Be the sustainable change you want to see in the world

flagsIt may not have struck many this morning, but as we all tucked into our breakfasts, whether it was fruit and yogurt or bacon and eggs, we were being influenced by international relations and policies.

The trip that your bananas and oranges took to your fruit bowl and the gas that cooked your bacon are a result of numerous debates and decisions made by global leaders. These discussions are becoming more and more frequent as a result of energy and sustainability becoming increasingly imperative to diplomatic and trade relations.

The UN has placed significant focus on energy and sustainability recently. 2012 was named “International Year of Sustainable Energy for All”. Through raising awareness, the UN hopes to achieve the following:

To ensure universal access to modern energy services
To double the rate of improvement in energy efficiency
To double the share of renewable energy in the global mix.

While it is obvious that these criteria will take a considerable amount of time and effort to fulfil, it is obvious that the accomplishment would reap incredible rewards, not only in terms of environmental sustainability but also on human security, international relations and economic stability.

The environment and how its resources are utilized have significant impacts across many areas. While most of us won’t remember, in 1973 the OPEC (Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) decided to raise the price of oil. This had a radical impact on international relations, causing much tension and was closely followed by the Arab nations of OPEC announcing an embargo against the United States, in response to the US decision to resupply the Israeli Defence Force, during its occupation of the Sinai Peninsula.

The Arab League then extended their embargo to all other states showing support for Israel. As a result the price of oil rocketed; first doubling and then quadrupling and thus having severe subsidiary effects on consumers worldwide.

This embargo was said to be the basis on which a US-centred recession occurred which resulted in the unemployment level peaking at 9% and the GDP falling by 3.2%. Many European nations together with Japan began to quickly disassociate themselves with US foreign policy, specifically, but not exclusively, in regards to the Middle East. As a result the US was forced to negotiate from a weaker position, something that it was not used to, in order to end the crippling embargo.

This single event has impacted many energy relations between states until this day and oil continues to be an issue at the forefront of international relations. The media is continually informing us that oil reserves are dwindling and of the straining effects it has on global economics and trade. Oil isn’t the only resource surrounded by a hullabaloo of media exposure and controversy. Nuclear power causes immense debate, specifically with Iran, who claim to want to utilise the power in order to supplement their growing energy needs. The vast majority of UN members states are adamantly against this development, fearing that Iran might have an ulterior motive, i.e. nuclear weapons.

Energy and natural resources are of incredible value not only economically but diplomatically too. For the sake of our future on this planet, we should be mindful of the impact of energy on human security. Is it fair that one nation has control over another’s access to energy? Should it be international protocol to share energy proportionally? And the question that is on everyone’s mind: will we be able to sustain our energy usage and avoid the worst impacts of climate change?

We, the international community need to find the answers to these questions. Imagine a world without gas for your oven, no electricity to light your house, let alone for your iphone, computer and television. The impact of the decisions made by governments worldwide, and at the UN, EU, AU and other forums, are going to determine the shape that the future will take.

In order to preserve and sustain energy and natural resources for generations to come we need to incorporate it into our lifestyles. From something simple like re-using plastic bags to playing the new London-based fad game entitled ‘spot the Prius’, will make us more self-aware of our actions and their consequences.

Try not to rush out of the house and leave the heating on. Try to recycle that glass bottle of posh apple juice you had. Try to get that dripping tap fixed. These seemingly minor actions all add up to creating a brighter future for us all. Thinking about the bigger picture, alongside the smaller things we can do ourselves and perhaps we can compel others to do the same, by being the change we want to see in the world.

Hollie Weatherstone is a regular contributor to the3rdimagazine.

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