The World Ahead - Photoshots - the web folio of Tony Stewart.

The World Ahead

Yesterday I was on a shoot at a Sustainability Conference. Part of my job that I love, is learning & hearing about other people’s professions & passions.

It was quite an eye opener, hearing from scientists, advocates & innovative businesses, who are all working at the coal face of climate change (pun intended!), who are all committed to making a difference.

In summary, here’s what I’ve learnt today (I even took notes while I was working!):

– We only have 1 atmosphere (actually, not sure that was new learning today, but a timely reminder!).
It isn’t actually that big, and we aren’t treating it very well, certainly not with the seriousness and respect needed to sustain human life going forward. Actually most life for that matter.

– The sudden change in which human activity has impacted our planet, is unprecedented. The sudden release of greenhouse gas, particularly via our use of fossil fuel since the industrial revolution, is a mere speck in time, given the age of the planet. Yet the impact is hugely severe.

– We have to sort out our atmosphere – quick. Actually, bloody quick.

– We need to arrest the rapid temperature rise of our planet’s atmosphere. We need to mitigate and adapt our actions, and measure this.

– The science about climate change is clear, and now beyond doubt. There is no longer any contention whether this is / isn’t a problem. There unequivocally is a problem. Without a doubt, a really big problem. Talk about previous ice age events, dinosaurs, it’s all happened before etc is simply not relevant. At worst case, we wont live to know whether we are ever right or wrong, and it will truly be an own goal for humanity. If by some chance we have any of this wrong, and we make some changes, then simply we have created have a better place to live. Pending on your view, change will either be a for the better, or it will be essential. To debate the need for change, is simply a waste.

– We need to work faster, harder, deeper… to solve this problem.

– 1.5 deg change is the limit we need to observe, to retain some degree of balance on this planet. The current result is we are heading for around 3 degrees.

– In short, we are not currently doing enough to help ourselves, (or all other species or ecosystems).

– Governments won’t necessarily lead us through this change. They might try, but it is not enough to rely on this. It likely to be too little, too late by the time all governments get on board for the change and cooperation needed.

– Like her or hate her, it’s Greta and youth like her that will drive the impetus for change, that will cause people to stop and think, to reflect of our actions…. They will most certainly NOT have the world that we grew up enjoying. Her anger is real, and will cause a systemic shift. Like many instigators of change in history, it is the ‘weird’ ones that will force change, not ‘the suits’, senators or politicians.

– Oil, coal, aviation, agriculture etc… industries need help to change. They will fight kicking and screaming until it’s too late. But they must change. The more help they can get, rather than antagonism, the better for all.

– We all have to act. It isn’t about nationalism. Yes, China and India are a problem, but we’ve caused more changes, for much longer. There is still only one atmosphere, and it’s everybodies. Temperature rise is not bound by geopolitical demarcations or borders. We can argue and point fingers – it doesn’t matter. Someone, everyone, … needs to act – it doesn’t matter who. Action anywhere, and everywhere… is needed.

– Without change, we WILL have a new normal. Weather, ocean rise, food availability, population shift, geopolitical pressure -> conflict, seed germination / pollination / plant growth, adverse weather events and insurance, increase fire / flooding, change to social policy / regulation / restrictions… you name it. We will face huge changes.

– Targets need to be reached by 2025-30. Not 2050, or we’re buggered!

– We need more clean energy, and to get off coal & oil,quick. Lucky NZ has electricity generation at 83% renewable energy. We have much more potential here in Nz than a lot of the world to develop wind, solar, wave, hydro capacity. Sadly most countries don’t have anything close, and population growth and electric vehicles will even challenge Nz’s ongoing supply.

– All our natural and human systems are all connected. Food – transport – water – food – economics – ocean health – atmosphere – land use – habitat – population – health – social license- infrastructure – manufacturing – insurance. Issues of climate change interconnect with economics, poverty, agriculture, lifestyle, psychology….

– There is plenty of opportunity, & plenty of room to act. There is hope, there is a way to change, it just needs everybody to try, quickly.


So what does that actually mean. How do people contribute to change?

– We need verious tipping points of consumer change across many areas, but we can do it. Look how plastic bag use has changed, that has now gone from being normal & widespread use, to now being banned.

– Compost at home, or use green bin fully. Landfill = methane = greenhouse gas

– Check your KiwiSaver provider – where do they invest? Is it sustainable forest, renewable energy etc…

– Purchase AirNZ carbon option when buying fares. This does equate to effective mitigation

– The usual, reduce, recycle, reuse.

– Build expectations, minimum standards and materials need to change with more solar, double / triple glazing, LED lighting, energy saving systems, water storage, heat exchange systems, insulation… The Building Code is really just the minimum standard (ie the worst!) you can legally build. Look at every house build, and you’ll see a skip full of waste waiting to be dumped. That needs to change.

– Vote, march, use your voice…
Yell at government, annoy businesses!

– Consider options like 4 day weeks / work from home to reduce commuter journeys.

– We have to stop deforestation and land degradation. Shop carefully to see if you have products sourced from non sustainable forestry / palm. Land systems affect our marine systems, that affects weather….

– We need to revisit natural systems. Indigenous cultures / values often have systems of balance, that we have shifted.

– Back to the future. We used to do many things well but then got greedy ie glass bottles, nappies, bottle exchange for $, grow own veges…

– Science will / must help us transition, and we need to look outside box for answers.
ie Kelp, insects, hemp, bio plastic, alternative cement….The likes of Medsalv, reusing one-use medical supplies (syringes etc) has the potential to reduce a huge amount of landfill waste. And remains cheaper!

– Car ownership & transport will need to change. The future is the likes of Yoogo car sharing.

– Reduce food waste, in home and societally. Buy local, reduce distribution.

– Reduce our intake of meat, even if starting with 1 less meal per week.

– We need a change of western mindset.
That success is to have ‘stuff’.

– Insect life is crucial especially bees. Spray chemical use needs to change considerably

– Rationalise travel, especially long distance / air.

– We need to invest & innovate, and that will cost money by individuals, families, council / regionally, nationally, globally.

– Collaboration and inclusion are most definitely needed for people to work on solutions together.

– Stewardship, Kaitiaki, ethical, responsible approach is needed by govt / council / business

– Make change personally. Amplified by all of population, one coffee cup less become 10million… introduce a new planting in your home, and when others do that too, then a billion new trees are possible…

– NZ may not change global emissions by huge numbers, but it can lead mindset, attitudes, systems, policy, direction. Add to the tipping point desperately needed.

– A whole shift in mindset is needed. By human nature, if we just see the problem as a risk / envitable, then we will just try to protect the risk. It feels too negative, too much, too heavy, too hard… We need to see this more about opportunity to change, create a positive difference.

– Change attitudes, change emotion, then behaviour will follow.