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You can make a difference

March 12, 2020 March 2020 No Comments

Our changing climate will affect our environment, economy and way of life – a notion both  familiar and daunting. The Ministry of the Environment recently released health check stats on our environment. The report identified the challenges we face from loss of biodiversity, to the deteriorating  health of our land and water and seas through the impact of climate change.  

The big environmental headlines can make us feel simultaneously disconnected and overwhelmingly powerless. However the reality is what each of us does daily creates changes  in the environment – just like a pebble thrown in a still pool creates  a series of ripples.

So let’s trace the path of one from our daily choices; the choice we make moving from A to B. We love our cars so much that we have the highest rate of car ownership in the  OECD However that family car is responsible for  a quarter of  Ne Zealand’s carbon dioxide emissions. 

Most of us are probably aware that carbon dioxide is the greenhouse gas which traps heat in the atmosphere giving rise to the warming climate. But there is another effect perhaps less well known. The carbon dioxide we emit  dissolves in our oceans to create carbonic acid. This acid is found in fizzy drinks and is largely undetectable to us. 

However it has a very detectable effect on creatures with certain shells. It makes the ocean acidic enough to find it harder to build their shells. So a number of marine species including paua, mussels and oysters are growing more slowly and breeding later. 

Rippling out , these emissions we generate driving to work, the super market of school run could threaten the health of marine creatures impacting on what we could harvest from the sea.

This is just one example. Every choice and action we make creates a ripple of change . More work is needed to unpick, unravel and understand the complexity of these ripples. 

But the complexity shouldn’t paralyse us fro acting. Indeed the ripple effect shows us that individually and collectively  we have the power to create ripples of positive change.

Dr. Allison Collins Ministry of the Environment chief science adviser.


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