Australian Fires and Climate Change – Its Personal. What Can I Do?


Part 2 . Its Personal.  What Can I Do?

Mogo is an Australian town that thought it would never burn. With natural springs and a lush surrounds, they thought they were safe. But on New Years Eve, they were proven wrong. Their town burned to the ground.

Most of us in Australia know many stories like this, and in our hearts, we also know that this is not just a bad fire season. Here's a sobering statistic:

In all, at least 1,600 homes have been destroyed in New South Wales and Victoria. By comparison, around 70 homes were hit in the two states during the last fire season.

New York Times, 06/01/20202

And that's without considering the devastation across the rest of our country.

It's time to take personal responsiblity. Whilst we are caring and supporting our grieving country - we also need to take personal action to address climate change and prevent the situation from worsening.

Its hard to know what to do, and as one person we can feel so insignificant. But remember The Compassionate Press' mantra about moving mountains? We can do it if enough people carry a single stone.

I've done some research into some of key strategies for personal action that have been recommended across the world, but in particular I've looked for the ones that have the greatest impact.

Key Strategies

There are quite a lot of articles out there about general things that you can do for a more sustainable planet, like reducing energy consumption, recycling etc. Many of these we know and they aren't hard to find. Here are a couple you might find useful.

6 Things You Can Do to Prevent Climate Change

Top 10 Things You Can Do About Climate Change

However I found these to be quite general. More importantly, I wanted to find out what the most impactful actions were - ie if I was going to make a radical change, which one would give me the "biggest bang for my buck"? I came across a great research article in IOP Science which reviewed current literature against government recommendations for reducing greenhouse emissions. One of the outcomes was that governments missed recommending some of the most impactful changes, (perhaps they were considered too politically risky) and the majority of texts seemed to focus on strategies that in reality on had a relatively low impact. The table below from the study ranks options supported by evidence and the quantifiable greenhouse gas emissions.

Note the green bars represent the average value and the black lines represent the value to a specific country where the research was available. (So the higher the green bar, the greatest impact on reducing climate change. Green indicates high impact, blue - moderate impact and yellow - low impact. Three things stood out for me.

  1. Living car free, or switching to an electric car is very high in impact for Australia in particular.
  2. Recycling, whilst important, only shows a relatively low impact.
  3. Eating a plant-based diet is far more impactful than I expected, and something that is potentially more achieveable without the significant financial impact of some of the other choices.

Given how impactful a plant based diet is, I did some further research on how and why.

The Evidence about Plant Based Diets

The evidence behind this is both stark and heavy and I've summarised it - but you can read the original article here:

Country-specific dietary shift to mitigate climate and water crises

Deutsche Welle ( wrote a much easier to read article based on this research - and here's a key summary from it:

Why meat and dairy are bad for the climate
Livestock are responsible for almost 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the FAO.
Cattle is the biggest culprit. Raised for both beef and milk, cows represent about 65% of the livestock sector's emissions, followed by pork (9%), buffalo milk (8%), and poultry and eggs (8%).
A byproduct of cow digestion is methane (CH4) and accounts for the majority of livestock emissions. The greenhouse gas is estimated to be at least 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
But livestock production is also responsible for other greenhouse gas emissions, such as nitrous oxide (N20) and carbon dioxide (CO2), mainly through the production of their feed, which often involves large applications of nitrogen-based fertilizers.

How Changes in our diet can help mitigate climate change .

However with over 800 million people still going hungry every day - some countries actually need to increase their greenhouse gas emissions to combat hunger.

Food waste also has a big impact - with 1/3 of all worldwide food ending up in the bin. From my limited understanding, this seems to be a combination of the wasted greenhouse gas emissions in unnecessary food production and the emissions from food rotting.

Vegan diets appear to have a greater impact on reducing emissions than vegetarian and what is termed as 2/3 vegan (reducing animal food consumption by two thirds, primarily including low food chain sources such as small fish and molluscs) still had a greater impact than a basic vegetarian diets due to the elimination of dairy.

The study Country-specific dietary shift to mitigate climate and water crises indicates that different changes are required in different countries with developed countries taking on a greater burden to support developing countries. Australia is one of three countries (along with Brazil and the US) that have the greatest potential to reduce "per capita" and "whole of country" Greenhouse Gas and consumptive water footprints by shifting to a 2/3 vegan diet.

I would encourage you to start reading with some of these articles, and then use them as a spring board to find other related articles to increase your knowledge. I have no expertise to offer in this are - just a collation of what I have discovered.

The Compassionate Perspective

After reading countless articles (I feel like Alice jumping down the rabbit hole) there are 3 points I'd like to make from a compassionate perspective

  1. From a compassionate perspective it would seem that where we have the capacity to make changes, developed countries such as Australia should be putting up their hands to do more than others who are still struggling with issues such as starvation.
  2. I encourage you to seriously consider how brave you can be in making significant lifestyle changes. Given the frightening impact of climate change that is right before our eyes, what are you prepared to change to create a sustainable planet for your children, their children, and the children of the rest of the world?
  3. Balance this with being compassionate towards yourself and others. Consider your capacity for change, and recognise that it is different for everyone. Some people are struggling just to survive. Others have more choices. Can you carry more stones than others?

This post covers just one type of change - personal lifestyle changes. Its important to consider our responsibility and commitment to personal solutions before moving forward. Part 3 will focus on the way to influence change on a broader level.


  1. Lisa Cockington on January 7, 2020 at 4:48 pm

    Editors Notes:
    1. If you are wondering what changes I have made from reading all the evidence, yes, I have gone Vegan, purely for environmental reasons.
    2. In writing this article its hard to know how much evidence and information to include. I want it to be enough to demonstrate the argument, without overwhelming people with too much detail. Let me know if you think an article like this needs more, or less information!

  2. Kath Bickerton on January 8, 2020 at 6:27 pm

    Thanks Lisa that was a good read. Like the practical ideas. We do some of those things, but time to do more. My boys have been encoraging me to go vego…so maybe I will take that more seriously. Thanks for doing all the research.

  3. Fiona Cockington on January 19, 2020 at 9:49 am

    Good article Lisa. Good information.
    In your promo Lisa can you give people more time on the “four ways you can help” it is too quick for people to read the 4 suggestions.

    • Lisa Cockington on January 24, 2020 at 5:34 am

      Hi Fiona, thanks for your feedback, its encouraging to know that you’ve looked at this video so carefully. Videos on social media need to be relatively short or people lose interest, so this one aims to just give a snapshot of the information that’s available on the website. I’m hoping that interested people like you, will come across and read the details!

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