did their part. We in Canada are already reducing our impact, but the government keeps pounding at us as if we were doing nothing.
Don’t lose faith and continue to do your small part, but take a moment every now and then to remind the government that the easy way may not be the best way. For you as individuals, do what you can around home; think of what you are consuming and why? Think of how you can donate or buy used items instead of consuming new materials. Think of what you’ve learned and how you can teach others. Think of where you can volunteer and the benefits you and your community can derive. Support those who care, but think about the cause and the solutions offered – are they the best ideas or they just the ‘flavour of the day’? Speak out when you want your voice to be heard – if you don’t do it, who will? And look in the mirror – the solution is looking back at you!
Geoff Carpentier is a published author, expedition guide and environmental consultant. Visit Geoff on-line on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.