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The Big Read 2021-22

Mark Maslin, author of How to Save Our Planet: the Facts10 actions we can take

Mark Maslin is a Professor in Earth System Science at UCL and an expert in climate change. You can find out more in his biography.

We asked Mark to share his top ten actions for change, and this is what he had to say:


1. Talk about climate change.

The first and most important thing you can do is talk about climate change to everyone.  The greatest challenge in the history of our species should not be a taboo subject. We need new solutions, new social structures and new economics to solve this crisis. So talk about climate change. Share the ideas, as just one idea shared with one of your friends or relatives will start the conversation rolling.   


2. Switch to a more vegetable-based diet.

You can become a Flexitarian - a diet of mostly plant-based foods but allows meat and dairy products in moderation. 

A western standard meat-based diet produces 7.2 kgCO2e/day.

A vegetarian diet produces 3.8 kgCO2e/day.

A vegan diet produces 2.9 kgCO2e/day.

Meat production, particularly beef, is a major cause of tropical deforestation. Cutting your meat consumption saves the environment and reduces your carbon emissions. A more vegetable-based diet is also good for you and your family’s health. Meat, especially highly processed meat, has been linked to: high blood pressure, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bowel and stomach cancer. Use locally sourced and seasonally appropriate food to reduce carbon air miles and support your local economy. If you’re not already, aim to become vegetarian.  Try dairy-free alternatives.  


3. Switch to a renewable energy supplier.

A simple change that may not even cost you anything extra. If we all switched, then energy companies would have to generate more renewable energy to meet demand. Persuade your work, place of worship, local authority, school and sports club all to switch to renewable energy.  


4. Make your home energy efficient.  

Save energy by making your home as heat efficient as possible. Ensure your home is insulated (roof and walls) to the highest standard. Ensure your windows and doors are fitted properly to avoid draughts. Turn thermostat down a degree, wash at a lower temperature, reduce the use of home appliances, install a smart meter, replace halogen bulbs with more energy-efficient LED bulbs. All this energy efficiency will save you money. If your heating system at home needs replacing – make sure at the very least it is replaced with the most efficient gas boiler possible but better still invest in ground and air heat exchangers that can produce either heating or cooling (which you will need as the world heats up).  


5. Use cars less.

Increase your walking, cycling and use of public transport. This will improve your fitness and thus your health. If you need a car occasionally then hire an electric or hybrid one. If you really need a car then choose the smallest and most efficient one possible or if you can afford it buy an electric or hybrid car.


6. Reduce flying.

Choose an alternative form of travel such as the train – less stressful and more space and time to work or relax. If you must fly for work, then select only essential trips and ensure you offset the carbon emissions using reputable specialist firms. Alternatively use the ‘offset’ money to reduce your emissions at home or work. Many organizations have now decided to offset all unavoidable emissions at ten times (x10) the estimated emissions and to monitor closely their chosen offset schemes. This way they can be assured their emissions have been removed.  


7. Divest your pension and investments from fossil fuels.

Lobby your pension fund to divest from all fossil fuel investments. Or move your pension fund if they do not divest. Your pension money will be safer and may even earn more if you move it away from fossil fuels and in to the green economy. 

The fossil fuel industry will be greatly affected by future climate change legislation and will cease to be profitable. Fossil fuel companies will suffer from what is called ‘stranded assets’. The company’s nominal worth is based on how much fossil fuels they have in their oil and gas fields and their coal mines.  These assets will be worthless when fossil fuel mining and drilling are banned due to climate change.  Fossil fuels are a poor long-term investment. Green companies are already returning twice as much profit as fossil fuel companies.  


8. Refuse/reject excessive consumption.  

You do not need all that stuff.  Reject the idea that consumption is good for you and that more stuff makes you happier.  Think carefully about what you need and how you want to live a sustainable low carbon lifestyle. Competing to have the latest gadget, car or clothes just leads to social stress. Not worrying about what everyone else is buying will reduce your social stress and make you healthier and happier. As we found out during the pandemic it is friends, family, work and community makes you happy. 


9. Reduce and reuse what you can.

Make sure that you encourage everyone you know to reduce what they use. As a consumer you have huge power, exercise that power through your choices. Do you need so much packaging on your goods? Do you need fast fashion?  Buy clothes that are stylish but will last, so you reuse them again and again.  Do you need plastic bottles or throw away coffee cups? Have a water bottle and a reusable coffee cup. Do you need a big SUV car or a truck? Think public transport or bike. Plan what you eat to reduce food waste in your household. Engage with your local community reuse network - as someone local may want to reuse your stuff you no longer need or want. Fix things when they break. Replace your phone battery and/or screen instead of buying a whole new phone. 


10. Protest and vote.  

People power is real.  The School Climate Strikes and the Extinction Rebellion protests have brought together diverse groups of people across the world all wanting Governments to start taking the protecting of our planet seriously. Protests are having an impact and change is starting to happen. In democratic countries we are very lucky we can vote for new Governments.  Demand your politicians tell you where they stand on dealing with climate change.  Demand they tell you where they are getting their campaign money.  Demand change. Demand action. Use your vote wisely.