oil_spill

What should be the purpose of our mainstream news providers? I’m talking about the major players: those stations that are accessed by the millions? One would think, to provide unbiased, accurate news. They should be reporting to us what is happening around the world. If we are well informed, we get a good grasp on the state of play and can offer aid where needed etc. Surely that’s logical: see a problem and cooperate with others to come up with a solution? Preferably there would be some good stuff thrown in there too, as opposed to pure doom and gloom. It’s important we don’t forget that there are so many people doing great work every day.

The thing is though, our news providers are funded by large corporations. And in the best interests of these corporations, the various media through which our new reaches us are manipulated like puppets on a stage.

The world is a large place. And it’s inevitable that big news happening close to home will get more emphasis than what’s happening abroad. Floods disrupting rail travel in the UK are of little concern to a man in Norway, for example. Or a strike by fishermen at a French port irrelevant to the land-locked of Poland.

But when an issue is global – thus affecting all of us – it should go without saying that it’s top of the newsreel. This doesn’t happen though.

Did you know there have been two major oil spills in the Southeastern and Gulf areas of the United States this month? Over 5,000 gallons of crude oil have leaked in the Bay Long area of Louisiana and secondly a pipeline has ruptured in Alabama, spilling 338,000 gallons. What makes it to the ocean has the potential to spread around the world.

In Bay Long, the pipeline owned by Harvest Pipeline Company was accidentally cut during a restoration project that’s been taking place since BP’s massive spill in 2010. The Coast Guard are still working to recover the area and prevent further environmental damage.

In Alabama, a pipeline running oil from Texas to New York has ruptured, forcing the states of Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina to declare states of emergency on the basis of fuel shortages and environmental destruction. Supposedly the rupture occurred in the most ideal location of anywhere on route, but the cleanup has only just begun and the area hyper-sensitive to the point where overhead air space has been closed.

Our environment is what connects us all. We all have it in common. It is home. We only have one planet to support us and so it’s only fair that we each offer it respect and maintain it’s well-being. Without it, there is no us.

Insatiable greed for monetary wealth unfortunately ranks higher on the priority list than environmental care for big business tycoons. And this is why we have the issue of our news providers not putting such environmental disasters top of the list. If an oil spill isn’t a favourable broadcasting topic for a large monetary provider, it’s going to get the cut.

As much as we aspire to live in a society based on truth and the well-being of the masses, unfortunately the current state of affairs is not up to par. It’s important that we remember that the messages we’re getting on repeat every 30 minutes on the radio or on the morning and evening news are manipulated in the favour of those paying for the service. Unbiased, fact-based news isn’t always what’s placed on the table. In fact, it rarely is.

So what can we do about it? I believe in our current society, in order to know what is going on around the globe we must be active. Passively sitting on the couch and being fed the news will never give you the full picture. It’s sad, because things really should be better than this. We really should be placing environmental welfare top of the ranks. A healthy home equals a healthy heart for each of us. But take a look at two of the largest news providers: CNN and BBC. Neither of which have a news tab for the environment on their main website. The former has nothing of relevance and the BBC has ‘Science’ as a tab, which it places its environmental articles under.

Corruption, biased representation and suppression are all common themes today. But it’s nothing new. Since the dawn of the monetary age, man’s weakness for greed has driven the world to a division. Spinning in fear is not the answer and remember that as much bad as there is happening, there is more good. Educate yourself, sure, but most of all remember that all is not what it seems.

A good friend of mine recently gave me some food for thought. She said, it’s easy to feel like everything is chaotic and the apocalypse near approaching, but it’s only because we are all so connected today. If something tragic happens, ripples are felt across the internet-connected world. But if something wonderful happens, this also can be shared. This can be used to our advantage if we’re switched on enough to get our priorities straight.

Photo: NOLA

 

 

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Consumerism

Consumerism. That’s a word that gets thrown around pretty frequently and fashionably these days. And in an unpretentious manner, I feel it a great thing that we’re talking about it. Mass-production, monopolisation, advertising, and the endless quest for the next best thing. All of these create the ideal formula for a culture of mass-consumerism.

If we feel something is missing in our lives – a state all to familiar to most of us – one of the easiest ways to temporarily overcome that is to buy something to try to fill the void. There’s eating too, which is a weakness for many people, but generally speaking shopping is the major culprit. Retail therapy, anyone?

Whether it’s a gadget, a pair of shoes or an extra cushion for the bed, there’s always one more thing we’re led to believe will make our lives more complete. Complete and happier. But how often is this really the case? Think about your own experience. How many times have you tricked yourself into thinking that if you just buy that one thing, you’ll feel content? What do you find actually happens? Once you buy that one thing, you want another and then another. The cycle is vicious and never-ending.

What is it that we’re trying to achieve with all these purchases? Ultimately it is happiness, although the exact aspect we’re going for varies for each of us.

If I consume I’ll be worthy

Depending on how we were raised, some of us struggle in life with self-worth. Eternal perfectionists, we feel we’re never good enough. We’re never whole enough. One extra purchase to embellish our person or our surroundings offers the juicy hope that we can go in the direction we want. We fool ourselves into believing that one more item will improve us.

The reality is that this will never be the case. No amount of material goods is going to satiate your poor inner child’s habitual belief that he or she is not good enough. No item adds to or depletes you of value. You are good enough exactly as you are.

One of the most unavoidable and detrimental ways of basking in a lack of self-worth is through comparing yourself to others. In this digital day and age and it being rarer and rarer to be truly off the beaten-track, we are bombarded with everyone’s ‘best side’. Everyone’s attributes are flaunted and their flaws disguised. It’s no wonder so many of us consistently do not feel good enough!

If I consume I’ll find purpose

This is a pretty common one too. So many of us walk into adulthood or leave university feeling hopeless. We settle into jobs that don’t fuel our passions. Before long we feel defeated entirely. It’s easy to settle into a trap of feeling sorry for yourself. It’s so easy to accept a miserable shell-of-yourself existence. You live for the weekends and repeatedly suppress your hopes and dreams with drinking and drug use. It’s simply too painful to live wide-eyed and fully aware of how wrong a path you’re on and how impossible getting onto the right one feels.

Aside from suppressing your emotions with drugs and alcohol, there is the temporary high from buying. Clothes, cars, bigger houses, jewellery, the latest phone; all of these things offer a momentary welcome relief. However, ultimately they clog our environment and further emphasise the gaping void inside each of us.

Purpose is not found at the mall. Purpose comes from getting to know yourself fully, forming meaningful relationships with others and focussing on what feels good. If that is buying a particular item to  allow you to live your purpose then of course that’s a wonderful thing. But buying for the sake of buying is not.

Meaningful Consumerism

Open your eyes and you will see that the sales are permanent, there is always a deal on somewhere and there is no need to succumb to the urgency of ‘BUY IT NOW!’ that retailers and advertisers aim to bestow upon you. Purchases should be well-thought-out, meaningful and without the air of impulse.

When you buy an item, you are supporting all aspects of the industry that got that item within your grasp. That’s the ethos of the individual or team who dreamed the idea, the people who worked to make it come to fruition, the stockist and so on and so forth.

Something that I have grown rather passionate about is this idea of ‘fast fashion’ and how many of us are totally oblivious to where our clothes come from. We see an item within our price range and purchase it. But we don’t really think about how long it’ll last, who made it for us, what environmental impact it has had. And that’s sad.

I discovered the idea of a capsule wardrobe a while back and found it utterly brilliant. A capsule and slow fashion are synonymous to me. Creating a capsule is a process of bringing consciousness into your wardrobe. Less is more. Quality over quantity. Ethics over greed. Check out this post here, written a while ago for how I created a capsule wardrobe from Cladwell’s excellent ‘Capsules’.

There are so many areas of my life that I want to transform to something more ethical; living more harmoniously with the planet. Consumerism on a mass-scale for toxic reasons is so not the one. Funding large-scale corporations who rate how much profit they make higher than their environmental impact is not something I believe in and I am committed to supporting sustainable industry entirely.

 

Photo: Flickr

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Ahhh festival season. The summer vibes of sunshine, good music and cold beer. And of course getting together with all your buddies. It sounds a dream, right? I mean, it is. Floating out of everyday life and into utopia really does lead to the greatest of ‘ups’. Though tragically this is followed by the a contrasting, nightmarish down as you have to wake up the next day and ‘resume life’.

Festival environments are absolute pinnacles of creativity and connection. They are an opportunity for us to put forth intention for the creative kind of life that we would like to lead. Plus – of course – immerse ourselves in a hedonist music scene. My problem, however, is the trash.

You have no doubt seen the horrendous photographs of festival grounds left looking like a post-apocalyptic no man’s land on the day the crowds disperse and make their sorry way home.

Daily Mail

What we see left behind is anything and everything not considered of value to these people: cheap tents that were bought with the intention of only being used once, cheap fancy dress costumes only intended of being used the once, food and drink packaging, clothes, shoes, sleeping bags and pretty much any other item you can think of that one would need to survive at a festival for a few days at a time.

There are three main issues that lead to this wasteland. These are problems in society at large; not simply for the few days of a year at a festival.

Packaging – especially the non-recyclable or non-biodegradable kind

You need to replenish yourself between seeing your favourite artists. This means you’ll likely hit up one of the food stalls on-site and purchase a meal and maybe a drink. It’s important to think about the packaging these are served in. One-use Styrofoam or plastic containers will outlive you. At the very least 500 years. Think about that. And you’re just one person at one music festival! That’s a hell of a footprint you’re leaving on the earth.

Some festivals are doing things oh-so-right. By this I mean only providing biodegradable or recyclable packaging. They also offer a plethora of bins specifically for these items, with the intention of encouraging the crowds to make smart choices in their disposal.

There is a way around using any packaging at all. This is what I’m determined to do for my next festival: bring my own containers for food and beverages. Vendors often don’t care what they put your portion in. Give them the cash and bring your own container. This reduces your demand on resources.

Mentality – if it’s cheap, it doesn’t matter if I only use it once

This is something that spreads far wider than a 3 day festival. It is the drive behind our fast fashion industry and cheap superstores offering bargain-price shit that won’t last. We have got it so wrong when we live by this logic, because we are leaving a lasting pile of crap to accumulate, all because we somehow think we’re getting a better deal. A cheap alternative of whatever material item will never be as good as one made well and built to last. And surely it’s better with things that will stick with you through the times than having to go to the effort to compile a collection of new one-use items each time the demand calls?

What we need – globally – is conscious consumption. Think about each purchase you make. Do you really need it? Where was it made and why whom? Will this last? Is it made well with attention to detail?

What will you leave behind when you die? The earth will keep on spinning and future generations keep on blooming, but our pile of waste on this rock continues to grow at alarming rates. It is filling our oceans, smothering our land, destroying our wildlife and ridding our planet of its natural beauty. Think about the bigger picture when you next sway towards a one-time-use object that will lie around without decaying for the rest of your life.

Responsibility –it’s an organised event so someone else will clean up, right?

This is one of the toughest conundrums, because festival organsers plan for their grounds to be destroyed by the end of the event. They thus make sure they have ample back-up support in place to implement ‘mission clean-up’ once the crowds have left. It’s a safe assumption to make, because there is indeed an ocean of litter left behind. But this also backfires because all the guests know that someone will clean up that bag of camp trash they leave behind, that water-logged tent or that welly missing a sole.

The only way I can think to get around this is to allocate a spot to each group of campers. This way, there is a name attached to that specific plot of land and so someone who has no choice but to take responsibility for the miscellaneous items left behind for someone else to clean up. But this would be a massive change to typical ‘free for all’ camping festivals so the process of implementing such a practice massive and with many aspects to plan for.

I walk the city streets and don’t generally see people throwing rubbish on the ground. Most people wait for one of the bins scattered along the pavement and do the right thing by throwing it in. At a festival, it becomes acceptable to throw your waste wherever you feel like because there is this unspoken ideology that someone hired for the job will throw it away for you, dispose of it properly.

One of the most powerful things you can do is live by example.

  1. Make a point to throw your trash away properly
  2. If you see a friend leaving stuff on the ground, politely ask them if they would like you to throw their rubbish in the bin. It’ll bring their awareness to what they’ve done without causing conflict.
  3. Think about containers you can bring with you to fill with food and drink and re-use.
  4. Think about your purchases pre-festival in preparation for the big event. What will be the life story of those items once the festival is over?

If you have any environmentally-friendly festival ideas worth sharing, please comment below as I’d love to read them!

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Planes

What of the jet-setter, setting into the sun with aspirations of seeing the world, learning about it and making it a better place? Our flights are currently carbon-belchers, polluting the jet streams with their emissions. A lot of these aforementioned passengers would likely welcome in zero-carbon flight with wide-flung, open arms, but I bet the majority are not designers or engineers of that particular variety and so they must rely on someone else making that travel aspect of their lives more aligned with their values, even if they can’t depend on themselves to do it. Ah, the beauty of community and teamwork.

The same goes for the person driving all around the Queensland coast, studying how tropical reefs off-shore are suffering from ocean acidification caused by too much carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. That person may wish to commute by more environmentally-friendly means, but perhaps a bicycle cannot get them as far as they need to go within the time frame they have for their research and their passion is not driven in the direction of fossil fuel-free automobiles. This is the crux, you see.

I speak to so many brilliant minds who truly want the world to be a better place; they care about the planet and very much want better options for transport, energy and the like but still use their old ways to get around and live their lives because there is not a feasible alternative that they can walk into a shop and buy yet.

So what answer is there? The average Joe/Jane cannot do everything, even if he/she wants to. Sure, a person can read up on engineering and brush up their math if they want to learn how they can make a difference in that department. They could learn to dive and tackle wave energy as just one of numerous renewable energy resources; they could invest their time in installation and studying the impacts of such on marine life. They could delve into sociology and psychology, compiling a volume of information on human behaviour and how to lead people if politics is somewhere they see themselves thriving. But perhaps what they were really born to do was create art in the form of plays, movies, landscaping, thatch-roofing, or tattooing and therefore what would make them happiest is to spend their time doing these things – offering a service to welcoming recipients.

There are two ways that these sustainable changes will occur amongst us as a people. The first is that they will be implemented top-down. The masses will campaign to such an extent and with such uniformity that the government will have no choice but to tweak its protocol to that of the people finally after a history of bullshitting their way to more cushioned surroundings and higher stacks of cash.

The second is that more and more people will take themselves off-grid and begin their own self-run communities entirely isolated from mainstream society. This will involve teamwork and honest communication above all else in order for it to work, as well as depend on private land for these communities to claim home on.

So in the meantime, what is there for the person with the desire to jet set, which will further their research, expand their mind, and connect them with like-minded folk? Is that person simply to sit at home or only venture to the realms within cycling distance? No, of course not! We must move with the times, evolve with the times and this navigation is a construction process with a positive outcome on the horizon; it’s just a bit like some real-life construction scenarios where something has got to be demolished before an improvement takes its place.

Welcome to Part 3 of my ‘Troubled Tides’ series. Check out parts 1 and 2 if you didn’t catch them a while back. The aim of this series is to shine light on three of the most detrimental activities happening to our planet’s water right now. Today’s final post will be focusing on ocean acidification – probably the lesser known of the three topics I’ve covered, but absolutely catastrophic if it continues at the same rate.

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Dead zones

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Smothered and covered

Did you know that our oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere? I don’t remember learning that in school. In fact, it wasn’t until I got into my Marine Biology degree that I realised the extent of this problem. You see, we’re told about plants and how important they are for their CO2 absorption and O2 production during photosynthesis, but considering our planet is mostly water, what happens to all the rest of the CO2 that is the excess to what our plants are capable of absorbing?

The answer is that over a third of atmospheric CO2 is absorbed by the oceans. Now, this is fine so long as equilibrium is maintained. If harnessed by the algae living in the water to use for photosynthesis much in the same way as the plants do on land, with not much overflow, that’s not a problem really. But what about if there is overflow – and oh boy, is there; where does that go?

What happens is that it gets absorbed into the water itself, creating a chain of chemical reactions that produce an excess of H+ ions as an end result. You’ve heard of the term pH before, right? So pH refers to the acidity of something (the more H+ ions in a solution, the more acidic). That means, the more CO2 absorbed by the oceans, the greater the number of H+ ions floating around and therefore the more acidic the water body becomes.

Now, because our planet is always happiest at equilibrium, our oceans try to do something with all these excess H+ ions so as to keep the pH stable. Some of the alkaline carbonate (CO32-) molecules that are lingering around will bond with these H+ ions, forming bicarbonate. This steals free carbonate from the water, meaning there are less of these ions for calcium (Ca2+) to bond to. Now why is this important?

The problem is that our oceans are full of life. And that life, much like us, is sensitive to pH. You’ve probably heard the term ‘pH balanced’ thrown around on the commercials for some of your cosmetics; that’s because if we’re going to put a product on our skin, we have to ensure that it isn’t too acidic or alkaline for our skin to cope with. You’ve heard of acid burns, right?

Our oceans are full of calcifying organisms – organisms that build a protective shell for themselves, like plankton, molluscs and corals. These organisms used calcium carbonate (CaCO3). So if there is a decrease in CO32_, that means it is harder for these animals to make their shells. And worse, if there is a real excess of H+ ions, causing this whole imbalance, shells that have been built will actually start to dissolve, to free up CO32-.

These organisms essentially have their homes disintegrate right off their backs, leaving them vulnerable and unable to survive. This leads to extinctions, repercussions in the food chain and dead zones. If animals can’t survive in these conditions, we lose the beauty and abundance of our oceans. This affects us so deeply, because a planet with a 70% dead zone is no planet of beauty.

So what can we do about it? The key, as you know, is to stop pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere! We have got to cut it out with fossil fuels: the gas, oil and coal. We need to stop with the deforestation. We want our land masses to be filled with as many plants as possible, to absorb as much of the atmospheric CO2 as possible, limiting what our oceans have to face. The leading causes of deforestation include agricultural plantations such as soy bean and palm oil, as well as cattle ranching.

Be careful what foods your diet consists of. Pay attention to the ingredients label and try to only eat things if you know where they came from. Try to consume more of a plant-based, local diet. Try to explore renewable resources for your energy supply and transport. And lastly, educate yourself. Knowledge is power, so clue yourself in on what is going on and why it is going on, as this is the best tool to contribute to solutions.