All we have to do is consume less

Grant Brown, Founder, Happy Eco News

As my taxi weaved through Istanbul traffic on my way to the airport I was struck by the scale of humanity. It has been a recurring thought as late; I have been lucky in my career in that I have had the opportunity to travel to places most people never get to see. But for me at least, with the travel comes an almost overwhelming sense of how huge and impactful our cites have become.

Grant at Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

I was in Istanbul because of the shipbuilding industry located there. My company provides a product that makes shipping cleaner (and for this I am proud) but looking out the car window at a city this big was almost scary. Not scary in a personal safety sense, but scary in the question of how on earth could we make a difference that would be meaningful? With around 15 million residents, Istanbul is one of the world’s biggest cities and is the world’s fourth largest. All of these people are living their lives, doing their jobs, feeding their families, consuming products, mostly unaware of the magnitude of their small day to day choices.

Shipyards in Tuzla Bay, Istanbul, Turkey as seen from space.

The ships their country builds, the vessels that provide their economy with jobs and for that matter, the ones that provide me with my job, also bring inexpensive goods from faraway places. These products are often so cheap that they can be discarded after one single use, something almost unheard of only 30 or 40 years ago. Maybe I was just jetlagged and tired on the back end of my business trip, but it all seemed overwhelming and pointless – we all need to consume less. We know this, but actually doing it is very different than paying lip service to it.

Hooded Crow, Istanbul

In the case of Istanbul there are few wild places left. All the rivers I saw were lined with concrete on their rush to the sea and any green spaces I saw were manicured parks filled with people. But if you look a little closer you can see the glimmer of hope. The city is surprisingly clean and free of plastic pollution. Wild birds make a living in among the people and buildings, and in Tuzla Bay, the epicenter of the world’s shipbuilding industry, the same species of fish still come to spawn in the same waters where they have for millennia.

Thinking of the birds and the fish, I am given hope. The resilience of nature to recover and regenerate in the face of human activity is remarkable.

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