Letter of the week: Concerned about climate change? Act instead of being scared

Researchers linked the anxiety young people felt about climate change to their perceptions of how governments were failing to respond adequately to it. PHOTO: AFP

A survey of young people in 10 countries on climate change found that more than 45 per cent said their feelings, including thoughts of distress or anxiety, spilt over and affected their daily lives and functioning (Many young people 'frightened' by climate change: Poll, Sept 16).

Also, almost four in 10 said they were hesitant to have children as a result of the climate crisis.

Besides raising awareness and petitioning people in power for climate commitments and action - a la activist Greta Thunberg - what else can be done?

The Japanese concept of mottainai (which translates to "what a waste") expresses regret when the full value of something is not optimised.

Kenyan environmentalist and Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai has used mottainai to represent reduce, reuse, recycle and repair.

She has campaigned for the optimal use of scarce resources and for them to be shared to prevent conflict over scarcity.

The pandemic has slowed industries and travel, reducing the carbon footprint, but sanitary (for example, masks and sanitiser dispensers) and delivery waste has increased.

I once overheard a child at an adventure camp telling another: "Don't waste rice because we have to buy it." This seems to imply that only things that have monetary value are worth saving.

In the same vein, when I recently reported a leaking flush at a coffee shop, a town council representative replied: "Don't worry, they are paying for that."

My perspective now is this: Everything I consume is a resource reduced and induces pollution at recurring cost to the planet and all stakeholders.

To optimise use and minimise garbage, I ration everything and use just enough: I buy less, consume sparingly and spare the utilities.

Using just enough detergent lessens rinsing, which saves water and reduces run-off pollution.

Fans, air-conditioners and the refrigerator are set to adequate levels. I have said goodbye to uninterrupted full-flow taps in showers and the kitchen, refrigerator settings that ice up drink surfaces and fans at full blast.

Concern for climate change consequences should spur daily actions instead of paralysing and disconcerting us helplessly.

Begin mottainai habits from a young age to internalise that no waste is great taste.

Desiree Chan Si Ni

Find out more about climate change and how it could affect you on the ST microsite here.