Natalie Fee on How to Save the World for Free
A fun and accessible guide to a serious and weighty issue, Natalie Fee's How to Save the World for Free recognises that millions of people making small changes to their lifestyles can result in a real difference to the global environment. In this exclusive essay, Natalie outlines the severity of the climate crisis before offering some simple methods for combating its effects.
Well, this is exciting. Not just because I have the opportunity to share a little something about my new book, but because I can see we’re waking up to, and doing something about, the ecological crisis. From the students out striking on the streets, to employees in the bellies of some of the UK’s most stalwart institutions, change is happening. Media outlets are finally reporting on the scale and severity of climate chaos, deforestation and ocean pollution; pension funds are divesting from fossil fuels; and Green New Deals are at least being talked about by politicians. It seems we’re finally facing up to the reality that we live on a finite planet and, despite being fantastically clever and creative, our species is doing a mighty fine job of taking us to the brink of extinction.
And so we find ourselves in a bit of a conundrum. There’s an increasing number of us wanting an increasing amount of stuff. And given we live on a planet that’s not increasing we’ve got some seismic shifts ahead of us if we want to create a future in which we don’t just get to survive, but to thrive.
We could solve all this in a jiffy by stopping fossil fuel subsidies and putting a tax on carbon, allowing for subsidies for renewable energy, public transport and organic farming, which can help transition us to a mostly car-free, mostly meat-free world. One in which the remaining 20 percent of ancient forests are protected, the oceans replenished and our soil restored. But since there’s no indication from governments worldwide that this is going to happen any time soon, the buck I’m afraid currently stops with the likes of you and me.
So it’s down to us to save the world. And if I’m truly honest, I don’t know if we’ll succeed. The situation’s pretty bleak. Just in my lifetime (41 years if you’re interested) we’ve lost half the world’s wildlife. Here in the UK, 98 percent of our ancient woodlands are gone. In terms of climate change, most scientists in the field agree we’re not just heading for a 1.5 degree rise in temperature, as stated in last year’s IPCC report, but we’re on a current trajectory for a total rise of 3-4 degrees by the end of the century – meaning global food shortages, increasingly erratic weather, raging wildfires and mass climate migration – all within our children’s lifetime (of which I have one, a teenager).
All this is playing into the health of the oceans too. On top of the plastic issue which I’ve been campaigning on for five years, ice is melting at unprecedented rates at the North and South Poles, CO2 is making our seawater acidic, coral reefs are being bleached to death because water temperatures are rising, entire ecosystems are being destroyed by overfishing and oxygen-starved dead zones are appearing as a result of fertilizer and sewage running off the land into the seas.
And then there’s the soil. In the last 150 years half of the Earth’s topsoil – essential for growing food crops and other plants – has disappeared, due to our intensive farming methods and according to scientists, we only have 60 years of harvest left.
Eeek. And thank-you for staying with me if you’ve read this far and managed not to look away. Bad news can make us do that sometimes. But held within all this decay and disruption, as with any challenge, is an extraordinary opportunity for transformation.
Those of us that have acknowledged the loss, owned our part in it and decided to do something about it, are discovering something else, something better even, than what we had before. We’re discovering that simple things make us happy. We’re discovering that having less stuff makes us feel more free. That shopping locally and eating fresh veg makes us feel more connected. That we feel healthier (and in some cases sexier!) from riding a bike. That having next to no waste in your rubbish bin at the end of the week gives you an inner glow. That spending time off of our screens and out in nature makes us feel revived. That by eating less meat we’ve got more energy in the mornings. And that we feel a sense of community and togetherness when we come together to restore and protect nature. We’re finding a better way … and it’s way more fun.
So that’s what How to Save the World for Free is about, in a nutshell. I suggest hundreds of solutions that will save you money whilst lightening your load on the planet and share stories about some of my favourites. It covers the different facets of the ecological crisis, and whilst being serious at times, is mostly a celebratory look at all the things we can do to make a difference. From politics to sex, travel to maximising your impact, I’m hoping I’ve got most things covered to help you on your journey towards living sustainably, or even better still, regeneratively.
Whether or not we succeed at our goal of saving the world, or at least saving a seat for humans on it, in a way isn’t the point. The point is that living more sustainably makes us happier, healthier and more connected to our communities in the here and now which, inevitably, is the only thing we have control over. How we choose to respond to the ecological emergency is down to each of us and, as we know, the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Or perhaps a few rotations of your pedals.
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