The general election campaign is in full swing, with Westminster’s main parties drawing the battle lines over key issues including: economic growth, health care and education. But take a step back from mainstream media reporting, and you’ll notice the endangered elephant in the room. Climate change continues to be a neglected issue.
In September 2015, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are due to be launched; an integrated set of goals designed to promote environmental sustainability, economic development and poverty reduction. That the UK general election subordinates environmental concerns to that of neoliberal economic growth is worrying for two reasons.
First, the UK wields a lot of influence in formulating the SDGs. Second, it shows political disregard to the fact that our society and our economy are bound by a natural biophysical system that sustains life on earth. This disregard extends across the global platform.
Neoliberal attitudes to economic stimulus over the last forty years have led to a global system based on inequality, exploitation, and rising global temperatures, threatening the future of our planet. Environmentally damaging and unsustainable human consumption is leading to fatal destruction: mass deforestation, collapsing ecosystems, and the extinction of diverse animal species.
Between 1970 and 2010, over half of the planet’s wildlife species were lost, as a direct result of burning fossil fuels, and deforestation. According to a report by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Brazil and Indonesia, responsible for the world’s largest deforestation over the last two decades, continue to abuse their natural resources, handing out $40bn (£27bn) in subsidies to the palm oil, timber, soy, beef and biofuel sectors between 2009-2012 – 126 times more than the $346m they received to protect and preserve their rainforests from the UN’s REDD+ scheme.
Meanwhile, a shell oil tanker moves closer to the Alaskan Arctic, despite over 6 million online petitions protesting against Arctic drilling.
As a result of global warming, pollution, and rapid rates of industrialisation, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, larger than the entire area of the UK and Ireland, is under threat of collapse, while the last male northern white rhinoceros on the planet has been placed under 24-hour armed guard in Kenya, to act as a protection against ivory poachers. Wildlife experts expect the extinction of wild Rhinoceros by 2020.
Bees, responsible for pollinating crop species that feed 90% of the world’s population, are dying at an alarming rate due to unregulated pesticide use, with potentially disastrous consequences for the global human population. World food markets will be damaged, and an increasing global population will feel increasingly hungrier if action to protect bees is not taken.
The evidence demonstrates that current models of economic growth are unstable, and unsustainable. It is the responsibility of our government to take a leading role in tackling climate change abroad, while taking action at home to reduce carbon emissions, and introduce environmentally friendly policies.
Fracking should be abandoned, with increased investment in renewable energy sources, such as off-shore wind generation and solar panels. Pesticides ought to be dramatically reduced, instead prioritising non-chemical farming methods through improved education, safe-farming legislation, and the promotion or organic farming. The Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs should research, support, and promote farming methods that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and enable carbon storage.
Lessons in how to create affordable housing can be learnt at a local level, such as Liverpool’s ‘Homes For a Pound’ scheme, encouraging regeneration of abandoned properties rather than development on greenfield sites. Grassroots activism should be encouraged, with subsidies given to those with creative solutions to environmental problems. One such example is ‘Bee The Change’, a social enterprise in Bristol which has been setting up communally run beehives around the city alongside an education programme teaching people to live sustainably.
Now more than ever, we have to advocate the importance of keeping climate change below 2C. In December 2015 world leaders will meet in Paris for the UN’s Climate Change Conference. It is importance we put the pressure on our politicians, especially now during the General Election, to start taking our environmental concerns seriously. The Earth’s resources are finite, and we must protect them. Everything we make, and everything we consume, comes from the Earth. And we only have one. It’s time to heal the wounds of our planet, for the benefit of mankind’s collective future.
James Crawley, Y Care International volunteer, part of the action/2015 youth network
For more information on the action/2015 campaign and youth click here. The action/2015 Youth Panel is co-facilitated by British Youth Council, BOND, Islamic Relief, Progressio and Restless Development and Y Care International.