Coming to a Crossroads

This post is part of the series Eleanor on the Environment.

The earth’s environment has been around for 3.5 billion years, and it has continually flourished with extreme amounts of biodiversity. The cycle of our planet is charged by the sun. It’s solar energy has been at the core of the process of photosynthesis. From microorganisms to the famous newly discovered squid with elbows, the intricacies in each living organism continues to amaze me. However, humanity is at a crossroads. The path of ignorance people continue to choose leads to environmental degradation. Hopefully through acceptance and commitment, humanity will be able to adopt a sustainable society. 

Photograph of a squid with elbows AKA Magnapinna sp.

The road to environmental degradation must be brought to an end. The relationship between humans and our environment is the main focus behind the environmental movement. The processes that let the earth continue to thrive include renewable resources, chemical cycling, and biodiversity. Humans and our way of life as it is has greatly affected these age old processes. As the World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity (1992) points out, the habits of humans have torn apart the atmosphere, maxed out on our resources (crops, lumbar, fish, water, ect.), and will soon come to lose a third of the world’s biodiversity. This is not a sustainable way to run our societies. 

The environmental movement also puts a large emphasis on the inequalities in distribution of our world’s resources. The harsh effects of climate change disproportionately affects impoverished communities and underdeveloped countries. Without wealth and power, the world’s globalization works against countries that are newly becoming urbanized. Many impoverished countries are stripped of their natural resources and forced into labor that only benefits unethical and unsustainable, wealthy companies. These laborers have had their rights taken and are forced into poverty. The goods and products that laborers are forced to make end up being shipped to developed countries. Many of these goods and products are then turned into waste contributing to pollution. 

Air Quality in Delhi, India in 2020

I have found that when reading, and talking about the changing climate, it’s especially hard to look towards yourself and accept your role in environmental degradation. I took the carbon footprint test and found that my gha is 5.6. This was shocking to me because I hadn’t realized how much travel and usage of space could affect your gha. It is easy to slide into a state of thinking how can we ever solve this. The world’s ecosystem is incomprehensibly large and to fix a problem that has been spiralling for decades seems impossible. However, it is important to accept your part in the changing climate and work to undo it. For example my dad took multiple carbon footprint tests at the beginning of 2020. His New Year’s resolution was to strive to bring our family to achieve net zero emissions. Since then he has become pescatarien, sold our gas cars for electric ones, purchased mason bees for our backyard, and so much more. He doesn’t have a doctorate or any history in STEM, but his passion for this cause is great enough for him to make sacrifices. He has written a couple of blog posts about his journey and what he has found (as a curious unprofessional). I have done a small part in completing his dream for our family to live a net zero lifestyle because he inspired me to take action in this cause. 

The fate of our natural world can seem grim but there are many advances that can help save the dying. It can start small such as eating muscles instead of steak. If many people start doing little things the spiral could slow to a stop. It will take a massive upheaval of the economic, physical, and mental structures that have been built into our society, but if enough people find the passion that my dad was lucky to find we could achieve great things. 

Reference list:

“1992 World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity.” Union of Concerned Scientists, July 16, 1992.

“How Many Planets Does It Take to Sustain Your Lifestyle?” Ecological Footprint Calculator. Accessed March 30, 2021. 

Miller, G. Tyler, and Scott Spoolman. Living in the Environment: Principles, Connections, and Solutions. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning, 2015. 

“Page: Tree of Life Magnapinnidae Vecchione and Young, 1998. Magnapinna Vecchione and Young, 1998. Bigfin Squid.” Magnapinna. Accessed March 30, 2021. 

Read more from Eleanor on the Environment below