This post is by guest blogger Diego Arreola Fernandez. At 19, Diego is a respected public speaker, educator, human rights, and environmental activist from Mexico City. He has worked with international companies, NGOs, and governments, advocating for environmental and climate justice around the world. He is also the Founder and President of Green Speaking, an organization that uses a combination of science and impactful communication to educate children and youth on environmental conservation. In April 2021, Diego was a guest speaker at SustainX, our annual sustainability education event for Cisco employees. We enjoyed his presentation so much, we invited him to share his story with our readers.
From increasingly devastating and more frequent hurricanes, to excessive deforestation, severe droughts, and catastrophic fires, living beings from all over the world are witnessing and suffering the consequences of human-induced climate change. If we don’t change our practices and strategies substantially, this will only worsen.
In light of these events, it is vital not only for our quality of life but for our mere survival, that we start taking genuine responsibility. We must ask ourselves: How can I contribute positively to the protection and preservation of my environment?
As I ended my presentation for Cisco’s SustainX 2021, mentioning these facts and urging people to take action in favor of Mother Nature, I remembered the time in which I asked myself that very same question.
It was the summer of 2019, and I had the privilege of attending a life-changing youth event in Vancouver, Canada, known as the Ocean Heroes Bootcamp. At the summit, I learned the facts behind plastic pollution, as well as the health and economic problems of single-use plastics and microplastics, and the most proactive strategies that can help overcome this global crisis.
I spent three days collaborating with fellow youth activists, learning from experienced scientists, and sharing my perspective at the final ceremony. I realized that I had a duty to use my voice to inspire people worldwide to collaborate and develop a conscious mindset towards planet earth.
My journey as a climate activist had begun.
So, I mentioned that while I was at OHBC 2019, I learned the truth about plastic pollution.
I found out that by 2015, scientists estimated that around 90 percent of all seabirds had ingested plastic. In 2018, a sperm whale was found dead on the coast of Spain after ingesting 64 pounds of plastic. If we continue with our same habits, by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish!
Indeed, I learned such devastating facts, and my entire perspective on habits and society completely changed. But I also understood that we are not fighting against the material, but rather the use that we’ve been giving it for decades. It is absurd to single-use something that will take hundreds of years to biodegrade. And then, throw it away, expecting that someone else will recycle it. According to the UN, from all the plastic that has ever been produced, only nine percent has been effectively recycled.
Now, relating it to climate change, according to another study made by CIEL, GAIA, EIP, and 5Gyres in 2019, if we continue with the current rhythms of plastic production and consumption, the world will not be able to fulfill the goal of the Paris Agreement of keeping global temperature rise by 1.5°C. It’s as simple as that.
On the four stages of the plastic lifecycle (extraction and transport; refining and manufacture; waste management; and accumulating in the environment), greenhouse gas emissions are enormous! According to the same study, by 2050, greenhouse gas emissions from plastic could reach over 56 gigatons, which is 10-13 percent of the entire remaining carbon budget.
See how this is not only about turtles and beach cleanups? We desperately need to change how we use and perceive plastic, or else climate change will be undefeatable.
After conducting a thorough investigation through the NASA, National Geographic, Yale, and Stanford websites, I can now define climate change as a set of large-scale changes in weather patterns, caused directly by global warming. This process is caused/accelerated by human actions that release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
It is also known that global warming is increasing ocean temperature, and causing the melting of glaciers and ice caps. These events mean the disappearance of certain animals’ homes, such as polar bears, decreased drinkable water sources, and rising sea levels, affecting coastal regions. In the Western Pacific, the sea level is rising at a rate of 12 millimeters per year – and eight islands have already been submerged.
Unfortunately, the ones that are more heavily affected by these effects are home to the most underserved communities. Every year, thousands of people become climate refugees, meaning they are losing their homes and entire communities, so they must seek shelter elsewhere.
According to another study made by the World Bank in 2018, it is estimated that by 2050, the number of climate refugees will rise to 143 million, mostly in three regions: Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia.
How YOU can take action!
As you can see, we need to do something now.
To encourage you to start your journey as a climate activist today, I will summarize some easy and practical tips from my presentation for SustainX:
1. The first step before advocating is educating ourselves.
You need to do your research, read some articles, watch documentaries and Youtube videos (also, feel free to visit Green Speaking’s channel, which is my nonprofit organization), and then based on the things that you learned, you can begin incorporating better habits at your home, school, and work.
2. The second step is almost incidental, but it can grow as much as you desire: Inspire other people.
As soon as you start changing your actions in a positive way, it is inevitable that your closest relatives and friends will notice and realize they can do the same. But you can level up your leadership and motivate your coworkers, community, and even your entire city to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle.
3. Finally, if you have the time and passion, you can use your talents to take your climate activism to the next level and contribute to changing the world!
There are plenty of ways in which you can help, from volunteering, donating, and sharing campaigns; to promoting better legislation and setting an example of genuine corporate sustainability (shoutout to my friends at Cisco!) YOU have the power to create positive change today. No matter how small or huge your change may be, it is better than waiting for someone else to do it. As Robert Swan said, “the greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”
If you’re interested in learning more about Cisco’s environmental sustainability efforts, please visit our Environmental Sustainability webpage.
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