A couple of weeks ago my teacher asked me to put together some information about the loss of animals on our little planet and what we can do to help, so here I am, writing about what I think is the single most important topic there is; the environment/animals/climate change/oceans. Please forgive me if this is not my most flowing bit of writing. I just want to get the information out there. I want to empower people to save the planet as quickly as possible. If you want to get right to it, you can skim down to the bullet point list of what to do, but I really recommend reading the intro here, and especially reading the article linked to below about stopping climate change in the paragraph about hopelessness.
On October 30th The Guardian published an article stating that since 1970 we have lost about 60% of the animals on earth. Yes, we have 60% less critters sharing this planet with us today than we did when I was a baby crawling on the floor. This is a tremendous loss. It’s also about traditional medicine, because medicine comes from nature, and the reasons the animals are dying off is because we are not taking good care of nature. From climate change to deforestation, to all of the toxins we create going into the sea, our actions as humans are having a direct impact on the very existence of nature. It’s not just the individual animals, it’s the habitats they are in that are dying. Which ultimately connects to human health, as we cannot have health without clean air, water, plants; a thriving natural world.
Before moving on I want to immediately address hopelessness. Climate change, the topic that should be dominating every single concern conversation, is not only stoppable, but is directly linked to how we vote, our personal habits, and even to social justice and even feminism (women with access to education/healthcare/viable jobs have less children, hence less overpopulation). The media focuses only on the doom and gloom aspect of climate change science, ignoring the most important part, which is how we can still change the path we are on. The media tells us over and over again that our future is hopeless, with headlines of impending doom. But the very studies that the media takes that message from also map out exactly how we are NOT doomed. Journalism loves the idea of “if it bleeds it leads” meaning that only horrible news catches the public interest, and so we are only presented with horrible news. But the truth is, there is still time to save our forests, save our animals, save ourselves. We believe the stories we tell, and we manifest them. So it is important that we spread a story of hope. A story in which we make change. We must reject the media narrative that tells us to surrender to a bleak dystopian future. This narrative of hopelessness makes us lazy and complicit in the destruction of nature. Stories of how we can make change invite us to be active and to co-create a world in which our children can imagine also having children. Please read this article the does a much better job than me of explaining why there is hope, and the media’s role in making us think there isn’t, and please, share it with everyone you know.
Okay, so what do we do?
• Vote for politicians who believe in climate change, understand science, and have an environmentally friendly political agenda. This is one of the single most important things you can do. Personal shopping and action habits are important, but they are small compared to wholesale governmental policy change. Laws surrounding industry pollution standards, car emission standards, logging, mining, coal use and many other aspects of human life that impact nature are what lead to big changes. It is imperative that every single person who has the ability to vote, uses that ability and votes for leaders on local and national levels who will implement policies that will protect nature and slow climate change. It’s also important to vote for politicians who support education. The more educated people are, the less babies they have (reducing population problems) and the more likely to make sustainable choices they are. Helping people of all income levels and varying demographics to have equal opportunity to become educated helps the world. Keep in mind that you most likely will never agree with everything a politician does; the very nature of their job insures this. Don’t throw away the good for the perfect. Just vote for the politicians who will support environmentally friendly policy and have a real chance at winning. We are on a train headed for a cliff and we need whoever can stop the train. We can worry about finding people who match more of our ideals later. It is the tendency of the left to sit on the train that is about to go over the cliff and argue about gender pronouns and whether or not a politician ever took a donation from a corporation; but again, we are on a train headed for a cliff! Pretty much nothing else matters other than stopping this train. Stay focused. 60% of the animals stopped existing in the last 40 years. We are animals too. And we are equally endangered.
• We can give money to organizations that are working to protect the environment, and I will include a list of some good ones at the bottom here; there are many very good ones that really and truly need all you can give, whether it’s very little or a lot. But we have to do more than just give money. We have to address our daily actions. There are big and small things we can do that will help if enough of us participate.
• Don’t buy products that contain palm oil. Palm oil is one of the leading causes of rainforest deforestation as vast swaths of virgin rainforest are being mowed down for palm oil plantations. There are entire species of animals that are dying off largely because of palm oil, which is an ingredient in about half of the pre-made food products on shelves in grocery stores. Here is a very good article about palm oil .
Palm oil is found in packaged foods, cosmetics, toothpaste, shampoos, all sorts of things. So read ingredients, and refuse to buy products that are made with palm oil. It is often listed under different names as companies strive to hide the fact that they are using palm oil. Here is a list of alternative names used for palm oil. There are also apps you can install on your phone that help you to know if you are buying a product with palm oil in it. Don’t be fooled by products that claim to use “sustainably harvested” palm oil, or other such greenwash wording. There are no sustainable palm oil certifications that ban destruction of rain forests. 100% avoid palm oil.
• Buy organic foods and other organic products. The majority of animals being lost from the planet are from the earth’s water systems. One of the reasons for this is over fishing (we’ll get to avoiding participating in that in a minute), but another is because the ocean receives all of our human crap. The pesticides, herbicides and fungicides that we spray on our crops all end up in the rivers and eventually in the sea. And of course, many pesticides directly or indirectly kill land and sky animals as well.
• After you vote, bug your politicians. It’s not enough to just vote the right people into office. Send them thank you notes when they advocate for good changes. Send them letters and e-mails and call their offices to let them know, over and over again, what is important to you, their constituents. Keep the pressure on. It’s incredibly easy to send a message. Most of the messages I send to my local and federal government leaders take less than 2 minutes. I look up their contact information and make a call or whip out an e-mail. Or I sign a petition. I do it all the time, it’s easy.
• Buy sustainable Fish (or don’t eat fish) - here is a list from the Marine Conservation Society of fish to eat and fish to avoid, based on the sustainability of how they are obtained.
• Eat less meat, and never eat factory farm meat. The meat industry is the single biggest contributor to climate change on the planet, according to a recent Oxford study . Rainforests are being leveled for cattle grazing land, meat industry carbon emissions are incredibly high, and the meat industry uses massive amounts of water. You can stop showering for an entire year and save less water than if you just don’t eat 3 pounds of beef. If you eat meat, reduce your consumption as much as possible, and get your meat from small local private farms, raise your own (and treat the animals well), or wild caught (so long as it’s done sustainably). I know that this can be difficult, but seriously, reducing meat consumption and buying meat from non-factory farm sources is right up there with voting as being one of the single most important things you can do for the environment. You could stop driving a car, stop showering, and recycle all your garbage, and still not be doing as much good as just dramatically reducing meat consumption. Not only that, but both fishing and factory farm practices involve a lot of human rights violations with work conditions that have more injury, disease, and death than any other industry and usually rely on vulnerable human populations such as illegal immigrants, refugees, and other people who cannot get better work.
• Dramatically reduce your use of plastic. We all know it; plastic is ruining the world. Animals are dying with bellies full of plastic instead of food. Do everything you can to avoid plastic. Especially single use disposable plastic. Use bar shampoos instead of ones that come in plastic bottles. Use reusable storage containers instead of plastic wrap on food. Look for items that don’t come wrapped in plastic when you shop. Buy groceries from stores that have bulk sections so you can bring your own container. In the U.S., don’t buy produce from places like Trader Joes, where it is almost all in plastic. And of course, bring your own reusable bags to the store. Also, make your own stuff whenever you can. I make my own dish soap and household cleaning fluids in order to avoid buying more plastic containers. I get tofu from a local tofu factory where I can bring my own container. These are just examples of steps one can take to avoid plastic. Please let me know if I can help you in this endeavor.
Also, for all of you who travel to Thailand a lot, the magic words when shopping are “mai sai tung” (ไม่ใส่ถุง), meaning, don’t put it in a bag. You all know how easy it is to leave the guesthouse for 20 minutes and come back with 15 plastic bags.
• Demand less plastic every time you go to the store. I do not understand why health food stores are still full of plastic. Public demand starting back in the 70s for organic food caused stores to change their buying practices and provide us with what we want and now there is organic food almost everywhere. So now it’s time for us to let the stores we shop at know that we do not want products packaged in plastic. Put notes in the suggestion boxes, e-mail the company, tell the managers. And don’t stop. Keep the pressure on!
• Avoid plastic water bottles. Whenever possible, drink tap water. In most modern environments tap water is just as safe to drink as bottled water. In some cases it is more safe, as plastic water bottles leach xenoestrogens and other nasty things into your water. When on the move, use a stainless steel or glass water bottle that you can refill.
• Use non toxic products - whether we are talking about cleaning products, lawn/garden products, pool/hottub products, wherever you can make a choice, go for biodegradable, non-toxic, recycled etc.
• Educate - tell others about things that you are doing to save the planet, the animals, the plants, the oceans. Be an inspiration. Help others to make changes.
• Use public transportation, walk, and bike - reduce vehicle carbon emissions.
• Reduce, reuse, recycle - Use less stuff, reuse the stuff you have, and recycle whatever you can.
• Plant trees. If you have property, plant trees on your property. Or volunteer with local tree planting groups. Trees provide oxygen and habitat for animals. They also help to lower the temperature of the earth.
• Compost your food waste. Composting is good for the earth and reduces land fill garbage.
Okay, here is a short list of organizations to give money to.
Of course there are many other wonderful organizations out there. These ones are solid, long last lasting, and cast a broad net. You can also look up specific organizations, such as groups helping to save orangutans, or rainforests in Madagascar.
• The Nature Conservancy - They have been around for a long time, and they work hard to protect nature by straight up buying land for the sole purpose of conservation.
• The Sierra Club - Protecting land and working for political policy change
• Greenpeace - Another long standing environmental protection group that does good work directly protecting wildlife, working for political policy change, and educating about
• World Wildlife Fund - Saving endangered animals is their goal, but of course these days this always means working for all of environmental protection and stopping climate change.
• The Ocean Conservancy - The name says it all, they fighting the good fight to protect our oceans.
• 350.org - 350.org unites climate activists into a movement, with a strategy of bottom-up organizing around the world. Activists in 189 countries have organized 350.org’s local climate-focused campaigns, projects and actions. In India, for example, organizers have mobilized people to speak out against the country’s dependence on coal for growth. In the US, the group has campaigned to divest public institutions — such as municipalities and universities — from the fossil fuel industry, and to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.
• Union of Concerned Scientists - Today, the majority of the UCS’s areas of advocacy focus on climate change. The group is responsible for groundbreaking research on sustainability standards for vehicles and the disastrous affects of climate change