Photo: National Geographic
This year's No Straw November is happening during a momentous event for our environment… COP26! For those of you who don't know what COP26 is, it is a conference on climate change attended by world leaders and hosted by the United Nations in Glasgow, Scotland. The COP part comes from the historic meetings of the past called Conferences of Parties, aka COP. The Parties have met 26 times, including this conference, hence COP26.
The main goal is to improve upon what world leaders did not accomplish with the Paris Agreement to ensure the world's temperature does not go over 1.5 Celsius from Earth's current temperature. The primary focus appears to be limiting greenhouse gas emissions which directly alters the environment and its trapping of heat. In addition, COP meetings often outline specific financial plans that now more modernly work to include less underrepresented nations. While this is and fellow agreements are a complicated endeavor, it is clear that "developed countries" should be held accountable for their massive emissions compared to "developing countries." These terms themselves are problematic of labeling what defines a country as developed, yet this is the vocabulary used in past UN Conferences. To put it simply, "developing countries" have the least pollution emissions, yet they are being hit the worst with climate change side effects such as hurricanes. This obvious problem can cause human rights issues as it devalues nations that aren't considered "powerhouses" like the United States.
So how does this relate to this year's No Straw November theme of helping the Arctic? While the South Pole (Antarctica) naturally doesn't have a human population history, the North Pole (the Arctic) is rich in indigenous culture. The loss of the Arctic would not only be an ecological nightmare, but it would also be a devastating loss of diversity.
So what does the Arctic do, and why is it so important? To put it simply, the Arctic does a lot.
The Arctic is responsible for cold currents circulated throughout the Ocean to maintain our natural system of cold and warm water circulating to create nutrient-rich zones. The Arctic also has ice-albedo, which is vital to maintaining the ice structure and coverage. Ice albedo is the process of light and heat being reflected by the white of the ice surface rather than being absorbed. Having this light/heat energy distributed back into the atmosphere rather than the Ocean keeps the temperature from rising and ultimately more ice from melting.
How can we as individuals make a difference? The first step is holding politicians and companies accountable for their greenhouse gas emissions actions and demanding they follow the new outlines provided by COP26. Another step we can take in addition to that is being conscious of our environmental impacts and understanding where we can cut back. Skipping the straw is a great first step to understanding your relationship with the Earth. We always recommend walking and getting outside rather than driving your car if you can.
Simple things can really open your mind to the bigger picture of change that needs to oc