This post is part of my Why Series here on the blog. I often write about fair trade, eco-friendly, socially conscious living, but I am not always able to fully address in each of my blog posts WHY I choose to live this way. This series goes into greater detail about my why!
Here on Fairly Southern, I often write about purchasing eco-friendly products or engaging in practices that are good for the earth (recycling, energy conservation, reducing waste, etc.). I believe it is crucially important for us to care for the environment. Here’s why:
There is Only One Earth
Until Elon Musk establishes a community on Mars, Earth is the only home available to us as humans. We cannot survive without it. It is vitally important for us to take care of Earth so that we can continue to live here, and so that future generations can survive here. The survival of the human species depends on Earth being inhabitable. And unfortunately, our planet is in trouble.
Earth Has Limited Resources
Obviously, many of Earth’s resources are limited. There is only so much water, so many trees, so much soil. And unfortunately, we are using these resources faster than our planet can renew them. Half of the world’s major water aquifers are receding, and more than half of the world’s rainforests have been cut down in the last century. Based on our consumption rates last year, it is estimated that we need 1.7 planets to produce enough natural resources to match our consumption. This is a problem, because Earth can’t be 1.7 planets–it can only be 1. We need to act quickly to reduce our consumption of natural resources, or we will soon find ourselves completely out.
Earth is Rapidly Becoming Polluted
We’ve all heard about pollution, right? Toxic waste from industrial factories streaming into rivers and ocean, trash littering the soil on the sides of the road, noxious gases creating smog in our cities. We are all aware that pollution is out there…but do we realize what this actually means for our environment? Let’s take a look at some common sources of pollution and the effects they have:
Pesticides and Fertilizers
These chemicals wash into nearby streams and other bodies of water. Direct ingestion can kill animals, fish, and insects. The pesticides and fertilizers can also lead to algae growth, which lowers oxygen levels in the water, leading to more animal deaths and a decrease in our food supply.
Industrial production often emits noxious gases, such as sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide, into the air. For humans, exposure can lead to respiratory problems, allergic reactions, heart disease, and even cancer. These chemicals also contribute to smog and acid rain and can permanently alter food, water, and ecosystems.
Humans produce A LOT of plastic–300 million tons each year. Unfortunately, less than a fifth of this gets recycled. The rest ends up dumped somewhere on our earth or in our oceans. It is polluting our water and leaching its way into our ecosystems and food chains, finding its way even into honey, beer, and table salt. This is dangerous because plastic acts as a transport vector for toxic chemicals and diseases. Plastic is also choking and suffocating our oceans, threatening to completely disrupt marine ecosystems. If we continue our current rate of plastic consumption and disposal, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.
Chemicals are all around us and do a lot to make our life better–they are in our medicines, our kitchen gadgets, our beauty products, our appliances. However, research is increasingly finding that certain chemicals can disrupt our endocrine systems, damage our DNA, and cause cancer. Not good.
Believe it or not, noise pollution is a thing. Ocean animals can be so disrupted by the sound of oil and gas explorations that they have difficulty feeding and breathing–a huge problem seeing as how sea critters are a major part of our food chain.
Yes, light pollution is also a thing! Artificial light can disrupt the circadian rhythms of humans and animals, causing sleep problems and possibly even cancer. Light can also confuse sea turtle hatchlings and cause them to perish on land rather than entering the ocean. This is a problem since sea turtles play an important role in various ecosystems by maintaining healthy seagrass beds and coral reefs and by helping to circulate nutrients from water to land.
To summarize, there are lots of different environmental pollutants, but they all result in more or less the same thing: negative health effects for humans and other animals.
Climate Change is Real
The earth’s climate is constantly changing and has been for billions of years. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing–you’ve probably heard the term “ice age” before and are glad we aren’t currently experiencing one! Climate change is a natural process, but what isn’t natural is the accelerated rate of climate change that humans have caused. Industrial processes that began in the mid-20th century have led to the release of lots and lots of greenhouse gases, such as nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapor. These gases trap heat from escaping earth’s atmosphere. Because of this, overall global temperature and levels of carbon dioxide are increasing, while arctic ice is quickly melting. Higher temperatures and rising sea levels will impact precipitation patterns, increase droughts, and create more intense hurricanes.
The Time to Act is Now
I know that it can seem gloomy and depressing to talk about the dire circumstances surrounding our planet, but we are doing ourselves a huge disservice by continuing to ignore the impact we have on our environment. If we want to continue to live relatively comfortably here on Earth, we need to make serious changes in our collective habits and lifestyles to make them more sustainable. If we want our children and grandchildren to be able to survive, we have to start treating our environment with greater care. This is why I am constantly striving to find ways to be a little kinder to our planet.
If you are ready to make some changes but aren’t quite sure what to do, the easiest way to learn is by Googling “eco-friendly tips” or by visiting websites such as Green America or EPA.gov. And of course, continue to tune in to posts here on Fairly Southern for my own tips for being fair to our planet. You can subscribe here so you never miss a post!