Voting with our wallets is only part of the solution

Voting with our wallets: why the approach has limits

Switch to solar energy. Refuse products packaged with excessive plastic packaging. Buy from companies that produce ethically and sustainably.

As consumers we’re constantly told to vote with our wallets to stir our planet toward a more sustainable future.

There’s no denying that how and what we buy can have a big impact. And we’re starting to see some changes in the marketplace. Big brands such as Adidas have introduced product lines made from ocean plastics. Fast food chains are offering meat-free burger alternatives on their menus (even though clumsily).

What’s more, there are the countless small business owners and regenerative farmers who are doing things differently. They are working hard to provide consumers with sustainable alternatives to the standard wares on supermarket shelves and retail racks.

And in principal, I agree that we should make purchases that are aligned with our values. But I also believe that the concept of voting with our wallets has some big limitations. We can’t rely on market mechanisms alone to fix the climate crisis.

Ideas
Australian bushfire crisis Kangaroo Island

Australian bushfire crisis: how you can help long-term

The past months have been incredibly tough. Australia is fighting an unprecedented bushfire crisis which has burned across an area of at least 10.7 million hectares. Over 1,700 homes have been destroyed and 23 people lost their lives.

Over 1 billion animals are estimated to have died in a country where over 1,800 native plant and animal species had already been at risk of extinction. Conservationists fear that we may have lost some of them forever. Meanwhile, the bushfires are still burning across vast areas with no real end in sight.

Each day seems to bring more bad news. And while there are countless stories of incredible generosity and community, it’s still hard not to feel overwhelmed and helpless at times. Donating to causes that provide immediate support and relief is fantastic and vital, but I have spoken to many people who still felt they were not doing enough.

Managing the emergency right now still must be the priority. Yet the reality is that we will have to deal with the fallout from the current fires for many years to come – long after the haunting images will have disappeared from our newsfeed. This blog posts provides some ideas on how you can help long-term.

It’s by no means an exhaustive list, but I will keep adding to it over time. If you have any other ideas on how to get involved, please add them in the comments below or drop me a line for it to be added to the main article.

Donate your skills to those affected by the Australian bushfire crisis

You might not have the money to support the relief efforts financially, but you might have the time and skills to help where it’s needed the most. What’s more, lending an active hand to bushfire victims will feel a lot more productive than continuously refreshing your social media feed.

Conservationist
The Great Barrier Reef is under threat from coral bleaching

Coral bleaching is jeopardising our reefs – government action on climate change can save them

Coral reefs are an important part of a healthy global ecosystem. They function as nurseries for many fish and provide important coastal protection for low-lying islands.

An estimated 400 million people in developing countries depend on coral reefs for protection and income. According to a report by Deloitte Access Economics, tourism at the Great Barrier Reef alone is a $6.4 billion a year industry, providing 64,000 jobs.

But the future of our coral reefs is at risk. Back-to-back coral bleaching events caused by a warming climate are jeopardising their survival.

Marine biologist Professor Terry Hughes has dedicated his career to studying coral reefs. I recently had the chance to talk to him about his research on the linkages between coral reef ecosystems, the goods and services they provide to people and the role of governance.

The poster child of climate change

“In the context of climate change, coral reefs are often called the canary in the coalmine,” says Terry. “ I am not sure if this analogy is accurate or that coral reefs are more vulnerable than other ecosystems.”

Professor Terry Hughes
Professor Terry Hughes

“In Australia, we are currently dealing with burning rainforests, so one could argue that many other ecosystems are equally at risk. But coral reefs are very photogenic and iconic, so with their increasing degradation, they have become the poster child for the impact of climate change on biodiversity.”

The other issue with the canary metaphor is that it suggests that we’re still in the early stages of understanding and responding to the impact of climate change on the natural environment.

Scientists Thinkers