Thursday, 15 October 2009

Climate change, a very local story.

Northern Ireland has many of its own unique problems to solve but there is one problem that Northern Ireland, Ireland and Great Britain have in common and a problem that they all contribute to on the global scale - influencing climate change. How do I know this... because I live in Northern Ireland and I believe that I too contribute to the problem. I know, not a great admission to make, especially when you take into account I spent 3 very worthwhile years of my life studying the environmental sciences. So why am I telling you this?

I’m telling you this because I don’t mean to detrimentally exploit our environment, but I know my actions are likely to be contributing to the problem. I’m telling you this because, although I’m by no means an expert, I studied the literature from what I hope was a balanced perspective, I’ve read the arguments for and against and have made my own mind up from the scientific data and theory I’ve had to sift through to write my essays. I was even going to write another essay for this occasion of Blog Action Day. However to cut a long story short, my opinion is that we are precariously playing with natural systems that are resilient but that are part of such a complex balance that we’re foolish to think we aren’t at least having a significant impact. An impact that could leave a much harsher world for our offspring to live in by worsening pre-existing problems that it seems mankind can’t even resolve during the best of times... the likes of poverty and war.

It wasn’t that long ago I was at university, and climate change was a leading topic but as we found when searching the media, it hardly made the news that often and it wasn’t such a large part of a political parties manifesto. Thankfully that has in recent times begun to improve, even if it has led to a slight transference of scepticism because of its increasing use as a political tool to win votes. Eventually though, those with the ability to approach the problem, i.e. government and the industrial and business world, those who are reliant upon the systems people have developed up to this point, have at least on the surface begun to show signs of acknowledgement. Sadly though, change is slow in human behaviour. A change that has not been helped by those who have a vested interest to oppose such change, especially when the change might affect their profits or control. But like the political scene in Northern Ireland it’s likely to be a generation or two before a general consensus overwhelms the petty arguments and those in a position to do so get their acts together. Let me put it this way, Northern Ireland has its fair share of sceptics on climate change problems but I’m not one of them, sadly regarding the hope for change, our last Environment minister here in Northern Ireland was.

My more immediate and local problem though, is that in my current situation I find more often than not that I am not in a ready position, like billions around the world, to do what I would need to in order to restrict my own impact.

For instance... I choose not to drive but I still have to use a bus that is stuck in traffic pumping out its fumes because Northern Ireland is seemingly obsessed or dependent on the petrol motor car and there are only limited mass transit facilities in Belfast. I try to buy locally sourced produce, for instance if I buy bottled water for my desk at work I buy the one that was bottled and sourced closest, but I still end up buying it because it’s convenient when really I could go out of my way to carry a 2ltr bottle of water to work each day. I use a lot of electrical devices and lights and I turn them off when not in use, we’ve also replaced most of our bulbs with energy saving light bulbs but the electricity here is still predominantly provided from non renewable power stations and it’s either their way or the highway. We don’t use hardly any heating and wrap up in blankets but when we use hot water it’s powered by a gas boiler, we live in a rented home and neither our landlord nor we are eager to fund an expensive conversion to renewable energy sources. We like to travel and experience new places and culture but to do so we have to get on a plane or a boat, there is no realistic alternative. We recycle but just about everything we buy comes in packaging and bags. These are just a few scenarios whereby whether I or not I like it, I end up playing a small part in reinforcing mankinds effect on climate change through many of my choices.

Sure, some choices are not exactly choices, others are indirect consequences and some are my choices and those I do hope to change the outcome of in future.

The point though, is that even with a conscience acknowledgement of the problem, it’s not so easy, at least in my experience, to make changes that can help rather than hinder on your own. Northern Ireland isn’t the best place to try and live carbon neutral or in a sustainable manner right now, but I’ll keep trying even if I’m frowned upon by others in their 4x4’s. I intend to make a more concerted effort and hopefully I won’t be alone. Though just another view, much like the rest of this post, Northern Ireland is in a great position to repolarise the effect in place at present - there is hope yet and we can all make a difference if we try a bit harder. Given also the support shown today with Blog Action Day 09 we won't be alone. I’ll hopefully blog further on this topic in future, preferably with some facts and interpretation rather than just opinion.

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