Culture

Responding to the Ecocity World Summit

17 July 2017

Former US Vice President and ongoing climate campaigner, Al Gore was the keynote speaker at the biennial Ecocity World Summit hosted in Melbourne last Thursday. Gore’s speech highlighted three main ideas pertaining to the gravity of climate change world-wide; Must we change? Can we change? Will we change?

These three questions laid the foundation for an in-depth, real-world discussion about the past, present and future of the planet, and the environmental issues facing us today. Despite ongoing environmental disasters occurring at above-average rates around the world, Mr Gore is optimistic for the future. He outlined in his speech how world-wide renewable energy initiatives have helped to stabilise carbon dioxide emissions, and how this demonstrates the possibility of the emissions being reduced to a safer level in the coming years, with an increased focus on renewables.

Gore explained the ongoing risks of an increasing climate, including outbreaks of infectious tropical disease, food shortage and starvation, uninhabitable towns and displacement of people world-wide. Shockingly, he announced that without any change we can be facing the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II, with a predicted 20 million people to be victims of starvation and disease, and millions more displaced. Temperatures above 50 degrees Celsius have already been claiming lives world-wide, and we are in the midst of the world’s sixth mass extinction (the last one marked the end of the dinosaurs). Many researchers question the survival of human kind by the end of this extinction, but regardless, is a world with up to 75 per cent of species lost really one we want to live in?

Despite the alarming facts about the condition of our world, Gore’s speech left everyone inspired. He ended the presentation by explaining that our shift to renewable energy has been working, and so the next steps are to increase our dependence on renewables.

It left me wondering what I can do as an individual, to make a difference at such a critical point. We can all use the power of words to write to state and federal government officials, to push them toward prioritising sustainable practises. Melbourne is so connected by public transport, which has long been a way to reduce carbon emissions, and Gore himself was impressed by our city’s sustainability and potential. As many of us students do, we can keep using public transport, walking or riding our bikes to class to reduce our individual carbon footprints. For those of you who do drive, do you need to? Perhaps you could use public transport once a week. Does your energy provider have a renewable option?

When we do our groceries, we can easily take our own bags instead of plastic ones. We can easily take our own coffee cups to be refilled, rather than using disposable ones. We can do our readings online, instead of printing them out on paper. We can have just one more meat-free meal every week. We can get involved with the community garden on campus and learn how to grow our own produce. We can avoid foods containing unsustainable palm oil and help the Orangutan. We can simply have this conversation with someone else.

All of these things seem so small and insignificant, but the small things can make a difference. I know all too well the feeling of “I’m just one person, I can’t make a difference”, but it simply isn’t true.

We know we must change.

We know we can change.

Will you change?


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