The world’s population will continue to grow and consumption rates will continue to rise to keep up with our increasing need to feed, clothe, shelter, and transport a growing population. Consumption of resources will have to increase to maintain standard of living with a fast growing population. However, there are ways to reduce consumption without having to change our standards of living through collaborative consumption like rideshare programs and self-driving cars and green technologies. These new technologies have the potential to not only decrease our consumption in cars, but increase our quality of life.
The United States has the most vehicles per 1000 drivers out of any country in the world at 797. For every five people there are almost four cars to service them, spending the majority of the time idling in a garage or parking lot. The big Florida cities — Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa, and Orlando — pretty much require you to own a car to get around. With lack of public transportation and large distances required to travel within these cities, collaborative consumption through car sharing programs and self-driving cars and green technologies looks promising in both reducing the number of cars driven on the streets and parked in parking lots, as well as reducing fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
In many big cities across America companies like Lyft, Sidecar, and Uber have created rideshare apps that allow people to work as drivers from their own vehicles. From a smartphone app the passenger can summon a driver and pay the driver via credit card through the app for rides. Zipcar has cars located in lots across the country that allow people to use rental cars by the hour. The possible introduction of self-driving cars in the late 2010s and early 2020s is potentially revolutionary to how car transport works. One car can service multiple family members by driving back and forth between whoever needs the car. Self-driving cars can also work as robotic taxi services for people who don’t own cars.
Electric cars and plug-in hybrids are catching on with models like the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf, and Tesla Model S gaining popularity. Not only do these cars greatly reduce the amount of gasoline required, but they also get cleaner over time as the power grid gets cleaner by relying less on fossil fuels and more on sustainable energy. By reducing the number of cars idling in parking lots and garages and requiring far fewer resources to run them, these technologies are promising to a future of less consumption without loss of quality of life.
The disconnect that exists between humans and the environment cannot be simply placed on our increased reliance on technology, and we have to keep in mind that being “economically efficient” and “environmentally friendly” at the same time is not applicable with 7 billion people on the earth. Humans have cheated nature ever since agriculture was developed more than 10,000 years ago. It’s just until the last couple of centuries, there hasn’t been nearly as many human beings to cause widespread changes that we’re seeing.
Organic farming in the big picture is just slightly less harmful than commercial farming. The main benefits include better soil conservation and less fertilizer and pesticide runoff into the water supply. Any concerns about cancer for inorganic growers can be circumvented by washing and peeling your food. Studies have also shown that organic foods aren’t necessarily any better tasting or more nutritious than their inorganic counterparts. Just go to your local grocery store and get both the regular bananas and the organic bananas. Take the labels off, and the only difference between the two is the price tag.
While I agree with the prompt that we need to find better ways to dispose or reuse nuclear waste, nuclear power is much safer and much cleaner than fossil fuels in general. While nuclear radiation and waste gets all the bad rep from the media and environmental group, we forget that our reliance on fossil-fuel energy sources causes far more pollution, health damage, and accidents than nuclear power.
An article published on June 12, 2013, in The Guardian shows that European coal pollution causes 22,300 premature deaths a year. As of 9/4/2013, there has been a total of 341 coal mining fatalities in the United States alone, which pales in comparison to the 1,384 coal mining fatalities in China which is down significantly from around 7,000 a decade ago.
To bring this into context, there have so far been 0 fatalities tied to the Fukushima and Three Mile Island disasters. The worst case is from Chernobyl, where 56 direct deaths and 4,000 cancer deaths were linked. The second worst nuclear-related fatality case was in 2004 when 4 people were killed and 9 were injured in Japan where a steam explosion occurred.
While the public opinion is against nuclear power, more and more coal power plants open up and pollute the environment more than nuclear power could ever hope to. Nuclear power has already been shown to be cleaner, safer, and more efficient than fossil fuels. Instead of trying to stop nuclear power, we should make it even, cleaner, safer and more efficient than it already is especially as it is currently more viable than clean energy sources like wind and solar.
The best way we can adopt sustainable agriculture is to educate ourselves on where our food comes from and also to vote with our dollar. Because large agricultural companies have huge influence over our government, for the time being we cannot rely on our government to make any changes. What we have seen in recent years is organic and local foods becoming more and more popular and major retailers like Walmart cater to our demands.
What we must start with is education, to know where our food comes from. There are a number of good documentaries on Netflix that deal with how food is produced and what effects it has on your health and the environment. Corn is by far the most popular crop grown in the US and is the biggest user of modern farming techniques. The majority of corn is fed to livestock and a significant portion of the rest is processed beyond recognition. By doing things as simple as cutting out junk food and eating less meat in our diets, we are lowering demand for food based on mechanized agriculture.
Just as we’ve seen with organic foods becoming more popular, buying local at farmers markets is becoming more popular as well. Doing so puts our dollars towards the sustainable farming and away from unsustainable farming. If there is enough of a demand for it, the big agriculture companies will have to adopt sustainable farming techniques to win our dollars.