Expats and Climate Change

Blog Action Day 2009Today is Blog Action Day.   This is an annual event held every October 15 that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking discussion around an issue of global importance.  This year’s topic is Climate Change.

I must admit that a lot of the time I don’t think my life as an expat has been very climate friendly.  Over the last 13 years I’ve spent far more time on an airplane than I ever did before and most of the time I’ve lived in places where there was no organized recycling.  However we have at least always managed to be one car household, mainly because the standard of driving in the places we’ve lived is bad enough to keep anyone sane off the roads!  I’ve achieved this by always opting for accomodation within walking distance of most of the places I need to visit on a regular basis. 

Watching how others lead their lives has sometimes been instructive.  When we first arrived in Azerbaijan I shopped for my fruit and vegetables at the local bazaar.  No plastic bags were on offer, so like everyone else I purchased a sturdy, reusable straw bag from the lady who sold them near the entrance and learned to shop in the correct order.  Potatoes and onions first, at the bottom of the bag, green vegetables and then soft fruit on top, so it didn’t get crushed. 

In Egypt I remember witnessing two donkey cart men outside our apartment building having a fist fight over someone’s cardboard packing boxes.  Recycling was obviously taking place, but not in public view and presumably they fetched good money somewhere.

The UAE has just started a recyling program and stores are trying to curb the use of plastic bags.  Not before time, as local camels have started to die in alarming numbers due to ingesting plastic which blows around their grazing areas just outside the cities.

Now back in Canada I see that traffic and air pollution have increased while I’ve been away.  Despite a very good public transit network, people still love their cars.  Recycling has reached an artform here, with huge bins for everything from styrofoam trays to compost issued to every household.  I’m sure it makes some feel virtuous, but for me the huge fridge-sized bin I fill every two weeks with recyclable materials just emphasizes how much stuff I buy only to throw away.  On the postive side though, we’re still a one car family, for now at any rate.

There’s a growing concern around the world about pollution, environmental issues, climate change, call it what you will.  Those in the developing world are just starting to adopt the bad habits we in the west are now trying to give up.  On this, Blog Action Day, I urge you to tread lightly on the earth and set a good example to your neighbours.

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