Some time last year I stumbled upon the below cartoon again, and thought “Oh dear, 2019 is next year!”. And now it is here!

None So Deaf by Kudelka, published in The Australian 28 September 2013

It also means that next year is 2020! 2020 has always seemed quite far off, a year when we would have fixed all the world’s problems. This is probably because when I first started working as a sustainability consultant, many of my projects involved developing plans with 5 year timescales – finishing in 2020.

But it isn’t just my arbitrary experience that has pinpointed 2020 as a critical year. Mission 2020 is a global campaign by Global Optimism and Christiana Figueres (architect of the Paris Agreement) to reach a turning point on greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Deadline 2020 is a report by C40 Cities which highlights the urgent action cities must take before 2020 in order to meet the ambition of the Paris Agreement.

A year for change?

People are more likely to achieve crazy, ambitious feats like running marathons in years that their age ends in a 9. As we approach a perceived deadline (e.g a 30th, 40th, 50th birthday), we rush to complete things (this article explains the phenomenon). Wouldn’t it be great if this motivation also applied to the deadline of 2020 for urgent action on issues like climate change? Of course, the Earth doesn’t really mind if greenhouse gas emissions peak on 23 June 2019 or 1 Jan 2020. But if our human brains are more likely to meet a nice-sounding deadline like 2020, let’s roll with it.

I believe that change is possible. 2018 was the year that the world woke up to the the plastic pollution problem. Collins Dictionary even named ‘single-use’ as word of the year. But more exciting than increased awareness are the actions taken in response to the problem:

  • Governments made ambitious targets (that they probably aren’t sure how to meet yet) – Exhibit A
  • Big businesses took actions that were unpopular (and back-flipped and back-flipped again and eventually did stuck with it) and it had an immediate positive impact – Exhibit B
  • Small businesses thrived by providing consumers with sustainable alternatives – Exhibit C
  • Individual consumers decided to do something slightly inconvenient for the benefit of the greater good – Exhibit D

If we can do all these things to work towards reducing plastic pollution, then surely as a society we can work together to solve other crises like climate change.

So how about we make 2019 the year that we save the world.

P.S. Not sure where to start with the whole saving the world thing? Start with just one thing. It could be one of these high-impact actions. Or you can make a pledge here. Or make some really awesome goals.

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