sign saying planet over profit

Should we all be doing our bit?

We’ve heard it all before, but it cannot be over-stated that much more action is needed to protect our planet’s biodiversity from global warming.

Is there much point in us lowly individuals doing our bit to help when the most powerful politicians are clearly not doing nearly enough?

One very simple thing ordinary folk are doing is looking after the flowers in a window box or a corner of the garden that will attract bees and butterflies to feed and pollinate.

Depositing waste household plastic, glass and paper in recycling bins is easy. Groups can continue collecting rubbish, especially plastics, along our shores.

Climate activists in Lisbon have done a splendid job of raising awareness by compiling, in the centre of the city, a massive heap of some 650,000 cigarette butts, none of which are biodegradable. They are part of the estimated 4.5 trillion toxic cigarette butts left polluting the world each year, according to the World Health Organisation.

Growing fresh fruit and vegetables and distributing them locally is so much cheaper than transporting mass-harvested agricultural produce by air or cargo ships from far-flung foreign lands.

Private landowners in Portugal and everywhere else could upgrade barren areas or stop cattle over-grazing so that trees could be planted to lessen CO2 emissions and allow many different species to survive.

A small pond in the garden is a good idea for plants and creatures dependent on fresh water.

An even better idea for the Lagoa city council would be to reverse its decision to allow the Alagoas Brancas wetland to be destroyed and agree to turn it into a wildlife sanctuary as environmental organisations and many local citizens have long been advocating.

Many similar positive things can be quietly done to benefit our own and future generations in Portugal, one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to global heating problems, such as rising sea levels, raging wildfires and droughts.

We are halfway through a critical period since the landmark Paris Agreement signed by 196 countries in 2015. The agreement’s main goal was to limit global warming to well below 2ºC and preferably below 1.5ºC. This will mean reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030 and to net zero by 2050. So far, so good? No! Scientists say humanity needs to double its efforts to save life on our planet from a climate calamity.

This is not doomsday talk. It’s a deeply researched, evidence-based fact. It may come down to greatly reducing human hatred and aggression and focusing instead on multi-national compassion, as hard as that may be to even imagine nowadays.

President Xi Jinping, leader of the worst of all polluting countries, seems much more determined to continue repressing the entire 1.4 billion population of mainland China and seizing the relatively small island of Taiwan than securing a zero-limit on greenhouse gas emissions.

The focus now in the United States, the world’s number two CO2 polluter, is not the future well-being of the planet but who will win the presidential election in November 2024 between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. And not only Trump himself but millions of his republican followers believe global warming is just fake news.

India, the number three polluter, has border tensions with China, in addition to which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is well aware that all eyes of the world’s media will be on India this year when it hosts the G20 summit, one year before the nation’s general election.

President Putin in Russia, the world’s fourth biggest CO2 polluter, just wants to win his war and no-one is sure how far he is willing to go to achieve that.

The British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, is almost submerged in protests and workers’ strike actions associated with the cost-of-living crisis that followed the less than promising outcome of the COP26 climate change summit overseen by the disgraced former Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Glasgow in 2021.

Portugal’s Prime Minister António Costa has plenty of internal problems but remains fully committed to rejecting all fossil fuels and relying entirely on renewable sources of energy.

The European Union as a whole, however, is warming more rapidly than anywhere else. While this is obviously of great concern to the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, she is being much distracted by the war in Ukraine and the millions of refugees fleeing both from Ukraine and Africa.

So where does all this leave you and me?


Len Port is a journalist and author based in the Algarve. Follow Len’s reflections on current affairs in Portugal on his blog: