Many consider eco-friendly practices as the way to solve mankind’s environmental issues. But is this realistic?
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Severe drought, global food shortages, strip-mining, the destruction of rainforests—these are a few of the issues raised by the green movement.
The average man or women lives a life of excess, the movement asserts. Water is being used up and polluted, and fast—the global population is 6.65 billion and expected to surpass 9 billion by 2050—experts insist consumers buy organic foods so future generations will be able to continue farming—30% of wildlife species have been driven to extinction over the past 30 years.
Some issues rely on science, others on ethics and morals. However, while many of the above points may be valid, will “going green” solve the world’s problems?
Certainly, “going green” has garnered a lot of press. Virtually everywhere you turn you see “green.” Major TV networks “go green” for a week, featuring shows with an environmentalist message or promoting sustainable practices. While shopping at a mall, you hear an announcement crackle over the loud speaker concerning an “eco-friendly” promotional giveaway. “Thank you for going green with us,” the message ends.
There are websites where you can take a test to see how many “earths” your lifestyle consumes. These ask about your car, job, eating habits, etc., and reveal whether you are living a sustainable lifestyle. Even if you are living under the global average, you still are reminded, We only have one earth.
It seems that everywhere you turn, the green movement asks, “Are you doing your part?”
Even though it began as a grassroots idea, going green is quickly gaining a voice. Many are looking to this movement as the way to solve man’s environmental issues. But has mankind already pushed the earth past its limits—or is there still time to change if humanity comes together and acts quickly?
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) produced Living Planet Report 2006, detailing the state of earth. The report reveals that humanity’s ecological footprint (the impact man has on the planet) has more than tripled since 1961. That footprint now exceeds the world’s ability to regenerate by about 25%. The report also shows that man’s increased ecological footprint leads to the rapid extinction of species, with populations of vertebrate species having declined nearly a third since 1970.
The WWF conclusion provides a fitting description of the green movement: “The message of these two indices is clear and urgent: we have been exceeding the Earth’s ability to support our lifestyles for the past 20 years, and we need to stop. We must balance our consumption with the natural world’s capacity to regenerate and absorb our wastes. If we do not, we risk irreversible damage.”
Those who strive to live sustainably tend to look to nature for inspiration. They see the equilibrium present and strive to disrupt it as little as possible.
To minimize man’s impact on the environment, systems are often devised to turn waste into a usable resource, such as harvesting methane gas from garbage dumps. Placing a membrane (which is generally made of clay) over the waste, pipes are used to pump out the methane gas, which can be used to create electricity or heat homes from gas that would otherwise be burned off by landfill owners, further polluting the atmosphere. Even after a landfill is closed, it can still produce methane for 15 to 20 years. This process, if widely implemented, would be seen as a step toward reducing waste and relying less on fossil fuels, until more permanent solutions can be created.
This desire to live in harmony with nature is where the movement gets its name.
To live sustainably means to reuse waste. For instance, instead of tearing down an abandoned building and sending it off to the garbage dump, it can be renovated or the waste can be recycled.
Most of the green movement’s progress has been made at an individual level. People are switching from cars to buses, trains or bicycles as their major means of transportation. Some fit the roofs of their homes with solar panels, or buy organic foods, or do something as simple as flushing the toilet less often. They help increase awareness by volunteering for vocal green organizations or supporting environmentally friendly politicians.
The green movement claims that no one owns the earth—no one has the right to destroy and take from it as they please. Instead, man must live within the means of nature (the movement advocates), always taking into account the effect his actions will have upon the environment.
While “going green” makes sense on paper, and seems plausible on the individual level, there is a problem. The global economy is based upon growth. Growth means consumption. Lack of growth is seen as moving into a recession.
Also, many in the West have come to expect a high standard of living, which automatically accrues substantial waste.
In order to put “green ideas” into motion, humanity as a whole would need to change, much more than the efforts of a few scattered individuals. Nations would have to work together. Laws would have to be implemented, determining, for example, how buildings are designed and built in relation to the environment. Building codes would have to be enforced and followed. Farming practices would have to be completely changed. Large corporations would need to rethink their “bottom line.”
Other articles in this series:
Easter Island’s Collapse – A Cautionary Tale for Mankind
The collapse of this small Polynesian island stands as a stark reminder to those exploiting the earth’s natural resources.
The Coming War for Earth’s Resources – How It Will Change the World!
Consider activities most take for granted, particularly those who live in industrialized nations: drinking a glass of water; driving a car or traveling by mass transportation; living in a decent house or apartment; using modern household appliances; using tools to build, fix and repair; even breathing fresh air. These activities improve our quality of life. Indeed, some are vital to our very existence.
The Environment, Dwindling Resources and Mankind – What Will Be the Ultimate Outcome?
A four-part series about the environment and humanity’s impact upon it: Think of all the issues that could be addressed—the efforts, theories and competing ideas that could be analyzed—and, after all is said and done, the many different ways this series could conclude.
Instead of thinking solely for profit, here and now, they would have to think how their actions will affect the environment in 30 to 50 years. Cities would have to “retro-fit” buildings to make them “green.” Solar and wind power would have to be widely implemented.
While the green movement may look good, and makes people feel like they are doing their part, it is not easily applied globally. For it to work, it cannot remain a grassroots movement. Individual efforts are not enough.
Also, the world’s governments would have to begin working together to identify the problems and quickly implement effective solutions. Instead of worrying that a rival nation is growing more powerful, political leaders would have to think of the environment.
The sheer amount of money to make the global economy eco-friendly would be astronomical. Who is willing to pay the price?
“Going green” is a large investment now, with payoffs in the future. The global mindset of what you can get here and now would have to be changed. People would have to think of future generations, while taking responsible actions today.
Yes, “going green” has worked on minute scales. But governments, mindsets and ethics need to be drastically altered to accommodate this sort of thinking. Applying worldwide sustainability requires a complete change of mind.
To begin “living within the means” of the earth, there must be a catalyst for change.