Sunset over the Okavango in Botswana

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what difference you want to make.” (Jane Goodall)

If we act now we can change the future.

We are in a time of transition

Our old world is gone and ahead of us lies a future of infinite possibilities, or a decline into disaster and despair. I know which of these gets me up in the morning. I prefer to see a world of potential. Of course we have seriously damaged that “old world”. That place – where man was king and could do what he wanted with Nature – is damaged and denuded, and in some cases hanging on by a thread. That domain where we conquered and colonised our fellow man has left us with a legacy of inequality, racism and poverty that causes us all to be fearful. There are selfish, greedy, and uncaring people in our world who think only of themselves, of making money and acquiring more status.

And yet, there is a beautiful world still, for our descendants, if we fight to save it. And there are amazing people out there, people who care, who work endlessly and imaginatively to create what we need for that better future. They need our support.

Right now many of us are living in our stories of despair, unwillingness to change and inability to accept we can make a difference.

It is up to us to decide how that future will be. If we choose we can design that new story we need to write. A story of a sustainable world of community, peace and meaning. If we don’t write it, somebody else will write it for us and it will not be what we want.

Is it still possible to create a better world?

Exciting change is happening all round us, sometimes at an incredible rate. I find this extremely empowering, and it keeps my hopes of that new world alive.

Of course there are days when our politicians let us down very badly. There are times when other people don’t seem to care, and we feel alone. However I would like to show you some of the things that are happening, things that can bring a sustainable and happier future to our families.

Sustainable Agriculture

A cornucopia-style array of organic vegetables

To get you started here is an article full of good news, not specifically environmental, but great to hear all the same.

Technological Changes that make our better future possible

The world’s capacity to generate renewable electricity is expanding faster than ever. This means there is a real chance of achieving the goal of tripling global capacity by 2030 that governments set at the COP28 climate change conference last year.

The Executive Director of IEA said that “Onshore wind and solar PV (panels) are cheaper today than new fossil fuel plants almost everywhere and cheaper than existing fossil fuel plants in most countries.” It will, however, be vital to increase financing for emerging and developing economies for this goal to be successful.

So not only will we rapidly decrease pollution by getting rid of fossil fuels but we should also save money. If we get the funding right we can also provide electricity for a large part of the world that at present has no access. That in itself will greatly improve the economic future for many people and help lift them out of poverty. It will give electricity to those that have never had it before, increasing production, giving light to children to do their homework, and allowing populations to cook on stoves that do not make them ill.

Sustainable Transport

Air pollution has been the cause of millions of deaths over the years, so decarbonisation of transport is vital for a sustainable and healthy future. However it is imperative, in particular for developing countries to have access to decent transport links to allow them to develop and grow.

Electric cars have been amazingly successful worldwide. Globally electric car sales rose by 31% in 2023. There has been considerable discussion on the problematic mining of lithium to provide electric car batteries. However this report looks at research on non-lithium-ion batteries for cars and shows great potential for the future.

Norway has considerable experience for battery production and sustainable electricity production and has recently produced a super-fast electric ferry which has prompted a lot of excitement. See this article.

Fuelling long-distance trucks, aviation fuel and cargo ships has seemed a problem up till now, causing anxiety about how our lifestyles will have to change. However there has been a huge amount of research on the subject and I believe that we will solve many of the problems. Right now we are not ready but there is some very exciting and unusual research going on.

The future most of us seek will be an ecological civilization: peaceful, democratic, equitable, sustainable, and dedicated to securing the well-being of people and Earth. Getting there needs us to change our vision of how the future can be.

Electric Car Charging Station

An electric car charging station

The success of the sustainable energy sector has kept our hopes of reducing Global Warming alive, and it seems that future technological advances will only improve on that success. Of course we will make mistakes on the way to our goals. In many cases we are learning as we go. But in my opinion what is important is that we are moving, just not fast enough for now. We encourage that movement the more we engage in what is going on.

Other areas where our carbon emissions are very high are in agriculture and from deforestation. Reducing this has been much slower, probably because there is a great deal of resistance from businesses that will suffer from these cuts, people like farmers. This is not the farmers’ fault, particularly if they are small farmers trying desperately to make a living. It is the governments who need to change in this situation to adapting the help they give to work better for smaller farms. Our job for now is to support the farmers and encourage them to change.

Nevertheless there is a lot of progress both large- and small scale. While operations in the Amazon Basin are cause for anxiety, deforestation in that area is changing. Brazil and its new President have managed to cut deforestation in that country by 50% from the previous year. Also a fund for sustainable development in the Brazilian Amazon region has been released which will allow forest degradation to be tackled.

Further good news on this front comes from the EU and its new regulations on buying deforestation-free products.

Sustainable Agriculture

For me one of the most exciting examples of positive change is a move to sustainable agriculture. WWF has a number of interesting stories here.

Worldwide there are many thousands of interesting examples of individuals, farmers, rewilders, urban farmers, builders promoting vertical agriculture, cities and governments supporting change to a less damaging and healthier way of protecting our soils. Our choices of who we support can help considerably here.

Can We Make a Difference to our Future?

Yes, definitely.

There are so many ways that we as individuals can make a difference. We just need to take our courage in both hands and get on with it while remembering that the future is not yet written. We can write it.

We can:

  • Vote for local Councils that improve public transport
  • Support our local farmers as they work to improve their soil and their farming methods – buy from those making a real effort
  • Buy furniture made from legally cut wood
  • Walk and cycle more. Use public transport when we can
  • Fly much less
  • Talk to other people as much as possible about Climate Change and all the other problems the world is facing. Have a meeting or a coffee morning and ask the neighbours what they think
  • Think very carefully about your vote this year if your country has an election. They might all seem a “bad lot” but some will care more than others
  • Think how you would like our future to be and talk about it with others
  • Above all, get active. Get involved in local community schemes for the climate or nature. If there isn’t one then start something. Think about opening a Climate Café in your neighbourhood.

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Photos by Doreen Hosking and by James Kern and J Dean on Unsplash