Thinking global, living local: Voices in a globalized world

I’m a size 7 but my footprint is enormous!

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In reading through the Earth Day article, I decided to google various ‘eco related pages’ and I came across a quiz available on Earth Day 2012 homepage.

Then…I probably just took the most shocking quiz of my life, in all the millions and gazillions of quizzes that there are in the world – this one probably taught me more about my lifestyle and myself than any of those psychological and intellectual testing quizzes that circulate the cyberverse.

I decided that for this post I would do a little exploring, mainly inspired by the beautiful blue sky that I saw when I stepped outside of my apartment and thought to myself – what an incredibly amazing city! Then I thought, what do we have to do to keep it this way?

I came home after spending half a day with my mother doing a bit of shopping, a bit of coffee drinking and some general leisurely walking and drove back to my apartment. I then went onto a website called ‘EarthDay.org,’ obviously run for the purposes of  engaging with ecological initiatives and in particular promoting Earth Day.

I then found this link on the website called, ‘Footprint calculator.’ It drew my interest because all the time, I hear about ecological and carbon footprints and how we all have to reduce our footprint and I’m thinking, what are you talking about? Do I have to stop living? Do I have to stop walking on the earth? What measurable things can I do in my day to day life to reduce my “footprint,” whatever that means?

Plus it was pretty cool because you get to create your own avatar and you watch things build around you as you select what you use and so on, so forth.

So in a society where everything is about quantifying activities (including social activities), I thought I would take this footprint calculator and finally have a look at my ecological footprint. So I began, a few questions about my daily meat intake, where I purchase my vegetables and fruit (locally or produced more than 230 km away), do I recycle?, do I purchase new household items?, how often do I buy clothes?

Then more obvious questions such as how often do I drive, how often do I fly, how many litres per 100 km do I use, how often I cycle? Luckily I felt quite proud that I cycle or walk everyday to work and don’t catch any public transport at all since there is no need for me to. But I still drive.

All this aside, my results came…..according to the quiz, if everyone lived like me, we would need 1.9 planets to sustain my lifestyle. I thought I was doing pretty well, to be quite honest – I cycle or walk to work everyday, I eat meat about once a week, chicken about twice a week and fish once a month! I recycle DAILY, I try to drive as little as I can on the weekends, I go to the farmer’s markets to buy locally grown products and I shop very very little to reduce the amount of waste and my general consumption and yet, we would still need nearly a whole other planet to support my lifestyle. This threw me back immensely. I couldn’t believe even after everything I have adopted towards “reducing my carbon footprint,” I am still a massive burden on this environment.

So then the next page came, it said “explore options to reduce your impact.” So I clicked this and certain questions came up such as, ‘What if you pledged to reduce the amount of animal products you currently eat by half?’ and “What if solar panels provided most of the electricity for your house?” This second option was a little less realistic considering I live in an apartment block where I’m sure it would be difficult to rally for solar panels to be installed but not impossible!

The incredible thing was that if every Australian chose to reduce their consumption of animal products by half, the world would use 18 million less global hectares. Just every Australian. What if everyone in the world did it? I was so intrigued, I clicked on the Global Footprint Network.

I have a pledge and I’m wondering if the rest of the Future Challenges community, will take a similar pledge? I’m going to do exactly what this quiz told me to do. I will not drive my car for an entire month. I will halve my consumption of animal products. I will look into installing solar panels for the entire apartment block. I will look at replacing current lighting with energy efficient lighting throughout the building. I will reduce consumption, I will buy only locally produced products and I will recycle absolutely everything. I will take this new pledge for the next month and will post my results back on this post!

If you like me, want to take this quiz and understand what your footprint actually means….go to earthday.org and if you want to know more, go to footprintnetwork.org.

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Lourdes Gomez Twitter: @shmershmezLourdes

I live in Australia where I work as a writer & editor and researcher. I study international relations, peace and conflict studies and environmental sociology.