As world leaders have just spent two weeks trying to reach ‘historic’ agreements at the latest Climate Change Summit, we thought it pertinent to consider how all of this relates to us here in Hornsea and what action we could, or should, be taking. Despite the consensus among the majority of the World’s scientists that Global Warming is at least partly man-made, there is still a strong lobby of ‘deniers’ ensuring that any substantial changes to the status quo will be very difficult to come by. It is probably fair to say that most of the public are unconvinced either way and find it difficult to predict, or even consider the long term consequences of our current lifestyles. Could it be, however, that the whole ‘Climate Change’ debate is a bit of a red herring? Here are some facts and figures, not about what could happen in the future but about what we know is happening now.
Billions of plastic bags are made each year. Of these bags, one hundred billion are thrown away, with less than 1 percent finding their way into a recycle bin. The end result of this is around 1 billion birds and mammals dying each year by the ingestion of plastic. We have a garbage island floating in our ocean, mostly comprised of plastics – the size of India, Europe and Mexico combined! Americans dump 16 tons of sewage into their waters, every minute. Just about every single healthy person reading this article has between 70 and 90 industrial chemicals and pollutants flowing through their circulatory system at this very moment. We get these from the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. The United States uses 100 different pesticides each year, equalling 2.2 billion pounds of toxic chemicals (carcinogens, birth defects, gene mutations).
Only about 10 percent of the billions of pounds of pesticide chemicals (some 35,000 different chemicals total) used on produce since the 1940s have been tested for their negative effects on humans.
Deforestation and Extinction The world has already lost 80% of its forests and we’re continually losing them at a rate of 375 km2 per day! At least 50 million acres of rainforest are lost every year, totalling an area the size of England, Wales and Scotland combined. More than 50 percent of all living creatures on the earth reside in tropical rainforests, so with rainforest destruction they’re disappearing at a rate of 100 species per day. At the current rate of deforestation, 5-10% of tropical forest species will become extinct every decade.
Resource Depletion 31 countries around the world today face chronic freshwater shortages. In another 20 years, that number will increase to over 50 countries (2.8 billion people) Every year, we extract an estimated 55 billion tons of fossil energy, minerals, metals and bio mass from the Earth. Every hour, 1,692 acres of productive dry land becomes desert. 27% of our coral reefs have been destroyed. If the rate continues, the remaining 60% will be gone in 30 years. At the current rate of resource depletion, the Earth will become limited to sustaining only about 2 billion humans by the year 2100. Currently there are over 6.7 billion lives on the earth to support, and of these nearly 15 million children die each year of malnutrition and starvation. In the U.S., one third of the population is overweight and spends approximately $35 billion to cure this ‘disease’. $20 billion is all that would be necessary to feed every single malnourished nation. We are using up 50% more natural resources than the Earth can provide. At our current population, we need 1.5 Earths.
Do statistics such as these not provide sufficient arguments for us to radically alter our ways- with or without Climate Change? Do we in the ‘rich world’, the largest consumers, not need to take a major share of the responsibility for making these changes?
A manifesto for change
Five years ago the group ‘Home Grown Hornsea’ was formed, partly as a response to statistics such as these but also with the belief that there are solutions to all of these problems which can actually enhance the quality of our lives. For every aspect of our existence, cleaner, greener alternatives are now available and could easily become more so if we were to put the future of our children and this beautiful planet at the top of our list of priorities. Two of the key words for the group are ‘community’ and ‘autonomy’ since we believe that rather than raping and pillaging the earth to meet all of our demands, we need to find ways of living and working together to produce most of what we need here, with our own resources. This strategy can bring us many benefits far beyond the environmental ones. Let’s take ‘food’ for example, which the group chose to focus on because the current food industry is one of the major causes of the statistics above and there is huge potential for positive change in this respect. Much of what we currently eat is brought to us from all corners of the globe and has been produced on vast monoculture farms, using a cocktail of toxic chemicals. There are now many examples (community orchards and allotments, community supported agriculture, vegetable box schemes, farmers’ markets, community-run cafes and shops) of how we can work together to provide our own, naturally produced food in ways that not only bring environmental benefits but also lead to better health, food security, more local employment and social cohesion. If we consider any other aspect of our lives, be it energy, transport, housing, education, health, leisure, clothing or whatever, we can now find alternatives which have environment, ethics and community as their starting points. Whilst in some parts of the country these alternatives are starting to become part of the mainstream, in others such as the East Riding they have barely reached the fringe. The task and challenge of transitioning to a new paradigm is huge but also exciting, especially when driven by a vision for a cleaner, safer, healthier and happier future in a close-knit functioning community. Some small steps have been taken. Hornsea has thriving allotments, a Community Orchard, the local market, a school powered by renewable energy, a Community Woodland (Rolston), an organic care farm (Hatfield), a local buyers group and organic vegetable box scheme, a Food-bank and Time-bank. ‘Home Grown Hornsea’ also has other projects in the pipeline but believes that we have barely scratched the surface and that so much more could be achieved if more people could be inspired to contribute their energy and ideas. Please contact us at: [email protected]
if you would like to get involved.