29 Sep 2022  |  Nathan Bourne

The natural world is being put through a number of problems that are negatively affecting both wildlife and humanity. Results from a survey I performed with young adults showed that environmental problems are a pressing matter for young adults and that for many of them the issues seem overwhelming and scary. While all this news may seem bad, and most definitely is, for nature and for us it doesn’t have to be like this. There are plenty of things that we can all do to prevent and reverse the damage caused to the environment. This however relies on action being taken and having a positive mindset to show not only that humanity as a whole can change the world for the better, but that an individual such as yourself can equally do something to make the world a better place.

Let’s begin with addressing the negativity relating to matters such as climate change. There can be a “doom and gloom” mentality when people are asked about environmental events. This attitude is certainly understandable, especially with the information that has been gathered. There is plenty of evidence including increased global temperatures related to climate change, more extreme weather events and habitat destruction for human use. However, environmental negativity can easily make the problem worse. While positivity will not be an immediate fix, it can be a far more effective way to improve both the individuals’ wellbeing and to increase the amount of action to protect the environment that we are all a part of.

Doom & Gloom Mentality 

One way in which positivity is beneficial to helping the environment is to bring action. Being positive in both action and mindset can help to prevent feelings of hopelessness which in regards to the environment would lead to individuals believing that they can do nothing to help and that anything they can do isn’t going to help. Various research (including some of my own) shows that feeling hopeless about the environment leads to inaction which allows the current problems to carry on and continue to get worse, which in turn feeds the cycle of negativity and makes people feel more depressed. The inaction in the last half of the 20th century has contributed to the climate anxiety and lack of action today. We however can all change this and start to undo what the inaction of the past has caused.

While the problems are on a global scale it doesn’t mean that individuals cannot do anything. Just as everyone contributes to climate change to varying extents (big companies are typically the worst in this regard), we are all capable of doing activities no matter how great or small to help prevent climate and ecological breakdown.

Action in and of itself can also reduce the feelings of helplessness and guilt as it can show people that they can do something and that no one is worthless in the fight to protect the environment. There are plenty of people willing and proving that a greener future is possible and there are plenty of success stories that are already happening.

On both a global and a local scale, progress is being made to reduce our impact on the environment. One of the largest and most effective impacts was caused by the Montreal protocol. During the 1970’s, a hole in the ozone layer of the atmosphere was detected in Antarctica. This is bad for all living things including humans as the ozone layer protects us from radiation from the sun such as UV radiation, which can cause skin damage as well as cancers.  

Just after the causes of the ozone hole were fully realised (caused by industrial chemicals called CFCs), the Montreal protocol was put in place to stop ozone destroying chemicals from being produced. The phasing out of ozone producing chemicals has had a large positive impact on the globe. Firstly, the ozone hole stopped growing and now the ozone hole is now generally shrinking in size. While it will take a couple of hundred years for the ozone hole to fully recover, the quick global action helped to prevent major damage from being done to the earth’s atmosphere.

Although big global events and changes will have the largest impact, there are plenty of events and programs taking place on a country and local level to ward off rapid climate change. On a UK level, the amount of coal being used to generate power has dropped to non-existent in the last 30 years (this may change with the current Ukraine Crisis). There has also been a massive increase in renewable energy such as solar, hydroelectric and especially wind in which the UK is one of the world leaders, as can be clearly seen on the coasts. There are also plans in the works to reduce the effect of agriculture on the environment partially caused by the changing eating habits of the public.

So what can you do as an individual? 

There are plenty of ways people can get involved with improving the environment. No matter how invested you are with environmental matters or even if you do not have much time on your hands, there are things you can do, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem. Anything you do will have a positive effect on the environment and can make you feel good while doing so.

One of the more involved methods is activism. This can really help to spread awareness of the issues and if done well campaigns caused by activism can really stick in people’s minds and lead to cultural, and potentially political change.It could be worth looking past the bad press related to activism, as there are plenty of different ways of getting involved and making a difference.

Example organisations you could join include Extinction Rebellion UK and Friends of the Earth or you could take individual action for example writing to your MP

Another way to get involved is in environmental community projects. These can span many areas including directly helping with nature through tasks such as habitat restoration or beach cleaning. Other areas include increasing local sustainability and community resilience by growing food in community gardens, supporting waste reduction initiatives and working to reduce pollution locally with for example better public transport links. Examples of organisations and hubs of where to find them include Friends of Shoreham Beach, Apron community garden, Transition Town Shoreham and Brighton Climate Action network. There are usually links to organisations from various council sites if you don’t live locally. 

Even if you don’t want to join a group or do not have the time to do so, there are plenty of other ways you can make a change. If you have an outdoor space, you can grow native plants which benefit pollinating insects as well as other wildlife.There are also the three Rs of sustainability: reduce, reuse and recycle. These methods of saving resources can be done by yourself, buying second hand or for free through organisations such as Freecycle or taking public transport where possible are good options. If you travel lots or eat lots of meat, it might be worth reducing how much you do these things. It can also help to buy recycled goods, turning off electrical appliances when they are not in use and not replacing items until it is absolutely necessary. These suggestions also have the added benefit of saving you money, which especially with the current energy situation is always a good thing. Anything done to help the environment is valuable, so anyone that does any of these things is making a difference in the world.  

With the information above there is plenty of evidence that lots of people are willing to do their bit to help the environment and that no one is truly alone in wanting to do something about the climate, there will be others out there who think the same thing as you, all you need to do is find them. I personally used to think that the global environmental problems were too great and that nothing I could do mattered. However, I realised that thinking like that wouldn’t change anything for the better and while I couldn’t change the world on my own, just doing what I can helped to lift my general mood and showed that if more people did what they can to help the environment, we could all make a real impact.

While doing nothing to help the environment will not make the problem disappear and action must be taken to prevent a global catastrophe, it is not too late to make a difference and there are positive things that can be done about it. A positive attitude to problems can lead to great change and it is ultimately up to you, the reader, to decide what you want to do for yourself. Hopefully, there will be plenty more good news to come in the future and I welcome you to be a part of it.

Article by Nathan Bourne