16 Jun Tupac’s ‘Changes’: A Climate Change Visionary
It’s an open secret on the internet that Tupac Shakur was more than a performer, he was a prophet.
Although his untimely death robbed the world of his talent and wisdom in 1996, the lyrics of his song “Changes” basically read like a roadmap to the actions we need to be taking in order to reverse our environmental crisis in the current day –
We gotta make a change
It’s time for us as a people to start makin’ some changes
Let’s change the way we eat
Let’s change the way we live
And let’s change the way we treat each other
You see the old way wasn’t workin’
So it’s on us to do what we gotta do to survive
“Let’s Change The Way We Eat”
There’s no other part of our daily lives where every person, regardless of lifestyle or budget, can make a bigger and more immediate impact on the climate than by changing the way we eat. (Source: The Guardian)
Choose A Plant-Forward Menu
The statistics here are staggering –
- Animals provide just 18% of humanity’s calories, but take up 83% of farmland.
- Livestock produce 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gases.
- Loss of wild areas to agriculture is the single largest cause of animal extinction, and 75% of the world’s farmlands – an area the size of the United States, Europe, China and Australia combined – could be re-wilded if humanity stopped consuming meat and dairy products.
Even if you’re not ready to “convert” to a vegan lifestyle, by shifting your portions of meat and dairy and replacing them with plant-based options, you are helping to create a positive change.
Here are a few ways to take the pain out of this transition –
- Adopt Meatless Mondays and if you survive, try adding a second meatless day a week.
- Boost your protein with a green shake during your day, made with hemp or pea protein.
- Experiment with dairy alternatives to milk and cheese, such as coconut, almond, and cashew – create your own 50/50 blend of dairy and alternatives while you adjust to the new flavors.
- Start thinking of meat as a condiment instead of the foundation of your meals. Fill in the gaps on your plate with vegetables and healthy fats such as avocados and olive oil, and you’ll stay full just as long.
Eat Local – It’s More Than A Slogan
The industrialized food system takes a heavy toll on the planet (Source: Union of Concerned Scientists), as well as our health –
- Industrial farms are draining our natural aquifers and rely on heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers, both of which are harming wildlife, poisoning waterways and causing vast marine “dead zones” where rivers empty into the sea.
- Packaged foods are highly processed, filled with preservatives and… well… wrapped up in packaging. All that means a bigger carbon footprint to process and transport your food, more chemicals released into the atmosphere (and into your body!), and more plastic, paper and metal that all end up in landfills.
- Eating fresh local foods – especially from farmers markets – will reduce transportation, processing, and packaging. The planet with thank you, and so will your body. You’ll also get the added benefit of supporting your local economy.
Ditch The Food Waste
According to recent studies, up to 40% of food purchased in the United States will go to waste. (Source: MarketWatch)
Take a look at the statistics cited above, and then try to wrap your mind around the fact that nearly half of the destruction to the planet caused by our food system is literally for nothing. In fact, food waste not only creates enormous costs to the planet, but to our bank accounts as well – approximately $165 billion per year goes straight into the rubbish bin.
Here are a few quick ways to make a change –
- Plan your meals before you shop, including when you’ll eat out during the week.
- Just say no to impulse buys at the grocery store.
- Reduce your spontaneous trips to Starbucks, lunches with coworkers, etc.
In physics, it is believed that merely observing a situation will necessarily change it. (Source: BBC) We can apply that theory to life as well – by becoming more aware of how much food we waste, it becomes far more likely we can change the habits that lead to this waste.
If you’re tech-savvy, you guessed it – there’s an app for that! In fact, there’s two –
- FoodCache tracks your shopping, reminds you when to eat what you’ve purchased, and helps you monitor the amount of food that ends up in the trash.
- Karma connects consumers with grocers and restaurant owners, to make sure food finds a happy home before going to waste.
Leave Your House Prepared
Moving beyond the types of food we purchase and consume, let’s get literal when we talk about “changing the way we eat” – there’s no excuse to keep relying on single-use bottles, cups, straws, utensils and shopping bags.
- Instead of buying bottled water, get a reusable glass bottle and refill it with filtered water.
- Bring along steel straws and your own travel mug when you go out to coffee.
- Pack your own tupperware when you go to a restaurant, to avoid styrofoam takeout.
- Bring your own tupperware, jars and lightweight bags for buying produce and bulk items at the grocery store.
- Invest in canvas shopping bags, and keep several in your car.
- If you find yourself riding a bike or taking public transport, you can also buy nylon bags that clip onto your backpack or briefcase with a carabiner.
These changes may seem inconvenient at first, but if you find yourself resisting the shift, take a few minutes to Google the effects of plastic straws or plastic bags on marine life. Then remember what goes around, comes around. Plastics might break down but they never go away, and the microplastics cluttering waterways today will end up in the food chain tomorrow, even in the water you drink. (Source: Deeper Blue)
“Let’s Change The Way We Live”
Most of us bumble through our days acting on habit, but by shifting our big and little choices, we can make a tremendous difference in how our lifestyle affects the planet.
Cut Back On Fossils
I’m sure many of us would love to buy a new hybrid or electric car, but that’s not always a financial option, nor is it a carbon neutral one (Source: WIRED) – likewise with retrofitting our roofs with new solar panels.
Here are a few shifts that should be accessible to just about everyone –
- Drive less – even if it’s not feasible to eliminate your car all the time, try carpooling or committing to public transit one day a week. If you work in an office environment, ask your boss if you can telecommute from home one day a week. On your days off, try carpooling with friends, getting around by bike or on foot as much as possible.
- Buy clean electricity – at least 50% of consumers in the United States have the option to select the source of their electricity. Check with your local utility company for details. If you do not have the choice through your power provider, you can also buy green energy certificates to offset your power use at home.
- Micro-manage your usage – remember to turn off the lights, unplug larger appliances when not in use, nudge your thermostat down a few degrees, and air dry your clothes as much as possible. This is another great chance for the tech savvy among you, as numerous apps will help you “optimize” the power use in your home.
Think Before You Buy
Consumerism has become a knee-jerk habit for many of us. Our homes are filled with bargain junk, our closets filled with fast fashion, we buy many things we could be borrowing and we replace many things we could repair. Many of the cheap and low-quality goods we purchase will predictably wear out or fall out of favor with us, and inevitably end up in a landfill. In fact, this may come as a shock, but “fast fashion” is the second dirtiest industry in the world, second only to Big Oil. (Source: EcoWatch)
Here are a few strategies to make a huge shift in our consumer habits –
- Skip the update. You don’t need the latest phone, gadget or laptop. Think about it – if you skip every other new release, you’re cutting your electronic waste literally in half.
- Choose quality over quantity. When selecting your clothes, your furniture, and your kitchenware, try as much as possible to make purchases you can pass down through the generations. This strategy benefits your bank account as well as the planet – at the point-of-sale, the price tag might appear higher, but over a lifetime you’ll discover you’re paying far less in cost-per-use when you ‘wait it out’ and save up for quality goods.
- Refuse to buy what you can borrow. Remember the library? They lend movies and music these days, not just books. Create a clothing swap or toy swap for your neighborhood or your circle of friends. Need to fix something? Ask your neighbor to borrow that tool.
- Refuse to replace what can be repaired. Learn to stitch a button, sew a hem, turn a screw and hammer a nail. Remember there’s a YouTube tutorial for everything under the sun. If a repair is truly beyond your abilities, look for a local tailor, cobbler, fix-it shop, or ask your grandparents to show you!
- Create a “one thing in, one thing out” policy. If curbing your purchases proves to be a hard habit to break, make a new rule that for every new item you bring home, you have to give a like item away. Whether it’s clothing, accessories, shoes, books, gadgets or toys, stopping to ask yourself whether you need that new thing badly enough that you’re willing to part with something you already have will slow down your reflex to toss every sale item and shiny object into your shopping cart.
Think Globally, Act Locally
Many of us get wrapped up in the drama and intrigue of national politics and international events, but there are decisions being made every day at the local level that will have a massive effect on your personal life, as well as on the world.
Start paying attention to your city council and zoning board –
- Advocate for building or expanding public transit.
- Push for mixed-use zoning and intelligent urban planning.
Thoughtless, unchecked development means more urban food deserts and suburban islands that are only accessible by cars. We need more mixed-use neighborhoods where we live, work, play and eat within a smaller area – cutting down on single-passenger vehicle use, creating shorter and greener commutes.
Tree-filled parks, safe bike paths, and urban community gardens should be considered public health infrastructure. But they don’t turn a profit, so we can’t leave it to the ‘invisible hand of the market’ to create them – we must demand them.
“Let’s Change The Way We Treat Each Other”
The amazing thing is that planet-friendly choices are also people-friendly choices.
On a societal level, making conscious, organic food choices means fewer agricultural workers will be exposed to harmful pesticides; just saying no to junk consumerism means fewer exploited workers in factories that produce our cheap junk. Reducing our dependence on fossil fuels means fewer global conflicts and human rights abuses.
On a personal level, getting together to organize carpools, clothing swaps, and repair workshops helps to build connections with our neighbors, coworkers, and friends – an important antidote to our increasingly isolated culture. We also support the local economy when we buy our food directly from farmers markets or bring our clothes to the neighborhood tailor.
Lastly, it’s crucial that we remember, in a globalized world, there simply is no “over there” anymore – the actions taken in one part of the globe have a direct impact on people living on other continents –
- Emissions from factories in China affect air quality in North America. (Source: New York Times) If you’ve ever purchased consumer goods manufactured in China, you have not only played a role in poisoning the air for 1.2 billion people in China, but in poisoning your own air, as well.
- Overuse of groundwater for agriculture and factories, combined with depleting annual snowpack in the Himalayas, is rapidly leading to a water crisis in Pakistan and India. (Source: National Geographic) If you’ve ever consumed Coca-Cola, eaten takeout with jasmine rice or bought clothes manufactured in South Asia then yes, you are personally contributing to this.
- Mining and mineral extraction that fuels technology use in the developed world also drives pollution, deforestation, and armed conflict in the developing world. (Source: Washington Post) If you’re reading this article on a smartphone, the device in your hands might very well contain resources extracted from a conflict zone.
Although people living in the industrialized world are significantly more responsible for driving ecological destruction and climate change through our lifestyle choices, the people living in the developing world are the first to feel the effects (Case In Point: Morocco) – a deep injustice that we can only correct when we begin to care about how we treat ALL people through our lifestyle and consumer choices.
“It’s On Us To Do What We Gotta Do To Survive”
It’s time to stop ‘passing the buck’ – ignoring the effects of our lifestyle because it’s trash in someone else’s backyard, smog in someone else’s city, climate change in someone else’s country or a problem for a future generation. These problems affect all of us, here and now, and the sooner we take personal responsibility and invest greater care in how we treat our fellow humans, the better our chances will be of halting and reversing the catastrophic environmental future we are all heading into if we continue on our current course.