For a few years now, there have been protests worldwide to get the attention of the politicians that need to make a change. Policymakers are the ones that hold the most power in terms of what is done for the future of our planet, for example they can devise policies on how much carbon dioxide a business can emit, or introduce local recycling programmes. However, there is still a lot we can do ourselves to have an impact on our environment.
What exactly is happening in the Arctic?
The Arctic is made up of Canada, Greenland, The USA, Finland, Norway, Russia and Sweden and makes up only 4% of the Earth’s surface (Marsh, William; Kaufman, Martin; 2012). Although it’s quite small, it still acts as one of the most important cooling systems for our planet. As a polar region, the Arctic is made up mostly of ice caps. In recent years, global warming has been overheating the Arctic, melting the ice caps as well as endangering the ecosystems that depend on the complex ecosystem to survive.
Why is it important to save the Arctic?
By now, we’ve all heard that global warming is a growing issue that we need to take into our own hands. But just how bad is it? With temperatures rising every day, the ice caps in the Arctic are melting six times faster than they did in the 1990s (Carrington; 2020). When the ice sheets melt, a dangerous greenhouse gas called methane, escapes into the atmosphere. The methane stays in the atmosphere, and goes on to create a blanket to create a blanket, trapping the heat in. This warms up the planet even more – causing a cycle!
As ice caps melt, sea levels rise worldwide. Countries such as Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand and Brunei, will be hit at a disproportionately higher level due to their coastal regions being low-lying (BLu, Denise; Flavelle, Christopher; 2019). This will affect housing, crop growth and the natural land, which in turn affects the economy of each country, the livelihood of their people and the biodiversity of the land.
What can you do to protect the Arctic?
Reducing your ecological footprint makes a huge impact on the environment! “Ecological footprint” is a term that you’ve probably heard being used when discussing global warming – but what does it truly mean? Your ecological footprint is how much of an impact you have on the environment. The higher it is, the more negative of an impact you have. And you know what? Everyone has one because simply by being alive, you’re affecting the environment. It is impossible to have an ecological footprint of 0, because being alive means that we eat food, drink water, wash our clothes and use transport, which all have varying effects on the environment. In the UK, an average ecological footprint is 9.84 tonnes per person per year, whereas in the Philippines, it’s 1.39 per person per year. We all have an impact, so the choice is whether or not you make that impact positive!
So, how exactly do you decrease your ecological footprint? Here are three ways to get started!
- Generally, animal consumption is one of the biggest and easiest ways people can decrease their footprints. Granted, being vegetarian or even vegan isn’t for everyone, but even just reducing the amount of meat you consume, could make a huge difference to the environment as it is one of the leading causes of global warming. If you’re looking to reduce specific types of animal products, you might be interested in knowing that industrial beef production and farmed catfish are the most harmful to the environment, while small, wild-caught fish have the least impact on the environment (Ma, Michelle; 2018).
- Use more public transport! If you learned about global warming or climate change in school, you’ve probably heard this one. That’s because it can be such an easy switch. Not only is it cheaper to take a bus, metro, biking or even to walk to your destination!
- Support your local businesses. Whether you’re buying food, clothes or random knick-knacks, finding a local alternative won’t only help small businesses, but will also cause a lot less pollution. Imported goods are either flown in or shipped in, and either way, it creates a lot more air pollution and disruption to ecosystems (Frankel, Jeffrey; 2009), than if you were to buy locally produced goods.
When you start to realise how much you can do to have a positive impact on the environment, it can be a bit overwhelming. But it’s always good to remember that even a few lifestyle changes can really go a long way.
Carrington, D. (2020, March 11). Polar ice caps melting six times faster than in 1990s. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/11/polar-ice-caps-melting-six-times-faster-than-in-1990s.