Climate Summit 2015: How, Why & What You Can Do
Around the world, people took to the streets this Thanksgiving weekend to protest climate change. The marches in question spring up in lieu of the COP21 climate summit in Paris (which stands for the 21st Conference of Parties as part as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), a series of meetings that will host 150 world leaders while they discuss crucial environmental policies.
The yearly summit is particularly important this year, as people are demanding more speedy and beneficial changes to the environmental practices effected by governments worldwide. As CNN reports, “Earth is already halfway to the danger zone,” alarmingly reaching the 2-degree temperature inclement that would bring about even more disastrous consequences on ecosystems than what we’ve already seen. The COP21 will discuss ways to avoid fossil fuels–the “hydrocarbon-containing natural resources,” which, upon their burning “is the largest source of emissions of carbon dioxide, which is one of the greenhouse gases that allows radioactive forcing and contributes to global warming,” according to Science Daily.
The conceded results of the summit will be pending until December 11th. But an estimated 785,000 people, in 175 countries, made public outcries to protect the world and its inhabitants as part of the 2,100+ events planned by the Global Climate March. Following last year’s incredibly successful People’s Climate March in New York City, citizens from Mexico City, Berlin, London, and elsewhere, engaged in peaceful, environmental demonstrations. But Paris–the city hosting the summit this year–experienced restrictions against public gathering, due to the recent terrorist attacks.
Even with restrictions, the French capital wasn’t deterred from creating powerful demonstrations. Activists displayed guerrilla art, labeled Brandalism, across the city’s public places, with posters showing everything from apocalyptic global warming, to fake ads from companies like Volkswagen, Air France, and Mobil.
Furthermore, at the Place de la République (only a few blocks away from one of the sites of the November 13th attacks), more than 11,000 pairs of shoes were left as standalone representations of those who demand change in environmental policies, including U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Pope Francis, Marion Cotillard, and Vivienne Westwood (who, along with Emma Thompson, attended the protests in the U.K.’s capital). As Parisian activist René Stroh told CNN, “The shoes are marching for us.”
A human chain of 4,500 protestors stretched out from the Boulevard Voltaire to another site of the attacks, the Bataclan. Some groups disobeyed the safety protocol and assembled in public parts of the city, reportedly resulting in clashes with the police that included bottle and rock throwing, tear gas, and pepper spray.
With a predicted rapid increase in population (scientist Stephen Emmott predicts a whopping total population of 10 billion people by the year 2050), and very visible environmental effects that are only getting worse, climate change is something that cannot continue to be denied, ignored, or saved for later. Even small, diurnal differences lend to cataclysmic environmental differences–for better, and for worse. While we wait for the summit details to be announced, here are a few simple things you can do (starting today!) to change your carbon footprint.
Use Public Transportation: Aside from saving fuel and money (approximately $6,251 every year), the American Public Transportation Association estimates that using public transportation can “reduce CO2 emissions by 37 million metric tons annually.” If it’s not an option where you live, set up a carpool system! Want something even better? Biking is not only a great way to get in shape while getting to your destination, but on average, biking produces 21g of CO2 /km traveled, as opposed to 101g of CO2 /km by bus, and a whopping 271g of CO2 /km by car.
Cut Down On Your Meat/Poultry Intake: Meatless Monday is a simple program with a big idea. By minimizing your meat intake, you not only better your health, but you also save a shit ton of water that is necessary to produce a pound of beef –1,850 tons of it to be exact. That is a huge amount, especially in comparison to the 39 gallons of water that are needed to produce a pound of vegetables. (Learn more about the positive effects of MM on the website.)
Minimize Your Waste: Reduce.org is dedicated to teaching you how to reduce your waste consumption, and while some of you might not be at the “create your own compost” level, there are incredibly easy decisions you can take every time you shop. Things like carrying your own grocery bags (or at the very least choosing paper bags), owning a reusable canteen, buying thrifted clothes, and refusing the straws that every deli forces on you (let us live, like, please) have ENORMOUS impact on your carbon footprint, and on the general levels of waste created worldwide. Find eco-friendly products to replace your plastics here.
Educate Yourself: Because there’s nothing worse in the world than being ignorant. There are thousands of texts, and documentaries available–famously including Leonardo DiCaprio‘s The 11th Hour and Al Gore‘s An Inconvenient Truth, and most recently Stephen Emmott’s Ten Billion. There is no excuse not to know the effects of our actions, and to demand that the government rights its wrongs.
We need to change our environmental actions, because as Vivienne Westwood told Dazed, “We have no choice between a green economy and mass extinction. You can change the world. You have to.” Change will happen inevitably, but it is in our power to decide what that change looks like.
Stay tuned to Milk for more updates on the COP21 climate summit.
Photos via The Irish Times, Reuters, Brandalism, Planeterra, Getty Images