When I arrive home after a stressful day at the office I like to put my feet up for an hour or so and watch something on the tele as many people do. Two nights in a row my viewing choices were environmentally focussed. I started with â€œAn Inconvenient Truthâ€, a documentary/presentation style movie by Al Gore, a previous candidate for American presidency.
He introduces himself as â€œThe ex-next President of the United Statesâ€ and in a recent post on design observer it seems some people would like to see him back in the running. The production and content have been put together in a build up to what results in a future forecast which is bound to frighten anyone with even the slightest sense of foresight. Some of the images presented of the results of global warming in remote regions of our planet were a startling revelation to the reality of what is currently taking place, and has been taking place for a many years now.
Carbon dioxide and other gases warm the surface of the planet naturally by trapping solar heat in the atmosphere. This is a good thing because it keeps our planet habitable. However, by burning fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil and clearing forests we have dramatically increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earthâ€™s atmosphere and temperatures are rising.
The vast majority of scientists agree that global warming is real, itâ€™s already happening and that it is the result of our activities and not a natural occurrence.1 The evidence is overwhelming and undeniable.
Weâ€™re already seeing changes. Glaciers are melting, plants and animals are being forced from their habitat, and the number of severe storms and droughts is increasing.
The graph presented showing the global temperatures over the past 600 000 years, figures which have been reached by analyzing layers of snow in the glacial regions show a dramatic picture of the impact modern technological man is currently having on the planet. I tried finding a nice digital image of this graph online but have not managed to track it down. Images of receding snow caps, evaporating lakes and rivers, and computer generated forecasts of the effects rising sea-levels will have on coastal communities are but a tip of the ice-berg so to speak. For myself, living in Cape Town South Africa where I have spent the major part of my life, and where I would possibly raise my daughter these projections of the future are so scary they echo down into the deepest parts of my being.
I have thought about these issues for a long time, even made meager little attempts on my own to address these issues in my life and inform a few people, but what I realize now is that solving the problem if that is at all possible will take nothing less than a complete global endeavor including every single nation and every single individual on this planet to change their behaviors, change their thinking and start looking toward a new way of living.
Last night was the second installment of my after hours de-stressing entertainment. I watched a documentary which followed the history of OIL and discusses the peak oil crisis. The black gold which has made so much of the modern advancement and â€œadversementâ€ possible. The liquid which powers so much of our lives, our activities and our movements. The substance without which many great nations would be completely lost and without which much of our planet would be greatly pleased.
The documentaryâ€™s main focus was around the peaking of oil supplies worldwide and the effects of inaction in developing new forms of cleaner, friendlier energy. Many of the wars being fought across the globe, and many wars which were fought previously have been tainted by the lure of cheap supply of this dirty yet essential substance. The prediction are that in fifty years or less, our oil demands will be so high, and our output so low that it will plunge the earth into complete chaos with wars being fought on all fronts to secure this invaluable energy source. The spotlight is on America which consumes 25% of the earths oil supplies with itâ€™s oil hungry automobile industry. Africa being a mere dot on the page in itâ€™s oil consumption, as well as Most of Asia, the 2 most impoverish nations of the earth. The link between these 2 films – global warming and itâ€™s frightening future and the oil crisis combines to create a horror movie in my mind, one which plays over and over. The even scarier part is how real it all is and how close we are to this nightmare. As a designer I have always looked to ways in which I could use my skills to be of benefit to people, to create awareness of issues affecting society, to try to influence change for positive ends. I visited TreeHugger.com this morning to find some inspiration which might wash away some of those nightmarish images still stuck in the back of my mind and found â€œdesign can changeâ€. I found in the act section of this site a pledge form which designers, or those in the design or communications industry can take in order to motivate us to take concrete steps.
In my professional practice, I will endeavor to:
Learn: Engage in the topic and seek to understand the issue
Think: Make a sustainable mindset second nature
Act: Put my knowledge to use in my daily work
Inform: Share information and build awareness for sustainability
Unite: Spark change through collective strength
So far I only qualify for points 1 and a portion of points 2 & 4. Why not take a step back yourself and see where you can make a difference to how you affect the environment around you. It takes individual action to have a collective impact. As I was completing this post I found a news item on the homepage of the independent.co.uk news site which states â€œThe Earth today stands in imminent perilâ€œ. The signs are all around us, lets open our eyes and start doing something to secure the future for those we leave behind us.