"The Billion Dollar Contribution We Need to Save The Planet" - Conor McConville

The climate is changing, and it is affecting us all. Whether it is the literal, physical changes to the world; or the anxiety from seeing the results, we all feel the weight of the impending fate of our world. As someone who has volunteered and worked for charities for almost four years now, I have seen significant growth in Eco Anxiety.

The existential dread of Eco Anxiety is growing tenfold. As we see summers last longer and winters more severe, you can not help but think this is wrong. Florence Welch sang in the song South London Forever; "What if one day there is no such thing as snow?" (High As Hope, 2018). Those words resonate with me now when I look at my weather app and see temperatures as high as 20 degrees in October. The fabric of our existence feels altered and ever-changing. We are currently living through a global pandemic, of which we do not know the lasting effects of yet. In a waste sense: “According to University College London’s Plastic Waste Innovation Hub, if just half of the UK’s population used one disposable mask per day for a year, that adds up to around 12 billion masks a year, creating more than 30,000 tonnes of contaminated plastic waste.” (Which,2021)

So we are left with the question, what as individuals can we do to help our planet earth? I believe that, first and foremost, we must not look at saving the planet as an individual feat but as a contribution to a larger conversation. We must work together while being supported by our local councils and governments to create an infrastructure that is more eco friendly. These are things as simple as; making sure every household has all recycling bins available and not just general waste bins, allowing everyone to recycle. If we make these habits, we can increase our recycling contributions to saving the planet, making it the norm in all Scottish households. In Dundee, we have seen an increase of household waste recycled “from 29.66% in 2012/13 to 38% in 2019/20” (Dundee Gov, 2020), but we should be doing better. We need our governments, our councils and our companies to make recycling part of our everyday lives; and help preserve our planet.

While working on Making Waves, an art project about visiting the coasts and waters of Scotland and creating art in response, we discussed many factors contributing to polluting our planet. A conversation arose from one of our young people about Pepsi's contributions to the pollution of our oceans. As one of the top three biggest polluting companies in 2020, Pepsi had over 5,155 pieces of clearly branded plastic collected from the Break Free From Plastic annual audit. I am glad Pepsi is pivoting to more environmentally friendly solutions, with all their new bottles produced from 100% recycled plastic. These changes from our companies are what will positively tip the scales in overcoming global warming. This year the Plastic Waste Makers index found: “Twenty firms produce 55% of the world's plastic waste” (Guardian, 2021). The biggest was ExxonMobil, an American multinational oil and gas corporation headquartered in Irving, Texas. They contributed; “5.9m tonnes to the global waste mountain, concludes the analysis by the Minderoo Foundation.” (Guardian 2021). It will only be when companies take responsibility to fund money and create new solutions to save our planet. Only then can we work together in unison to reduce our anxieties and preserve planet earth. 

Part of Making Waves was to educate our young people about preserving the planet but, it was also about enjoying the natural splendour Scotland has to offer. It was an eye-opening experience to travel across the coasts and waters of Scotland and visit the natural landscapes. However, this is squandered unless we all, including our billion-dollar companies and governments, band together and save this world. Ultimately, we only have one planet, but we are not looking after it properly right now, however, with the right tools and support, we can plan, strategize and mobilize a solution to save our precious planet.