When asked, “Why Is It Important to Keep the Environment Clean?" the answer may seem obvious, but that is the only the beginning. The healthy future of our planet depends on the choices we make today, and requires the participation of every person, every community, and every country.
The State of Our Environment
To some, buying organic produce, driving a hybrid car, and using chemical-free cleaning products is second nature, but to others, the question remains, why is it important to keep the environment clean? What is it going to do for me? Composting, recycling and giving up your SUV may seem small, unimportant or even annoying, but the truth is our planet is in serious trouble. Scientists have estimated that in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change we must have greenhouse gas emissions under control by 2015. These problems are no longer just issues for future generations, we are that generation. In fact, it has been predicted that the year 2010 will be a record year for ice loss in the Arctic, Antarctic and Greenland Ice Sheets; a record year for damage from hurricanes in the Atlantic and typhoons in the Pacific; and a record year for high temperatures around the world.
The Good News and The Bad News
Thinking back 40 years to the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, our planet is actually doing remarkably well. A series of devastating environmental disasters prompted Gaylord Nelson and thousands of Americans across the nation to rally against pollution and population growth. It also brought to light the seriousness of our environmental situation, highlighted by statements such as Harvard biologist George Wald’s estimation that "civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind." In the Earth Day issue of “Environment", Washington University biologist Barry Commoner wrote, “We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation". What they failed to predict was that mankind can learn from its past mistakes and we are doing so. Our cars continue to produce fewer emissions, the number of lakes, rivers, and streams meeting water quality standards is up, and deforestation is down. These improvements have been made through increased legislation, advancements in technology, and the participation of citizens all over the world. However, our environment is still in trouble, we still have time, and the future of our planet lies in the hands of the people.
What’s In It For Me?
If the thought of going green sounds expensive, time consuming, and inconsequential, keep in mind that small changes can lead to big results. Many of today’s green technologies lead to a reduction in energy consumption. Energy is expensive and by using less of it, you can save a substantial amount of money. Recycling is another area where you can save money, as well as the environment. Curbside pick up of recyclables is becoming very common. Purchase a reusable water bottle. These small changes are cheap, easy for you to make, and will save a considerable amount of room in our ever growing landfills. Landfills pollute the land, the water, the air, and what happens when we run out of room for them? Scientists don’t have an answer yet. All of the man-made products, chemicals and toxins we put in the land, water, and air can also make you sick. Breathing smoggy air, eating food covered in pesticides, and drinking contaminated water will make you sick. Making the simple change to more natural foods and household products will help save the environment and your life. Nature does not cause cancer.
If enough people continue to feel it is important to keep the environment clean we can all make a difference together. Just imagine what would have happened if past generations did not realize the impact of the damage they were doing to the environment and change their ways. Where would we all be today? What would our future look like?
Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development - http://www.environmentmagazine.org/
Worldwatch Institute: 10 Ways to Go Green and Save Green - http://www.worldwatch.org/resources/go_green_save_green
Photo Credit: WikiMedia Commons - User:Yoshi