Updated: Mar 11, 2021
by Lamisa H.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has” - Margaret Mead
When the climate crisis comes up in conversation, we are met with a few seemingly irreconcilable extremes: The indifferent individual, living life without a sense of impending disaster; the nihilist, resigned to accepting our inevitable doom; or the lone fighter, hellbent on believing we can turn this boat around. In our current political climate, it’s easy to fall into a spiral of eco-anxiety and inaction.
Being aware of the magnitude of the problem often means that our attempts at individual change can seem inconsequential. For me, switching to more sustainable choices was a ticket into mindful living and realising the broader social and political changes I wished to see. It is essential to reform our individual habits to ensure that our climate activism does not fall into the realms of slacktivism.
There is an important concept in Islam called haq, which means 'truth' or 'right'. It played a fundamental part with my anxieties, when questioning the scope of my impact in reversing climate change. My concerns were rendered powerless whenever I asked myself the question: At what point does my lifestyle impinge on the haq-- the rights of others? How can I better align my intentions with my daily actions? I thought the result of my journey into more ethical living would end in a plastic-free household, but it morphed into something else entirely the more knowledge I gained.
Turning Intention Into Action
Five months ago, I made a plan to gradually reduce my carbon footprint and household plastic waste. It started with a keep-cup, bamboo straws and an effort to stop relying on disposables. Next, I ordered 100% recycled toilet paper, paper towels and tissue boxes online. I even sacrificed lathery body wash for body bars, ordered a bamboo toothbrush and an ethical cleaning kit, with plastic and toxin-free alternatives.
I researched endlessly about the products available out there to make my home a better place, for myself and my family. I’ve put together a table outlining how I altered my consumer choices, contrasting items with the alternative ethical products that I use now to provide a starting point to help anyone out there looking to switch to cleaner living.
Keep cups, metals straws, now what?
It is important to acknowledge that the current debate about the market of ‘green consumption’ as a solution to environmental sustainability questions whether it’s a manifestation of cultural inertia, rather than a solution to it. Bridging the gap between our politics and our lifestyle is a difficult process, and there is a huge disconnect between our intention and action when it comes to influencing our environmental footprint.
Though we may be ethically-minded people, the cost and inaccessibility of the ethical market often means that we rarely buy ethically. These are the problems I faced when transitioning to more ethical, clean consumption. I acknowledge that we will not solve these larger-than-life problems merely by changing our light-bulbs and riding our bikes instead of our cars.
The main agenda in ethical, or green, consumption is reusing, reducing and removing. This means less buying. I was whisked into the fervour of cleansing my consumption habits, yet kept forgetting to contextualise my efforts. The problem is so much more intricate than what we waste, what we eat and what we wear. Making small changes in our lifestyles are meaningful starting points, but simultaneously, they are dangerous stopping points.
The climate crisis needs our undivided attention. So, the idea that we can solve the issue if we just plant more trees, turn some lights off and start cooking at home is exactly what fossil fuel industries want us to believe. It reduces existential issues to instagrammable, bite-sized and digestible pieces that distract us all from the true guilty parties who are the sources of the problem. In other words, your lone keep-cup will not solve our waste mismanagement. So how do we do this?
Demand Change From Those With More Power To See This Through
The most important step is demanding personal action from one another. The culture will not budge if we keep our ideas to ourselves, whether it is ‘throw-away’ or ‘consumer’ culture. Investigating policies, and voting for the right people is taking the right action. Helping our community and friends to live consciously is taking action. I aspire to people such as Mehreen Faruqi. As the first Muslim woman in the NSW Senate for Greens, she fearlessly claims a space for her voice to be heard. She paves paths for others, advocating for a better future.
The prospect of our environment is overwhelming and worthy of our anxiety. But the climate crisis will not be solved with just cynicism towards the capitalist and consumerist strongholds. Or just making small changes. Or just climate activism. We need to work like an ecosystem, channeling whatever skills that are unique to us. The drive to live more sustainability needs more voice, and an unwavering willingness to morph intention into action.
I am here to fight with you for climate justice.
Are you in?
Lead Editor: Palwasha A.
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