We are all aware of indecencies, criminal acts, inequalities, destruction, abuse, and other atrocities in the world around us, but most of us don’t really feel we can make a difference. Many people are hesitant to make donations to charities, support groups, foundations, or organizations either due to lack of funds, uncertainties about how their money can really help, or a lack of trust in what their money would truly be used for. We see ads on television about donating monies to this group or that, then later hear about financial abuse within the company. This causes doubt, frustration, and a huge lack of trust. Even if we were convinced that our money would serve good, there are so many groups to choose from that many of us still do nothing. I believe that most people would truly WANT to make a difference if they thought they could, but are paralyzed into doing nothing because of all the confusion. There are differences of opinion within political parties, religious groups, scientists, and corporations causing most of us to feel so confused about where to stand that we end up sitting down, doing nothing at all. But the bottom line is that we have a responsibility to our children and grandchildren to not leave this world to them used up and destroyed. Their futures depend on our actions and frankly inaction is not acceptable and inexcusable.
So, I am here to encourage you. I am writing today to ask you to DO SOMETHING. Make a change…or two, or three, or twenty changes….whatever you can muster up. Here are some places to start:
#1 Research and Donate: Regardless of your feelings on global warming, I implore you to take a little time to do some research. According to research, the average person spends 23 hours per week online; social media, email, etc… That’s the equivalent of a part time job. There is a wealth of information from many, many resources, so, take one of those hours per week and research the science about global warming and climate change and educate yourself. There is a compelling and informative series called “Years of Living Dangerously”. The episodes are about an hour long, and have been put together by people such as Harrison Ford, Matt Damon, and Don Cheadle. Here is the link: http://yearsoflivingdangerously.com/story/mercury-rising. In addition, research the groups that are seeking change to educate yourself on where donated money goes, and what it is going to accomplish. Most of the good one post their financial records so you can see where every penny is spent. If they don’t….ask them to. Research the founders of these groups, and who backs them, and what their cause is. Find one or two that you are comfortable donating to and ask yourself, “is it worth it?”. You might be surprised how little money is needed to make a difference.
#2 Use Your Voice: Science has proven that deforestation is the cause of at least 25% of the greenhouse gases/carbon emissions being released into our environment. As the forests continue to be burned, that percentage is rising. The prime reason for deforestation is the production of palm oil. Corporations in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia are burning approximately 80,000 acres of rain forests every day and severely degrading another 80,000 acres a day! They’re burning down these forests and peat beds, most of which are hundreds of years old, in order to plant palm trees for palm oil production and agrofuels. This burning releases massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Many of these companies are destroying the forests illegally, but the legal system is so corrupt that punishment is not occurring. One thing I have learned is that VOICES MAKE A DIFFERENCE. It takes minutes to find petitions online that you can sign to make your voice heard. Rainforestrescue.com is one of the many places you can find current and active petitions. It takes literally minutes to sign the petition and share them with friends and family via email or social media. These petitions are necessary to make regulators and businesses listen to the people and get government agencies involved. This costs nothing but a few minutes of your time and a little bravery to make others aware.
#3 Save Animal and Plant Life: Even if your research does not convince you that global warming and climate change are a real threat to our survival, think about the profound numbers of plant and animal life that are being destroyed every day. Rainforest’s house approximately 50% of the worlds species! 50%! This is where much of the biologic and genetic research has come from. Many life saving pharmaceuticals are produced from ingredients from plants and trees in the rainforest, but we have only studied 1% of these rainforest occupants. According to the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization, current deforestation rates are 8.5% higher now than 10 years ago. Deforestation is causing us to lose about 50, 000 plant and animal species every year….and that number is growing. Gorillas, orangutans, monkeys, and other primates are being killed daily causing alarming numbers that are close to extinction. Elephants are being puposely poisoned by workers as they are considered pests. Countless numbers of birds, sea life, tigers, rhinos and other animals are being displaced, severely injured, and murdered…every day. There are many organizations that allow you to “adopt” these animals. The money donated helps rescue groups care for displaced animals, create preserves, promote regulations to protect the animals and their habitats, and get the appropriate government officials involved.
#4 Help Humanity: The aggressive destruction of the rainforest is also hurting human populations that live in these areas. Farmers are being displaced and their homes are being taken over by criminal corporations in order to remove forests and plant palm tree plantations. Approximately 45 million people live in the rainforest in Indonesia. Many are being pushed out, displaced and even murdered. Rebellion groups are forming to attempt to combat these inhumane actions, but many are killed or imprisoned if they do not leave willingly. We hear a lot in the U S media about our desire to have the right to own firearms, to have gardens on our property, to have the ability to raise our own livestock, and to have the ability to express our religious or political beliefs freely. People become infuriated if they’re told they cannot hang an American flag in their front yard or display a nativity scene at Christmastime (and rightly so)…can you imagine someone kicking you out of your home in order to burn it down and use the land for their own financial benefit? Wouldn’t you want someone to help you if that happened? Use your voice and your money to help stop this inhumanity.
#5 Decide where to spend your money, and what products you will and will not use: Research companies that promote the import of palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia. There are manufacturing companies beginning to form which are attempting to create safer, more renewable palm oil production. There are good resources that inform the public about the use of palm oil, safe practices, and where each companies supply comes from. Rainforest Rescue has a wealth of information here: http://www.rainforest-rescue.org/topics/palm-oil. And here you can find a list of products that do/do not use palm oil as an ingredient: http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/shoppingethically/palmoilfreelist.aspx and http://a-z-animals.com/palm-oil/products. You can also participate by making them aware of products that do not contain palm oil to add to their list. You can make a difference by not buying products that support deforestation and replace them with products that do not contain palm oil or that use renewable resources (and remember that these products are not only edible products, but also cosmetics and personal care items, candles, and pet food). In addition, spend a little time emailing manufacturers to let them know you will no longer be purchasing their products and why. Also, email your state representatives to make them aware and support companies that do not support deforestation. If this seems daunting, start small. Begin in one section of your grocery store at a time. Each week, spend a few minutes reviewing labels and notating which companies you’ll support and which ones you will not. Within a couple of months, you will become more educated and be able to take an active step toward saving our environment and the lives of others who need our help.
#6 Decrease paper/plastic usage: Part of the reason for deforestation is also for the production of paper/plastic. Take every step you can to decrease paper/plastic usage. Request bills and correspondence through email rather than receiving it through the mail. Most magazines and newspapers provide online versions as well and can be easily saved to your computer for later access. Use cloth napkins instead of paper products and eliminate paper plates/cups from your grocery list. If you receive shipments through the mail that have excessive packaging, contact the sender to request they limit the amount of packaging to only what is needed. Recycle all paper products to be re-used which will decrease the demand for “new” paper. Create grocery lists through phone applications rather than using paper. Send e-cards instead of paper cards (or better yet, make a phone call or meet with the person for coffee or lunch or a walk in the park). Purchase reusable grocery bags to eliminate the use of paper or plastic bags. Donate your shredded paper to UPS or pet stores. Replace plastic “throw away” containers and plastic zipper bags with glass, ceramic, or sturdy, long use plastic containers. Pay attention to every paper/plastic product you purchase and look for a way to replace it with something more environmentally friendly.
#7 Start in your own backyard: Start finding ways to supply yourself and your family with home grown products. Grow your own fruits, vegetables and herbs and preserve them for use throughout the year which will reduce the amount of product you buy pre-packed in cardboard or plastic. It’s also more cost efficient and healthier; eliminating the questions of, “what’s in this?” and “what is this ingredient?”. If you have limited or no yard space to plant in, there are tons of articles on compact gardening and how to grow indoors with UV lights or look into starting a community garden in your town. Plant trees and encourage others to plant trees. Baby trees can be purchased for very little money and grow more quickly than you would think. Companies like Arbor Day Association give away free trees to new members and also offer the ability to donate trees to friends and family or to communities that have lost trees to forest fires or deforestation. Reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides and herbicides that are not organic, and use organic soil and non GMO seeds and plants. Compost your fruit and vegetable scraps to feed your garden reducing the amount of waste you place in garbage bags.
#8 Stop Being Afraid: Many people do not read about global warming, climate change, and problems in other countries due to fear and powerlessness. The problems seem so enormous and far away, that it’s easier to turn a blind eye. But education is key to changing the future. Knowing what is happening and educating yourself on how you can help can alleviate some of the fear, and help you feel productive in a resolution. Regardless of your income level, location, or age, there are things you CAN do. Every action counteracts an inaction. The problems we face CAN be helped if we accept what has been proven, and take action now.
#9 Share with others: Many of us do not share this information because of fear that others will not be accepting of it (there are a lot of different opinions on this subject). People don’t like information being forced on them, especially if they’re not ready to accept it. But there are many ways to share this information without being pushy or overbearing. OR….WHAT THE HECK….BE OVERBEARING if you believe in your efforts. Share petitions on social media sights and email. Share articles about what is happening in the world. Share information about the manufacturers you learn about….good OR bad. Share with your state representatives and anyone else who might possibly listen. Share with your school district….with your community centers…with your doctors…with your newspapers. Being a conduit for helpful information is great for the soul! You will likely experience some eye rolling, scoffing, debate, and indifference, but if you reach one person out of 10, you have accomplished something.
I don’t claim to be an expert or know everything about this subject, but I have decided to learn more. In that learning, I feel compelled to share what I’m learning with others who might not be fully aware. I know that big problems (and you can’t get much bigger than this) can feel overpowering to one person. I just hope more and more people will figure out that they CAN make a difference. I hope more and more people will step outside their everyday life for a moment and evaluate what they’re willing to do.