Growing up in a society whereby the environmental, social, and political impacts of climate change are so profound, my generation has been educated from a young age that action needs to be taken. From learning ‘the three Rs’ (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) in primary school, to being challenged on the impacts of my own lifestyle choices as an adult, such as my diet or retail preferences, I have always been motivated to live a “sustainable lifestyle”, and subsequently, I have always been a perfectionist when trying to do so.
As I’ve grown up with social media, I have witnessed the rise in discussion surrounding sustainable living, and the change in perceptions of what it means to be green: sustainability is now often treated as a trendy aesthetic in the first world, with more and more focus on how we can improve our carbon footprint and leave the least amount of damage from our time on this planet. Whilst this is something that we should celebrate in our steps towards positive environmental change, it is important to recognise the pressures of living perfectly green in today’s society, when in reality living one hundred percent sustainably is not always a viable option.
There is a balance between living sustainably and living realistically. From my experience in raising awareness for the current environmental issues we face and opening discussions with other people from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, I have learnt the importance of communication from a local to a global scale in the fight towards environmental peace. We live in a world where often it feels like a battle for green living: environmental warriors with a passion so strong for the future of our planet, versus those who struggle to get by and survive on a daily basis, often feeling they have been neglected by society. There is a massive poverty issue not only within the United Kingdom, but also around the world, whereby social inequalities maintain the rich-poor divide. For example, how can we expect poachers in the third-world, who struggle every day, to see the inhumanity in their livelihoods on which their survival is dependent on, whilst those in the first world have easy access to education, healthcare, leisure and travel?
We need to open these discussions in environmentalism and learn the importance of empathy when attempting to install positive change. We need to not only educate others, but also listen, in order to address the threats of global climate change whilst achieving peace amongst humanity. We need to stop passing judgment to others on the choices they make, and instead invite them to learn about the role they can play in accomplishing positive change for our planet. Ban Ki-moon once said “Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth… these are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women’s empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.”
Whilst it is true that we are now in a climate emergency and there has never been a more important time for change, we will not truly be able to implement such change until we come together and address the biggest issues in our world as one. I urge you to recognise your importance in this ongoing fight for environmental peace, and to reward yourself for any stride you take – whether it’s reducing meat consumption, walking as your main form of travel, or even just taking the time out of your day to educate yourself on what is happening to our planet – any step in the right direction is important in our journey to sustainable living.
The truth is we do not need a small group of people living green perfectly, but everyone living green imperfectly.