(Op-Ed) Dictating our Future Planet: What Steps We Can Take to Reverse the EnvironmentalCrisis
Updated: Jan 9
Author: Sangeet Anand
Editors: Stéphane Bincheng Mao, Editor-in-Chief; Sally French, Associate Editor
How long until it’s too late to save Earth from climate disaster? This clock is counting down. The Washington Post
Humans have long used the environment and their surroundings to their benefit. Previously, the river was our spring of water, the sun was our means of light, and the trees were our source of shade. Not much has changed today. The river that the humans once filled their clay pots with has become the kitchen sink that we can turn on and off at our pleasure. After the discovery of electricity, our light bulbs now give us the ability to see even in the dark. And the shade that was once given to us by the tall trees, we get from the insulation of our homes. But the environment has also penetrated into personal life as well. Modern day tattooing, as we know it, has evolved from a lineage of bodily expression of ideas, practices, and elements that cultures around the world have used to represent themselves symbolically. Body art has been used as a method of self-expression for centuries, especially in ancient cultures, with often an emphasis on the importance of the environment. In addition, food practices, such as vegetarianism and veganism, were prevalent long before the modern day fad out of respect for animals and the environment. Nearly all of our modern day ancestors were vegetarian. Many South Asian cultures, for example, have practiced vegetarianism out of moral and ethical concern for animals, leading their lives by the belief that nothing should be done to harm others or the planet we live on. Similarly in Ancient Greece, scholars like Pythagorus were practicing vegetarianism out of ethical reasons for the planet and the beings that surround humans.
But humans today tell a very different story than those who roamed the earth thousands of years ago: rising temperatures, increasing global carbon emissions, melting icebergs - these are some of the terms we live with in news headlines today. More importantly, many of us are failing to realize that these issues are the exact reality the planet is facing. It won’t take much research to show you that our global leaders have brushed off climate change as an important issue to tackle as of now. Often times, the economy, our food systems (especially in the United States), and fuel we use for transport are put ahead of the number of greenhouse gases we produce, or the amount of carbon dioxide emissions released into the air, or the burning of forests through slash-and-burn agricultural practices to create space for raising livestock in a planet that already has limited space to keep up with its 7.6 billion human inhabitants. On the other hand, we face the issues of wasting Earth’s abundant but not unlimited resource supply. Resource depletion spans the burning of fossil fuels and soil erosion to deforestation and mining of minerals. By overpopulating, polluting, and wasting our limited resources, we are contributing to the problem every single day.
That’s not all to say that everything humans have done has hurt the environment. In fact, many are starting to realize the rapid detriment of the environment and are also quick to change their actions to reverse this damage. Young climate activists such as Greta Thunberg are redefining the term environmentalism and what it means to be an activist in our local and global communities. By taking a stance in her daily life by implementing practices that reduce her personal carbon emission output, Greta is an inspiration for Gen Zers to take action towards the future of our planet. With the rise of electric vehicles and companies specializing in this type of technology, such as Tesla, individuals have started moving in the direction of energy efficient automobiles that produce zero carbon emissions. With the growth of trends such as “farm-to-table,” humans are consuming local farmed produce, which further reduces our carbon emissions. By protecting endangered species listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, humans are saving animals that call this Earth home too. Minor steps are being taken to cover the damage we have done, but, still, this is not enough. Despite the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic, which halted many daily operations including those in heavy-manufacturing cities, scientists argue that not much has changed with regards to the environment. Our temperatures are still rising, humans are still driving animal species to extinction, and the world is still facing large challenges. And not much will change if we don’t take a stance to better our environment right now.
Recently, a digital clock was put up in Manhattan’s Union square that depicts how much time the world has left before the climate crises will forever change human existence on this planet. As of September 20th, the time recorded on the clock was 7 years, 103 days, 15 hours, 12 minutes, and 6 seconds. So quite literally, our time is ticking. Humans simply can’t afford to waste any more time before we find a sustainable and viable solution to the environmental issues that we face.
Now is the time to create a change for the future. It’s time for us to give back to the planet that has given so much to us and for so long. Now is the time for us to unite. We must take stances in our communities to educate others and embody what change looks like. We must practice activism in our every action, because the climate situation will only change when we decide that we want it to. So, what steps will you take to counter the environmental crisis today?
Sangeet Anand is a senior at Winston Churchill High School.
Opinions expressed on the Coalition Times are not necessarily those of ECC, and our publication of opinions alone is not necessarily an endorsement of them.