Cyprus Mail
CM Regular ColumnistOpinion

Carbon footprints in flood and flame

wildfires continue in evia
People board a ferry during evacuation as a wildfire burns in the village of Limni, on the island of Evia, Greece, August 6, 2021. REUTERS/Nicolas Economou


By Colette NiReamonn Ioannidou

Flames and floods: a world dragging its heels on climate change is finally admitting something really serious is afoot.

Once, when young and struggling, did you go for a meal with peers in the same financial boat believing you’d all be choosing the cheapest option? Then one person selected an expensive dish, eating with relish as you watched enviously. While the rest drank cheap beverages, they chose a tall glass of good wine. When the bill came, same person, an ace at mental arithmetic, grabs it and pronounces how much each had to contribute towards the cost. Lesson learned, next time make it quite clear everyone pays for their own meal.

Attitudes towards our planet’s survival run along the same lines, the thoughtful act with restraint while the selfish greedily consume and let others pay the price of their extravagance.

Between 1976 and 1977, Mary Leaky found fossilised human footprints south of Olduvai Gorge in Africa. Simple prints left by the forerunners of a species that eventually would dominate the planet. Early man realised that groups worked better for safety, survival and provision of food than individuals or families. It didn’t take long for these primitive folk to begin to waste the resources around them, driving entire herds of prey off cliffs, killing far more than they could keep or eat: a pattern was being established on a world it was thought had infinite amounts of whatever was needed for the taking and no bill to pay.

The sea has been our flush away toilet, and it didn’t matter that we threw in the bin over-buy we couldn’t consume. When affluence arrives waste soon follows. It’s a good excuse to depend on our governments to do something or make us do something. Yet we’re all conscious of the problem, and each of us has responsibility for what we do within our own homes and environments to sustain global warming or try to decrease it.

Water has always been a precious commodity in Cyprus, yet there are still people who act as though there’s plenty more where that came from as they hose down the streets outside their houses, spraying every unfeeling thing in sight with as much water as would cherish several fruit trees. Obviously, the message on the water bill asking us to be careful is being ignored, let someone else save water. I’ve seen in homes pre dish-washer rinsing with taps spouting full force where a small amount of water would’ve sufficed. How much dish washing liquid do you use? How much water softener? What quantity of synthetic smelly cleaners is used in your home when lemon or vinegar would do? (Vinegar is great for taking scale off kettles; real lemon does less damage to sinuses than synthetic.)

As temperatures rise, air-conditioners will be used for more hours by those who can afford to pay high electricity bills; comfort first, planet second. In the world to come, the poor will suffer as always, for the selfishness of the rich.

At present there is wanton wastage all around us. What happens to all the left-over food from bakeries, take-aways and other has-to-be-now-fresh edible goods suppliers? Is it binned, thrown away, given to livestock farmers? There will come a time when every morsel will need to be accounted for because the water we play with now will be in extremely short supply for cultivation and animal farming. Long leisurely showers will be a thing of the past. How much water do you waste as you bathe or shower every day? Tried Japanese style?

Covid-19 played havoc with holiday resort incomes, not to mention the shocking fires here and the horrors of conflagrations in Greece. The UK, one of the biggest contributor groups to tourism in Cyprus, is already speaking of how to deal in practical terms with the evident climate changes that are coming. Northern European countries will have sunshine equal to what we have and our heat will be so oppressive, no one will want to holiday here.

Climate control has to be helped by you, now, because your children and grandchildren are already in danger. The footprints Mary Leakey found were ancient, visible but harmless evidence of a mere passing. Our carbon footprints are also long lasting but intensely destructive and we can see their traces everywhere in flood and flame.


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