Saturday, April 19, 2014

impact

I watched a pilot for a new series last week, called Years of Living Dangerously, about climate change. It has an all-star cast and some excellent landscape photography. I found it slow-paced, but I think they are trying to concentrate on getting a message across and didn't want to make the commentary too busy. Harrison Ford sure got into a lot of air planes for a show on climate change, though. 

They presented three story lines: deforestation and carbon in the air, drought in America's heartland and the different reactions between Christians and scientists, and drought in Syria and the civil unrest that may have been caused by the shortage of water.

All of the stories were interesting, but the deforestation story really struck me because I just hadn't realized how much of the current deforestation taking place in Southeast Asia, primarily Indonesia, was to make room for palm plantations. Palm plantations? Someone decided it was more important to have palm oil than forests?

It was difficult to watch footage of old-growth peat forests burning down to make room to grow palm oil so we can make snack foods, candy and baked goods. When I was little, snack foods like chips and sweets like cupcakes were for parties, like your birthday party, you know, only once a year! Now these non-food items are part of the daily American diet. To be fair, the US is only the 12th largest consumer of palm oil, but we still consume 54.7 kg of palm oil annually, each one of us.

What if we were able to stop buying all that junk food made with palm oil? We certainly can't regenerate those old-growth forests, but could we slow down the devastation? Can we make an impact? It stands to reason that if human behavior and consumer choices have caused companies to burn down forests to grow palm trees, than maybe a change in behavior and consumer choices can at least slow down the burning. But how many people are going to think about deforestation when they are standing in the snack aisle at the grocery store?

It really is a question of impact. How much can we change human behavior to be more mindful of the health of the planet? And even if we made a radical change in our consumption habits, could we really heal even some of the damage we've done to the planet?

I hope the new TV series can open some eyes and help people think about how we use and abuse our planet.  Harrison Ford, a board member of Conservation International, says "Nature doesn't need people, people need nature."

The two stories on drought really bring that point home. I'm looking forward to seeing more episodes to see how climate change information is presented and how the producers deal with the question of how we can change our behavior to impact the planet in more positive ways.


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