When it comes to the environment, there is a lot that we, as individuals, can do. Most of our problems are a result of our lifestyle whereby convenience is more important than caring for our environment. It is very convenient to use throw-away paper cups. It is very convenient to accept the plastic bags given to us in the supermarket. It is more convenient to throw our garbage in the street than it is to take it home and dispose of it responsibly. It is more convenient to leave our computers, TVs and other electrical appliances running than it is to turn them off overnight or when we are at work. Though highly illegal, too many people find it more convenient to burn their rubbish, rather than dispose of it properly.
Convenience is costing us our planet.
As individuals, there is a lot that we can do. We can choose not to throw our rubbish on the ground and contribute to rubbish in the sea; we can choose not to use paper cups which contribute to deforestation and the use of harmful chemical bleaching; we can choose not to contribute to climate change by leaving lights and electrical appliances on unnecessarily; we can choose not to light illegal fires that pollute the air and also contribute to climate change. As individuals we can substantially minimise our use of plastics.
There is a lot that you can do. The Jeju Big Swim is not about asking people to think about the environment and do the impossible. The Big Swim is about asking people to think about the environment – and do what you can.
REFUSE, REUSE, RECYCLE
The following is a list of simple things that everyone can do to minimise their impact on our environment:
1. Conserve energy: electricity (unnecessary lights and appliances, winter heating and summer cooling) --but, more importantly, petroleum fuels. Do this:
a. If necessary to drive, do so conservatively, with only very gradual acceleration, slowing gently in advance of using the brakes. Plan extra time for a trip.
b. BUT, carpool or take a bus whenever possible, instead of driving.
c. BUT ALSO, walk or ride a bicycle if possible. Simply plan extra time and enjoy the health benefits.
d. For local travel that is too far to walk when a bike or a bus is not possible, have a small motor-scooter to use instead of your full-size car, which you should save for rainy days and the coldest part of winter.
e. If you buy a car, note that LPG burns cleaner than petrol gasoline or diesel --and being untaxed it is cheaper. Opt for the smallest possible vehicle you need, or buy an electric car or a hybrid.
f. SAY NO to air travel unless in emergency -- it is extremely polluting.
g. While driving, be respectful and considerate to cyclists sharing our roads. After all, they are off-setting your carbon footprint and contributing to a better, cleaner world.
2. Consider SAYING NO to either meat and fish. Simply by foresaking meat you can reduce carbon emissions more than you could by replacing a gas-hogging SUV with a Toyota Prius.
Fish is either caught from the ocean where many species are running short or even threatened with extinction -- or raised on farms that trigger plankton blooms which are killing our littoral seas. If you must eat fish, demand to know its source and don't eat it unless you know for sure.
3. We can't very well absolutely say NO, but avoid agricultural products that have not been grown organically. Chemical fertilizers feed polluting nutrients into the sea, and especially on Jeju they threaten ocean health. They are also often loaded with poison chemicals.
4. Foresake convenience - it's costing us the planet. The little things taken care of by the multitudes of citizens will help save the earth as much as the big things by industry and government.
5. One of the most important things we can do is refuse to litter -- not because it makes the greatest contribution to saving the earth, but because it helps discipline our habits and focus ourselves personally (as well as our collective community mind) on paying attention to how we live and what we leave behind in our wake of daily life.
a. Recycle diligently. Better yet, re-use whenever possible.
b. SAY NO to unnecessary plastic packaging. Bring a cloth shopping bag or utilize recyclable boxes instead of taking a plastic bag; either avoid PET bottles entirely or reuse the ones you must take as planters or household containers. Plastic trash too often ends up in the sea, where they kill many kinds of living things. Wooden toys may be better for children than plastic. Styrofoam or other plastic throwaway cups are almost always unnecessary, and a bit of foresight can usually preclude their use. Get in the habit of being conscientious with the little things, and the big things will be easier to overcome.
c. Remind those who litter, in public, without fear or embarrassment. Do so kindly. It is necessary to help people change their minds and eliminate the bad habit.
6. Take an active interest in some form of environmental activity. The above five suggestions are all to do with stopping, refusing, and self-denial. Here is a positive step that could well become something of intense interest: Study the lay science which is freely available on the internet, explaining environmental challenges and offering ways to get involved.