While political leaders from around the world met in Poland for the 19th yearly session of climate change discussions and policy negotiation last November, I joined a team of science experts in the Arctic to make the most of our time on Tundra Buggy One, observing the annual Polar Bear migration onto Hudson Bay. After hosting three conversations between schools around the world and our three in-buggy scientists, I felt a lot more informed about the complex set of challenges facing the Arctic region, home to the Polar Bears we observed and the food chain under them.
On our webcasts, we focused quite a bit on action, and how we can all Tread Lightly on our planet through a variety of actions we can take every day. Even in our first session, we had many questions about action - Mrs. Schroeder's 5th grade class asked, “How can we as students/kids help stop greenhouse gases?”
This is an important question, and we all wanted to be careful not to over-simplify the situation and the action needed. Rather than see the individual actions we can all take as a one-time contribution to “solving” the problem of greenhouse gas emissions and over-consumption of resources, we strive to inspire ongoing changes in behavior that start with individual action, continue with spreading the word through leading by example (and our powerful social networks), and culminate in asserting these values and priorities to political leadership, who will become responsive if we can engage critical masses.
Both Polar Bears International and TakingITGlobal have undertaken a number of efforts in recent years to make these actions simple to understand and share, and they include a number of ways to engage we shared this week:
- PBI’s My Planet, My Part web site hosts not just our webcasts and the Polar Bear cam, but eight sharable commitments that can contribute to the preservation of the Polar Bears’ habitat
- The food we eat makes a huge impact on world, and can consume a huge amount of resources in its production. For example, did you know it takes more than 15,000 litres of water to produce one kilo of beef? More than 30% of the world’s grain (70% in the USA!) is used to feed livestock for human consumption. TakingITGlobal’s Low Carbon Lunch resource provides schools and workplaces with a framework for encouraging a shared mealtime with a limited impact on our planet. Local, Organic, and Waste-free.
- And finally, with the growing adoption of Smartphones, we’ve re-launched our Commit2Act mobile app as a web-based app compatible with all Smartphone platforms. Using the app, you can browse dozens of earth-friendly actions, log and track your actions each day (with photographic evidence), and recruit your friends to take part too!
Alongside these individual actions, which will inspire our peers and mobilize our communities, we need to advocate to our leaders for the attention that these issues deserve on a national and global scale. Just this month, the World Meteorological Organization reported that concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere rose to higher than ever levels in 2012, yet prospects for a comprehensive agreement to come out of the negotiations in Poland and Paris next year look increasingly bleak. What’s more likely to happen is a looser agreement allowing countries to set their own targets, which would be peer-reviewed by other nations.
And that’s where we all come in. We need to let our leaders know that we expect them to set bold targets that bring industry, academics, and non-profits together to develop innovative approaches to reducing both consumption and emissions. In fact, 68% of Canadians agree that protecting the environment provides new jobs and improves economic growth. Companies need to hear this too, and you’re voting with your dollars every day: write to the companies you buy products from to learn more about how they’re reducing their impact, and let them know you’re paying attention. It’s all about the action, and your role is as important as it’s ever been.