By Owen Charters
The environment remains a vital topic. Spring has brought major flooding in Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick, and leaders are now declaring that this will be a routine event given climate change. We need to consider our impact on the world.
If you have kids, you probably know that they are the greatest guardians of the planet. My kids routinely question our family’s choices when it comes to the environment. They know about conservation and preservation of our fresh water sources. They don’t like plastic straws and other disposable plastics. And they are probably only at the beginning of their environmental crusade, which I suspect will become more vigilant and ardent as they get older.
We recently joined seven other youth-serving organizations to survey young people across Canada. The results came out today. Among the many interesting findings, we discovered that the number two concern among youth is climate change. The next generation knows they are inheriting a bad deal. They’ve heard it, they see it. They’re the first generation to really see the first-hand impacts of wild fires, water levels rising, and volatile weather from the day they were born. Prior generations were warned, and now we’re experiencing it.
When Finance Minister Bill Morneau was meeting with kids at our Toronto Kiwanis Boys and Girls Club, one girl was adamant that she ask him about plastics in our oceans. She was driven by purpose and she was not going to be dissuaded. When I told her we were running out of time and he might not get to her question, she looked me firmly in the eye and said: “But I HAVE to ask him about this. It’s REALLY IMPORTANT.” She got to ask her question. And he answered, acknowledging that it is a major concern.
While I’ve always tried to make good choices for the planet, it feels even more urgent now. I admit I’m a wannabe environmentalist—I want to do the right things, but modern life and its conveniences often get in the way. I try to make decent choices where I can. It’s not enough, and I know it. I drive a hybrid vehicle—but it’s an SUV, because I have to fit kids, a dog, and sports gear in there. I carry a refillable coffee mug and a reusable water bottle wherever I can. I try to remember my reusable bags when I go grocery shopping. I now travel with my own soap and shampoo instead of using the one-time options in hotels.
But then I fall prey to the convenience of online shopping and Amazon. Sure, the packaging can be recycled, but it’s WAY TOO MUCH PACKAGING, and recycling isn’t a great solution anyway as fewer of the materials are actually being reused anymore. And I sit on airplanes a lot, which spew carbon into the atmosphere. For every good choice, it feels like I make ten bad choices, or worse, take actions where you might not have any choices at all.
It makes you wonder if you’re having any impact. If your choices really matter. Well, here’s how you can find out—an organization in the US, Project Drawdown, has assessed the top 100 actions that will have the biggest impact on reducing climate change. And the top items may be surprising. You can see the full project here. However, if you want to have some fun first, take the CNN quiz that uses the Drawdown data to test your knowledge of what actions would have the most significant impact on climate change:
Spoiler alert—one of the biggest impacts has to do with the education and empowerment of girls and women. Why? Well, click the links and go see for yourself—I won’t spoil it for you.