Wed | Aug 4, 2021

Olivia Williams | Debunking the myths surrounding climate change

Published:Sunday | June 13, 2021 | 12:08 AM
In this April 2010 a shepherd walks with a herd of sheep as he crosses a dried water bed in the outskirts of Hyderabad, India. Studies have shown climate change has worsened droughts, downpours and heat waves that have killed thousands of people.
Olivia Williams
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Climate change has become a phrase that has been trending over the last five-10 years, but the problem has existed for far too long. It is for good reasons that climate change should be taken seriously, and we should try our best to mitigate the challenges. However, a major problem is citizen’s lack of awareness towards the crisis and apathy towards participating in the solutions from the grass-roots level.

Climate change is often defined as a long-term change in the average weather patterns. This change in weather patterns has serious implications doe the world and, of course, Jamaica. Higher temperatures, rising sea levels, droughts, heatwave, changes in rain patterns are all consequences of climate change.

Since we understand what climate change is and its effects, let us clear up some common misconceptions and debunk some myths.

MYTH #1 – CLIMATE CHANGE ISN’T EVEN THAT BAD

Imagine this scenario. You are travelling to your local supermarket or grocery store. By the time you reach the front door, you are extremely hot and covered in sweat. It was as if the breeze was non-existent today and the air conditioner in your car had broken down.

You go to the supermarket and realise that all the prices have tripled. As you grunt frustratedly at the outrageous prices, you hear someone state: “This extended drought is really hitting the farmers hard – little to no crops. No wonder the price is so expensive.”

With that informal explanation, you move to the opposite aisle and realise that almost all of the foreign products are finished. You ask the cashier why the supermarket has not been not restocked. “No supplies were ordered,” she responds. “The wildfires have been spreading like crazy. The supply cannot meet the demand, and we honestly can’t afford it.”

You leave the store disheartened and return home. On the way home, you listen to breaking news: “Mass migration, island of (neverland) being submerged due to rising sea levels.”

This may sound like a far-fetched narrative to pull your heartstrings, but the reality is that this story is not very far off. Drought, wildfires, heat waves, low food supplies, migration, and rising sea levels, are all effects of climate change. So yes, it is that bad.

MYTH #2 – BLACK PEOPLE CAN’T GET SUNBURN

I was a victim of this misconception as well until the summer of 2019.

Yes, our wonderful melanin does give protection against sunburn, so we are lower on the risk level, but it is possible to get it. Symptoms may differ. We are accustomed to the red scorched skin, but darker-skinned people may not notice any redness. There are other symptoms such as sensitivity and itchiness. Severe cases can lead to dangerous conditions like heat stroke.

So why does sunburn fall into this equation? Climate change equals higher temperatures and heatwave. This, in turn, increases our risk of sunburn, heatstroke, and skin cancer.

What is the end result? We have to stop walking around like we are invincible and invest in sunscreen and other protective products. Speak to a professional for guidance on choosing the right sunscreen for you.

MYTH # 3 – CLIMATE CHANGE IS GOVERNMENT’S FAULT, LET THEM FIX IT

My plan is not to debate what the Government is or is not doing about climate change. Progress is being made, but more needs to be done. However, claiming this as their responsibility is another big misconception.

As highlighted before, climate change affects everyone, so everyone needs to do his or her part to mitigate the effects. We all have a part to play. Finger-pointing only wastes time and effort, when we can be doing other things - like saving the planet.

We, as normal citizens, play a part in the problem by doing things such as littering or wasting natural resources. So how can I, a Jamaican citizen, help with climate change?

Here are a few ways:

1. Switch off lights and unused electronics.

2. Carpool or use public transport.

3. Practise proper disposal and stop burning garbage such as used tires and plastics.

4. Reduce, reuse, recycle.

5. Practise better management of water resources.

6. Adopt sustainable farming practices.

7. Switch to electric or hybrid vehicles.

8. Instead of driving, try riding a bike or walking (bonus points for exercising).

9. Volunteer on projects put on by the Jamaica Environment Trust and similar organisations.

10. Spread awareness with friends and family.

 

- Olivia Williams is the creator of a blog for My Little World of Knowledge focusing on student development and topical issues and is the current head girl of St Jago High School. Send feedback to williams.olivia8802@gmail.com.