“If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.” – E. O. Wilson
We think we are important. We aren’t. We think the earth needs us. It doesn’t. We think we have some God-given right to use the resources of this planet as we see fit. We don’t. If I have said it once I have said it a thousand times, we are guest on this planet, we aren’t owners, we are renters and we are horrible tenants.
As I sit here in my warm house on a very cold and gray day, drinking a pleasant oatmeal stout I feel grateful. Grateful that I have a roof over my head, grateful that the heat comes on when it is 33 degrees outside, grateful that the lights are burning bright, the television is spitting out the news and my computer screen is glowing. But all this gratefulness has a price. Somewhere there is a power plant belching out black coal smoke to keep my lights on. A lake is being drained so I can take a shower in the morning. Trucks are on the highway burning diesel fuel delivering Santa’s presents to Wal-Mart. Land is being cleared, sadly at an alarming rate, so more houses, apartments, and drug stores can be built. But still I remain grateful, and oblivious, as we all are.
We expect so much out of this planet. We expect it to provide us with all the things we need to live, to grow, to advance. But what do we give it back? Think about it, when you take and take and take some more without giving anything back what do you end up with?
When I walk into my house and turn the light switch on I see the light. What I don’t see is the destruction coal mining causes in Wyoming or West Virginia. I don’t see the coal-fired power plant discharging fossil fuels into the atmosphere. I don’t see the deadly waste from nuclear power plants that we must store for 250,000 years. I just want my lights to turn on, the air conditioner to run when it is hot and the heat to come on when it is cold.
Each generation passes the buck on to the next, we defer the payment, the rent, but at some point someone will have to pay. What are the top 10 environmental issues facing our planet?
- Climate Change
- Loss of Biodiversity
- Phosphorus and Nitrogen Cycles
- Ocean Acidification
- Ozone Layer Depletion
- Over fishing
And why are we facing these issues? Look in the mirror. You may think you aren’t contributing to any or all ten of these problems but we are, each of us.
What are the answers? In my mind awareness, education, stewardship, leadership and change, big changes. Part of those changes need to be the way we view the future. We need to look beyond one or two generations and delve deeper. The environment and our “needs” have always been at odds and as man has advanced, as our population has increased so to have our “needs” for more and more.
Our planet isn’t a defenseless rock floating around in space. She has many options to defend herself. I hope we will get smarter before she decides to play her last hand.
“Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.” – Jacques Yves Cousteau