1. Let´s know the risks
Knowledge and education are key, and when we invest some of our time and energy to acquire knowledge, we can better understand what is happening around us and beyond. Importantly, knowledge allows us to connect the dots. For instance, did you know about the large number of abandoned ships around the world? Did you know that consumer preference for low prices in supply chains contributes to a ‘race to the bottom’ concerning regulations and security standards in shipping, which was one of the reasons for the Beirut explosion? Staying informed about the different threats, challenges, limitations and constraints we face, either in our own backyard or somewhere overseas, is the first basic step we can all take to contribute to the change we want to see. All our cases share this principle, be it acquiring knowledge about threatened freshwater fish species; or informing ourselves on how to make our house flood-proof in case we live in a flood-prone area, such as in central Viet Nam; or learning about the Beirut explosion − why it took place and what we need to know in order to avoid it happening again. Knowledge on these events and their implications allows us to better understand the world and its interconnections, and can serve as an important basis for our actions.
2. Spread the word
Sharing acquired knowledge and spreading the word is another easy action we can take which has great impact. Raising awareness on issues we are aware of is how we can further advance into decision-making. Let´s be advocates! We can explain to our peers the connection between a vegetable-based diet and the wildfires in the Amazon. The more people understand the connections and underlying root causes, the better chance we all have to stop and reverse the damage being done. When we spread the word about the root causes of coral bleaching in Australia, or the Beirut explosion, we are generating knowledge, which lies at the heart of change.
3. Be agents of change
To be agents of change, we should contribute, be it supporting change financially or by dedicating our time to advocate for a particular cause. Worldwide, there are plenty of initiatives we can participate in, from international movements fighting deforestation in the Amazon, which can also contribute to stopping the spread of zoonotic diseases like COVID-19, to more local activities, such as donating for prevention instead of emergency aid, which could be beneficial for cases such as the locust infestation, the floods in central Viet Nam and the cyclone Amphan. We can also mobilize our communities to change, by organizing community gardens or supporting more green areas such as parks, gardens and urban forests in cities. Individual responsible consumption − paying fair prices for ethically produced goods we consume along the entire supply chain (such as in the case of Beirut) − also makes us agents of change. Being agents of change can induce behavioural change, for instance by transitioning to renewable energies, which mitigates climate change and ultimately has a positive impact on coral bleaching, the Texas cold wave and the Arctic melting. These are just a few examples connected to our cases: we can always look for more and be a true agent of change!
4. Be prepared and have a Plan-B
Another aspect to build into our everyday lives is being aware of major risks and planning accordingly. One way to do so is diversification, meaning being able to fall back on alternatives in case of a shock. For instance, diversifying our livelihoods, such as by raising chickens in addition to fishing, enables us to continue generating income, even in the case of freshwater fish extinction or the case of a fishing boat being destroyed by a cyclone such as Amphan. Moreover, saving for climate and environmental shocks and taking out insurance against extreme weather events can help individuals and businesses more quickly recover. Insurance payouts after an event can help prevent families and firms from having to use detrimental coping mechanisms such as taking out expensive credit and selling off assets. This allows us to more easily withstand the impacts of that shock with direct impacts on livelihoods, such as was the case with the locust outbreak, or the floods in central Viet Nam. In other events, like the Texas blackout, thinking about a backup, such as investing in solar panels or wind turbines at home, can be a solution. Having a backup solution is really just about playing it safe.
5. Increase plant-based meals in our diets
Across the world, food is the number one cause of deforestation, especially our taste for meat. Deforestation in the Amazon is also strongly driven by land clearance for cattle raising or fodder plants. By increasing the amount of plant-based meals or opting for a meat-free diet, we all can contribute to reducing the demand for meat and, with that, the pressure to clear land in the Amazon. Limiting deforestation, in turn, limits the fragmentation and destruction of habitats, which can help avoid the emergence of pandemics, such as COVID-19. Preventing deforestation also contributes to mitigating climate change since standing forests retain their carbon content and, while growing, can absorb more carbon. Furthermore, reducing the number of livestock also reduces the GHG emissions (closely linked to solution #7). By eating more plant-based meals, we therefore not only help to maintain the beauty and biodiversity of the Amazon forest and limit the emergence of zoonotic diseases, but we can also contribute to mitigating the climate crisis, which was one of the root causes of the floods in central Viet Nam, coral bleaching, the Texas cold wave, the Arctic melting and cyclone Amphan, in 2020/2021.
6. Demand change and action
In countries where elections are part of the political system, we can all vote to make our voices heard and demand change and action. Through our vote, we can consider which party might address the underlying root causes identified in this report when deciding for whom to vote. We are never too young or too old to act, and, as seen in the Fridays for Future movement, everyone can be politically engaged and act. Due to the interconnected nature of risks in our world, changes are required on multiple scales. Our vote can support the multilateral approaches needed to address, for example, the interconnected issues of deforestation (such as the links between the Amazon wildfires and COVID-19 pandemic) or multilateral agreements for ship transportation (and their links with the Beirut case). Let´s demand accountability, both from our political leaders, as well as the private sector! The global shipping sector, for instance − as seen in the example of the Beirut explosion − lacks accountability, which in turn enabled ship abandonment and the disaster to happen.
7. Reduce our carbon footprint
Our actions inevitably cause GHG emissions, but there are many things we can do to reduce our carbon footprint. By simply switching off lights when leaving a room and using energy-efficient lightbulbs, we can reduce our energy consumption while saving money. Similarly, we can unplug electronic appliances when not in use and reduce transport-related emissions, such as from driving our cars or flying. Alternatives, such as walking, biking and using public transport, can make a difference in reducing air pollution, while at the same time contributing to staying healthy. Buying local food also reduces carbon emissions linked to transportation. Reducing our carbon footprint lowers our dependency on fossil fuels which, in turn, mitigates climate change and, with that, reduces the risk of climate-driven disastrous events such as the cyclone Amphan, floods in central Viet Nam, coral bleaching and Arctic melting.
8. Protect ecosystems and biodiversity
We need to protect our ecosystems, not only for their natural beauty and biodiversity, but also for our own benefit. We experienced the benefit of green and blue areas in cities such as parks, urban forests, lakes and rivers during the pandemic. Urban green and blue not only contribute to physical and mental health and help us to relax but also contribute to flood risk reduction. Furthermore, we can all do our bit through our daily choices, including what we consume. We need to understand where our food comes from and make choices accordingly. In a similar vein, avoiding consumption of wildlife species whenever possible, or not keeping exotic species as pets, can contribute to generating a change in behaviour.