While it may be obvious to most that humans are responsible for widespread
environmental degradation, some still deny this. I think the first and most
important step in stopping environmental degradation and climate change is
admitting our wrong doings. If the major polluters and habitat destroyers
continue to do what they do in the name of progress and growth then our
environmental issues will only compound until people are forced to realize that
when we hurt the environment, we are also inflicting harm on ourselves. I do
not think it is as important, necessarily that people feel guilty about their
wrongdoings so much as they change their behaviours. I would have to agree the best way to do this is transitioning to a society that is smaller scaled in structure, and that
promotes diversity and sustainability. I think it would be feasible for our
federal government to allow for smaller municipalities (counties, cities, etc)
to make their own decisions on land and resource use/management in order to
foster sustainability. Who better to make the decisions about land and resource
use than the local people living around them that have knowledge of the areas?
I think life outside of big businesses and big government that we have become
accustomed too is more than feasible, but until they are broken down, reform
must be utilized to work within the confines of the system and evoke positive
change. If environmental legislation doesn’t begin curbing climate change soon,
it may be too late.
It is obvious that our current model of grow or die will not work. Infinite growth is not possible with finite resources. I think it is definitely possible to maintain high standards of living while at the same time decreasing consumption to sustainable levels. Think about how many of the resources consumed are actually used. A large portion goes to waste. Food is often thrown out before it can be eaten. Consumer goods are thrown into a landfill, or used a few times before being retired to a shelf or closet. I think the most important step towards sustainable living is eliminating waste. Other useful tools will be collaborative consumption, which will allow for sharing of consumer goods and thereby limiting the overall number of consumer goods needed to be produced. However, I do not think that this alone is the answer. I think it is necessary to completely separate wellbeing and consumer goods. Ensuring that every citizen has access to healthcare, food, water, shelter, and civil liberties should be the first priority of any society, and the economy and consumer goods should follow somewhere behind. Developing nations with this idea in mind will notice more stable populations, as has been shown historically (increase social equality, decrease population). Bringing social equality will be conducive to establishing environmental equality. True sustainable consumption will not be possible, however, until people throw away the current system of wasteful consumption for profit and exchange it for one of sustainability and responsibility. Changing from a system that is currently being used globally will not happen overnight, but starting with small, local changes will lead to large global ones.
I do believe that humans are connected to the earth. Our senses allow us to continually gather information and detect patterns or changes in our environment. They connect us to the earth and allow us to communicate with our surroundings. I do not think that religion is a large factor in connecting humans to the earth. For some, the practices and beliefs of their religion may promote interaction with the natural environment and realization of our connection to it. However, generally speaking, religion is a man made construct created for a purpose ( i.e. explaining the unknown), and ultimately it is the senses that connect humans with the earth.
Despite having (or being capable of having) deep connections with the earth, humans have largely exchanged the natural environment for an artificial, man made environment. By doing so, humans are able to ensure that they live in favorable (if not ideal) environmental conditions and thereby maximize comfort. Unfortunately, it has become very difficult for humans to go without these creature comforts and technologies. We no longer see ourselves as part of nature, but have separated ourselves from it. There are benefits to this, such as reduced risk from predators, pathogens, and other things that increase chances of survival. However, I think it is imperative that humans don’t lose sight of our connection and dependence on our natural environment. I believe this is possible through raising awareness and spreading education. We cannot become so focused with our lives indoors that we completely ignore the world going on outside, because if we do, we will not notice it is gone before it is too late to be brought back.
The belief of many that environmentalism is anti-capitalism and anti-human is not accurate. In fact, in many instances environmentalist are concerned about the impact of environmental issues on humans and their wellbeing. A more environmentally conscience government would not lead to an economic downturn. I believe it would have the opposite effect, especially in the long term. There is a rapidly expanding market for sustainable development and clean energy. Implementing and designing new green technologies would create many new jobs and stimulate the economy.
Some have suggested raising fossil fuel prices to cause Americans to become more reliant on renewable energy. I believe this would be a good idea. Primarily, it would mean removing costly government subsidies from fossil fuels like gas and coal. These subsidies could then be applied to renewable energies like solar panels. One of the main arguments against solar energy is the cost of the panels. Subsidizing solar energy would make the panels more affordable. Consumers would also become more aware of the real cost of gas; when the extra five or six dollars a gallon of gas is no longer being externalized onto Uncle Sam, consumers will be much more likely to search for more affordable means of transportation (this could be as simple as carpooling!).
I don’t believe the world can run on “wind power and wishes”, but I think wind, combined with solar, geothermal, tidal, and other forms of renewable energy will be able to keep the gears turning. Sweden is able to harness energy from trash (maybe there is something to those wishes…), I think this shows clearly solutions exist; they just need to be found and implemented.