Minimalism: So, you want to save the world?

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WARNING: LIVING IN THE MODERN WORLD IS BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH.

Twenty-first century living should come with a government health warning.

Published research that has analysed the way we live in the western world highlights the hidden dangers in the lifestyle that we take for granted.

  • The sedentary life of the couch potato.
  • Junk food.
  • Stress.
  • Social Media.
  • The social isolation that comes from urban living.

We seem doomed to live out our lives in the shadow of avoidable chronic ailments like obesity, diabetes, arthritis and depression.

We may be the first generation that will fail to outlive its parents.

Dying young from heart disease or one of the other disorders that are secondary to our inactive, junk fuelled lifestyle.

There are additional consequences on the world around us.

Changes that were not intended when we chose a particular path but are present just the same. These changes affect us all, from those who are lucky enough to be living in the affluent west to the few remaining hunter gatherer societies. Even those who had a minimal input into this pollution are paying the price for the profligate use of energy over the last two hundred years or so.

We pay more for a litre of water than we do for a litre of petrol.

Our planet is heating up because of atmospheric pollution. Pollution that is self-inflicted, an unwanted side effect created when we burn fossil fuels, both to manufacture the toys we need to live and to provide the  necessary energy to run our technology based society. Toys that are also produced with built-in obsolescence designed to feed the demand for the latest products that drives our economies and as a result of this the changes in our world have taken on a life of their own.

The resultant global warming may have gone too far for us to stop or even modify.

This has brought about the destruction of the habitats of many species, with the most vulnerable driven to extinction. Even the oceans, so long our dumping grounds, are rapidly turning into plastic sludge as millions of tons of plastic waste slowly disintegrates into tiny particles that will take generations to break down completely, if at all.

Particles that have already made their way into our drinking water.

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Not a happy picture.

There is some good news and that is that it is possible for one person to make a difference and help to bring about change. As individuals we may only make a small contribution, to be sure, but our example can influence others and make a greater difference. If enough of us make a small change to our lifestyle, others will follow. If enough of us do it, who knows what might happen?

So, what can we do?

Here are some simple suggestions.

Drink tap or filtered water, and use a container that can be refilled.

Every bottle of water we buy contributes to the plastic problem. Plastics are often very slow to break down. They are still cleaning up millions of plastic bottles left in the desert after the Gulf Wars.

I hate plastic bottles. Just think about it before you buy one. We pay more for a gallon of water than we do for a gallon of gas. I think people will realize that water quality standards in most municipalities are as good or better for the stuff coming out of the tap than bottled water companies. You’ll save money and save the environment, too.

Philippe Cousteau, Jr.

Using our own reuseable bottle not only helps to cut the pollution from the slow break down of the plastic itself, but also reduces the energy and fuel needed to manufacture both the plastic and the bottles in the first place.

Exercise more.

Use the lift less frequently. Instead try using the stairs. Many people choose to walk up one flight of stairs or down two, instead of using the elevator. We could all follow their example.

Car share. Use public transport. Walk or cycle to work. All of which help to reduce the demand for fossil fuels and decrease the smog over our cities. With the added benefit that it will improve the urban environment and is good for our health and wellbeing.

Take reuseable bags when we go shopping.

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Take our own bags to the supermarket.

This helps to reduce both oil consumption and the volume of plastic going to landfill. I can remember my granny giving my mother a shopping bag that broke the second time my mother used it. My granny was upset, as she had owned and used the bag, on a daily basis for twenty years without any problem!

Eat more healthily.

Growing our own vegetables is good both for our health and also for the world. In the UK it is cheaper to buy beans grown in Kenya and flown in daily, than to buy beans grown locally. Choosing not to eat imported food stuffs, or food that is out of season will cut the additional air miles that are required and reduce the pollution that results. This will help slow down global warming.

Eat more vegetarian meals. Meat production requires a lot of energy in feed and other growing costs. In a world where so many go hungry growing grain to feed to animals is not an effective use of land.

This should also reduce the additional greenhouse gases released into the air as a result of bovine flatulence!

Buy products that do not have unnecessary wrapping.

Many towns now have shops that allow, and even encourage, shoppers to bring their own containers to be filled.

My granny always had her vegetables loose in her bag, no plastic bags around the potatoes or those sticky labels that damage our fruit.

Write or email our representatives to express our view.

Our representatives depend on us, their constituents, to get elected. If enough of us write or contact our MP or congressman, they will realise that their continued re-election depends on their supporting legislation that reduces waste and actively helps to reduce pollution and the unnecessary use of resources.

We should remind them that they were elected to represent our views.

Don’t wait.

Start today.

Small steps can save the world.

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