Carbon emissions in our region have doubled in the last few decades. In spite of our small contribution (a fraction even) to global emissions, the United Arab Emirates is at the lead of emissions per capita, generating more than five times the amount of carbon per capita than the global average. If we are to improve this, we have to rise to the challenge of using less energy and increasing efficiency.
But before I reveal the six secrets that can help people to reduce their carbon habit, is it not strange that we have to think about “How to consume wisely?” From our regular attitude towards business as usual to environmental change, we go so overboard that as we adapt numerous planning, management and prevention plans to reduce the size of damages, losses and disasters arising from climate change, many of us have forgotten the difference between use and consumption.
To me, use is defined by meeting our daily dietary and other requirements in moderation, in accordance with necessity, while consumption involves the type of wasteful behavior and increasing pressure on our natural resources that is causing climate change and massive depletion. Without our participation in the practice of habits that can reduce the concentration of carbon dioxide from 390 ppm levels to 350ppm, or a reduction of consumption behavior, the earth will not be affected, but whole peoples and nations will become extinct!
- I believe that “Spiritual Change” is the first secret to decreased consumption. The Quran warns against the phenomenon of extravagance. Consuming more food and drink than we need, as well as indulging in excess luxury, is a direct cause of climate change. God says in Surat Al-Anam: “….and eat and drink but do not be wasteful: God does not like wasteful people.” The Quran provides a compass for Muslims to follow the Sunnah (tradition) of the Prophet – one of the most detailed maps humans can follow to achieve happiness, success and peace on this earth.
- The second secret is to win the “Nobel Prize” by simply removing one carbon atom from two oxygen atoms; an atomic change will be very important to humanity and the universe.
- Small reductions have great impact in our lives; let’s call this third secret the “Power of less.” The average annual carbon footprint (per capita) in the UAE is roughly 55.5 tons. My own carbon footprint adds up to 1/3 of that of my peers at 37 tons per year. I have achieved this in part by making a series of small changes to my lifestyle. For example, by reducing my consumption of rice, bread, and sweets, I have not only cut down on my carbon footprint and have 10% less bodyweight, but I also have access to better health, vigor and vitality. Moreover, as part of my holistic lifestyle, I choose energy efficient appliances and have replaced regular incandescent light bulbs in my home with the compact fluorescent variety, I use less energy by turning the air- conditiong thermostat up two degrees, and I don’t leave my home appliances on standby. Additionally, instead of using the bath, I shower and try to keep them at less than 4 minutes (my challenge is 2 minutes). Finally, I avoid hot water as much as possible (it requires energy to heat water) and recycle at home. Higher productivity and less consumption are preferable, says the Prophet Muhammad: “What fills any vessel more than his stomach is to overcome the human himself: one third of the food, a third for drink and one third for the same.”
- Another important fourth secret to change starts with culture. Let’s call this “Cultural Change.” Culture, or the origin of values, beliefs, thoughts, experience and information that results in a community’s certain behavior, habits and traditions prominently influences the human environment, including the effect of media, policies and laws, education and awareness, and contact with other cultures. If we want to generate widespread environmental change, we need to adjust our culture, and we need the presence of a living example or role model.
- The fifth secret of is to understand the “Power of Change.” How much change do we need? Do we need to change our entire lives or only the things that are not appropriate? I believe that change allows us to improve ourselves, helps us to streamline procedures and find new solutions. A radical change may be needed as shock therapy out of prolonged negligence, laziness and indifference. In the Quran, God says”…God does not change the condition of people unless they change what is in themselves.” I always remember this and tell my children, my friends and myself that “reduced desire produces more happiness! You can’t find happiness by only increasing wealth. It is also necessary to reduce one’s wishes.”
- The final secret is the sixth, and it lies in finding “Sustainable Solutions.” In reality, there is no magical solution that will stop pending climate disasters, and there is no technical solution that will repair everything at once, but we can encourage the practices of higher energy efficiency and effectiveness. We can also speed up greening the economy by producing and investing in alternative energy, and by cleaning up petroleum, petrochemical, and natural gas plants with the Cleanear Production approach so that they produce fewer emissions. And finally, we can find ways to take advantage of carbon emissions by either storing them carefully or harvesting them for other methods.
This is not the end but the beginning of a journey catalyzed by the knowledge of these six secrets that will help you first change your personal effectiveness and then that of the world.
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