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Climate change - the view from Tavira

eonAt a meeting in Tavira this past weekend, local resident spoke of his personal strategy to make an impact on waste, the environment and health in the lead up to the COP21 Climate Change conference in Paris starting today.

 "I have been living in retirement here in Tavira for the past 6 years.

After raising awareness of 100% green last year, I installed a Solar water heater and 8 Solar electric panels. If I had equal access to the grid for buying and selling, these panels would be enough to power my home. I am no qualified expert, but follow keenly, all developments in what I consider Humanity’s greatest challenge.

195 countries, with 150 national plans to combat climate change, are meeting in Paris over the next 2 weeks to agree a global framework to tackle Humanity’s Biggest problem. We wish them well in a dark time for our species.

The tragic events in Paris remind us how fragile life can be and how we need to come together and unite in peace if we are to survive. We have solutions, but need to find the courage and urgency to take them.

What is the problem?

In 2015, the world crossed a number of red lines. Not only will it be the hottest year yet on human records and be 1 Celsius above pre-industrial norms and with the hottest El Nino, but for the first time since the Dinosaurs, we will have an atmospheric content of CO2 above 400 ppm.

The greenhouse gases released primarily by industrialised activity are warming the world. A warm world increases the water vapor in our atmosphere which in turn also warms the world. This runaway process had been held in check by natural forces for millions
of years, but we have now broken this balance.

We have broken this balance from both sides. Planet Earth’s ability to absorb greenhouse gasses has been reduced by cutting down our forests, polluting our rivers and seas whilst multiplying human numbers to 7 billion and our domesticated animals to over 5 billion.

On top of this, we have been putting into the air increasing amounts of CO2 from burning wood, coal, oil and gas. This gas lasts for hundreds of years higher up in our atmosphere, and Scientists have calculated that if we were to stop adding tomorrow, the World would keep heating to 1.5 celsius above non industrial times and could be enough to destroy the Great Barrier Reef off Australia, one of Nature’s greatest  creations that can be seen from space.

Indeed, wild nature is finding it harder and harder to live with modern humanity, with rapid growth of extinctions. Tribal people living off wild nature are also suffering. Our success is becoming their death warrant.

Natural disasters have always occurred. The numbers of humans affected in the last 10 years has grown by 300%. We are not recovering well from these. Immediate help for food and shelter along with the help to get people back to providing for themselves is proving nearly impossible.

Our manpower and machinery that could be used is taken up by wars and defence preparations. Our resources to offer help are being strained by other calls. It is clear that communities all over the World should be preparing for disasters and making themselves more resilient as they cannot expect outside help in the future.

The droughts between 2005 and 2011 in the fertile crescent of the Middle East, have been made worse by Global Warming.

This has meant an exodus from the dry hills of the north to the more fertile plains in the south. Some countries in the region have coped with this. In Syria, it appears to have made worse the tensions between its peoples and Government. The result of which affects us more every day with violence, repression and a huge refugee exodus.

So Climate Change can also be a tipping point between communities and their resources.

What can we do about this?

Our gathering today, all around the Planet is to show to ourselves that we need to solve this problem together.

Communities lacking in health,education,light, heat, refrigeration, water shortages and shrinking forests need help to prosper without adding to the problems of Climate Change.

Those economies who have benefitted most in the past from their Industrial activity must now lead the World in a move to 100% renewable non polluting energy. Portugal is one of these! Here in the Algarve we are blessed with 300 days of sunshine per year.

Where are all the Solar Panels?? From wind and water power in the North to solar in the south, Portugal should already be 100% fossil-free not offering licences to drill for more oil and gas.

Yes investments were made in Sines and other places to use fossil fuels which made jobs. Renewable Energy will make more jobs. Our value systems are broken. We never include the damage to the environment in our prices. This has lead to bad decisions in the past by companies, governments and us.

The average house in the Algarve throws out 15kg of waste per week. We recycle only 1.3kg per week. Our companies offer production without ever achieving customer satisfaction. The designs are not for repair or reuse but to use then throw away.

Single use plastics. We changed our habits to “free plastic bags” at supermarket checkouts and remembered the way we used to shop by taking bags with us? How many fish, mammals and Sea Birds died just because of this? We still buy water in plastic bottles, drink, then throw the bottle away.

Tavira has some of the best drinking water around, fed by 2 reservoirs not close to industrial agriculture or pollution.

Our seas and beaches are filling up with tiny particles of plastic that we will end up eating what harm is that going to do us?

We see the rapid spread of plastic greenhouses in this area. They are owned by Spanish who will receive the profits, while buying equipment and chemicals from Spain, hiring workers from Nepal and the far east who send their money back to their poor families. The chemically grown produce is sent to North Europe.

What does Portugal get? Its land and water is used and left with the pollution of chemicals. This is not sustainable local industry.

Over 50% of the Portuguese population over 18 years old is considered obese. We are literally consuming ourselves to death whilst at the same time killing the natural environment around us.

Can we do anything about this?

Do we want our next generation to be potentially the last Human generation to live? What questions would they have for us? How could we destroy ourselves and this Planet when we knew what we were doing and had the means to not only stop but provide better lives globally for ourselves and wild nature?

So I am going to make some personal promises for the next week to try and consume only what I need and from local sources.

  • Drink only tap water and fill a container for when I am away from the house.
  • Use the Ecopoints for my recycle waste and try to not “throw anything else away”
  • Give up meat and fish and eat fruit, vegetables, grains and beans that are locally sourced from Organic farms
  • Not use any chemicals in my home that I do not understand (I will buy from Betteraba next to the market)
  • Become a member of Coopernica, a cooperative offering 100% Solar Electricity.
  • Change my account from EDP and save 8% on costs.
  • Take some money that earns me nothing in the Bank and invest in 1 of their projects that give a guaranteed 4% return over the next 12 years.
  • Use my car as little as possible and walk for at least 20 minutes each day.
  • Join with others locally (Tavira in Transition) to get Tavira 100% green in the next 15 years
  • Help local businesses meet each other in a Tavira Business Partnership that means trade and money stay in our local economy.

Stay positive.

Prepare for the worst and hope for the best"

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+2 #1 Verjini 2015-12-01 12:15
Well done Simon - good luck with the resolutions!
Plastic is a boon and disaster.
Surely, at least, plastic and glass bottles can be WASHED (nott expensively re-formed) and re-filled...

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