So Why Should I Care About The Environment?

I’m sitting here, and I’m comfortable.

I’m happy with my standard of living which BY THE WAY, I’ve worked very hard for, thank you very much.

So why am I expected to compromise on my lifestyle? Why am I being asked to avoid taking my car? Switch off my lights when I’m not in the room? Think twice before flying off for far-away and frequent vacations?

I have the means to do these things, and I want to live comfortably. We only get one life after all, right?

So why the eff should I care about the environment? It’s an inconvenience, that’s what it is. An inconvenience I don’t want to bear.

Well then…

1. …I better get ready to breathe some nasty AF air…

Major cities around the world are dealing with problems related to congestion and pollution. And the thing with air is, yeah you guessed it, it goes everywhere. Everywhere.

That means that the crazy carbon-emitting car that I drive isn’t just polluting the air I breathe, it’s polluting the ambient air: the air in my entire city and beyond.

This hurts the vulnerable sections of every city, most of all – whether that’s the economically vulnerable sections such as the city’s homeless or poor, or the immuno-compromised such as the young kids, seriously ill and the elderly.

Recent studies show that a city’s air pollution is actually the worst for the people inside the car, as opposed to the ones outside walking or on bicycles (as the ones inside are basically trapped in a glass box which is collecting the noxious concoction of pollution from their own as well as surrounding vehicles).

What I can do about it –
– I can ride a bicycle or walk if it’s feasible in my city
– I can trade in my ‘normal’ car for a greener vehicle that doesn’t pollute as much
– I can take public transport whenever it’s possible
– I can take a little bit of effort and get a carpool going
– I can talk about this with my neighbours, friends and family, as environmental issues aren’t usually at the forefront of one’s consciousness
– I can talk to my local people’s representative or political representative to make my city more pedestrian-friendly

2. …and while I’m at it, I better get ready for some pretty nasty water too.

The lifestyle we collectively have, as a society, has set the stage for the proliferation of a large number of unbelievably pollutive industries.

These industries frequently offload their pollution not only into the air but also in the surrounding water bodies (which eventually ends up in the ocean).

Even the products made by these industries have caused a massive buildup in our oceans. Did you know that plastic micro-beads found in many cosmetic products and plastic microfibers from our synthetic clothing (because of repeated washes) are huge contributing causes to this plastic build up?

Well…it’s inside the ocean. Very many miles away from me. And it’s only affecting some of the fish and stuff…so… 

Wrong. This very much affects humankind just as much as marine life.

“The ocean plays an essential role for life on earth. It provides over 70 percent of the oxygen we breathe and over 97 percent of the world’s water supply”, according to Planet Aid.

“Chemicals such as oil, mercury, lead, pesticides, and other heavy metals can all be found within the ocean and can contaminate water supplies and our food chain by affecting the marine life involved. If humans are exposed to these toxic chemicals for long periods of time, then this can result in dangerous health problems, which include hormonal issues, reproductive issues, and damage to our nervous systems and kidneys.”

What I can do about it –
– I can take a moment to make smart consumer choices – I don’t really need the purportedly magnificent exfoliation from some microbeads…I’d get much better exfoliation from warm water and a washcloth (and…baking soda?).
– I can re-evaluate my “fast fashion” habits – do I really need to have 32456 things to wear? Is it that important for me to be wearing something new all the time, just because it’s affordable for me? There are many benefits to investing in some staple, classic pieces and mixing and matching them to throw up my look. Of course, I’m going to be balanced and buy things when I want, but I can also keep in mind my planet, my time, money, and personal habits.
– There’s a lot of plastic I use, consume and discard every single day. Am I conscious of my habits? Why not take some micro-steps that don’t really inconvenience me, but would do wonders for the planet?
– I can talk about this with my neighbours, friends and family, as environmental issues aren’t usually at the forefront of one’s consciousness.
– I can talk to my local people’s representative or political representative about my city’s levels of industrial water pollution and what we can do to minimise it.
(BONUS POINTS if I can gather a group of people, and we can have a proper sit-down about this. EXTRA AWESOMESAUCE BONUS POINTS if we can bring our representatives to the book when election time rolls around to take a holistic view of the environment and actually effing commit to doing something about it.)

3. I better get used to a) mind-bogglingly insane weather patterns, and b) reading of a whole lot of people hurt/dead (or perhaps have this destruction hit home)

So climate change is real, and climate change is here to stay.

Here’s a tidbit from the David Suzuki Foundation, for those of us that doubt our own capacity to reduce climate change:

“Ever wonder how your tiny carbon footprint really impacts the big picture of climate change?

Though you might feel like your lifestyle is insignificant compared to things like oil extraction or vehicle emissions, the choices we make in our day-to-day life — how we get around, what we eat, how we live — play a major role in slowing climate change.”

Cities are reporting oscillations between far hotter summers and way cooler winters, with occasional unexpected weather patterns to boot (like crazy storms, avalanches etc).

Tropical countries are just getting warmer and warmer.

And as for tropical islands? Some have been entirely lost to the sea. Can you believe that?! Entire islands are just gone…and in large part, thanks to climate change.

What I can do about it –
– It isn’t just about switching off my appliances when I don’t use them, but I can also replace my light fixtures with better, energy-efficient LED bulbs.
– I can use a more energy-efficient vehicle, or alternatively, replace driving with other transport options where applicable.
– Make smart food choices – the dairy and animal industry account for a whopping 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions (that’s insane). Here’s what food writer Michael Pollan has to say about this: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Even if I can’t fully transition into a vegetarian or vegan diet, I can make a conscious decision to eat less meat than I normally do. Even that’s a big win for the planet.
– I can also choose locally grown produce and consume less processed food to minimise my personal carbon footprint.
– I can pitch for (and jump on board with) Carbon Tax – this makes polluting industries pay, and makes greener alternatives more affordable. Ultimately, this nudges market forces (of supply and demand) towards a greener direction.
– I can stay informed about climate change and the various ways I can lessen my own carbon footprint. I can also choose to have discussions about this with my circle so that environmental sensitivity is encouraged in my community.

4. I can say goodbye to all the world’s most beautiful floral and faunal biodiversity, of which countless species have already been irretrievably lost.

A lot of people don’t understand why biodiversity matters – me too. I’d much rather stay centred on my own existence.

I’m fine, and my family is fine, and my friends are fine – so…exactly why am I expected to care that a species of rhinoceros halfway across the world from me is now extinct?

While this question is painfully common amongst us, it reflects a lack of importance given to educating people in very basic environmental science and ecology. And unfortunately, this kind of education that is so often ignored, is now the need of the hour.

No, you don’t need to care if one particular species somewhere in the world goes extinct (aside from a very important ethical perspective – but that’s only according to some of us, right?).

But you do need to care if entire ecosystems get damaged. Ecosystems are fragile things – so when that one species goes extinct (be it that type of rhinoceros or some kind of obscure little fungus), the entire ecosystem has the potential to fall.

Irrevocably.

And this, my friends, is the magic of ecology.

Let me break it down for you:

The world can be taken to be made up of “biomes” (very large ecological areas) – one biome is often spread over a range of continents.

Each “biome” consists of a whole range of “ecosystems” (an elaborately complex biological community made up of a)all kinds of living things, b)their interactions with each other and c) their interactions with their physical, non-living environment).

Each “ecosystem”, as per the definition, consists of all kinds of species of living things, all kinds of physical factors and all kinds of interactions between its living and non-living constituents. It is important to understand that the living and non-living components play off of each other, they never remain independent of the other.

This is why climate change will impact populations of species, but additionally, the population of a certain species will, in turn, affect its physical environment such as the soil profile, the vegetation cover and also, therefore, the local climate.

It’s all a big cycle, in which each species and each physical factor play an inordinately important role.

Humans have only begun to understand the minutiae of these interactions. There is still an impossibly long way to go for us to understand how exactly the ups and downs of certain pooulations can affect other populations as well as the local physical factors.

And what we’re talking about here is one simple ecosystem.

When we consider the biome, we may take it as a network of ecosystems. When one ecosystem flutters, they all do.

What are we left with? An unstable biome.

But biomes play off of each other too. So an unstable biome implies – you guessed it – an unstable Earth.

This may sound way dramatic if we’re talking about one tiny little fungus somewhere bringing down an entire Earth.

But take the sum constant of everything going on. Temperatures are changing everywhere, species are becoming extinct all over the world at an unprecedented rate, air and water are being polluted…literally everything is changing.

This is crazy in terms of the ecological implications – and therefore has grave implications even for our own existence on Earth.

And yeah, one more tiny little thing. Say you don’t give two hoots about human existence. There’s also such a thing as quality of life.

Both our existence and quality of life is directly and indirectly related to biodiversity in more than a few ways.

  • Our food security and nutritional needs are met through biodiversity.
  • Biodiversity is crucial for the sustained production of medicines, often life-saving ones. The cures for the worst diseases could maybe still be found in nature, if we know where to look. Conservation, therefore is essential.
  • We are protected from the most destructive elements of nature because of the existence of diverse ecosystems.
  • Biodiversity is our only shield against the possible evolution of a superbug.
  • Many industries harness biodiverse resources in wholly or partially meeting their need for raw material. This especially true in certain critical industries such as defence.
  • Because of the concept of bioremediation, many species of flora are able to absorb varying levels of numerous pollutants from water. They thus effectively clean up our industrial waste from our water bodies. We make the mess, they do the cleaning up (wow, yay humans!).
  • Biomimicry as a concept has existed for a very, very long time. Humans have been inspired by the creations of nature in crafting numerous innovations (such as aircraft and bullet-proof vests, only to name a few). Thus biodiversity isn’t just necessary as a raw material; it teaches us valuable lessons on how to make things in the first place.
  • The ethical and spiritual value of biodiversity is something that can not be measured tangibly. The only thing I can say here is that perhaps we humans would only realise the value of biodiversity in this respect if it was taken away from us.

What I can do about it –

– Start talking about biodiversity, reading up on current issues and bringing it forth as discussion amongst my peers.

– Discourage pigeonhole labelling of anyone talking about the earth and its inhabitants (such as “ecoterrorist”, “hippie”, “bohemian” etc. This is pure science).

– Find out my current government’s policies on biodiversity conservation. Is it enough? I can create campaigns or join existing ones to demand better action. I can join youth political fora or political reform groups and insist on politic parties having biodiversity policies as a part of their manifestos.

– Do my part in talking about and popularising conservation as a career choice amongst today’s kids. I can talk to them and encourage them to learn more about biodiversity and the world’s magical ecosystems.

There’s a lot my near and dear ones and I would have to give up, including dear life itself, if the environment is consistently taken for granted as is happening in the current scenario.

People in developmentally-challenged and resource-starved countries are the worst off. Not to mention those in low-lying territories, who through no fault of their own, are losing their homes to the rising sea level.

Disasters are claiming lives every day.

Even rises in crime rates have been correlated to climate change and environmental destruction in certain areas.

Resource scarcity is also known to affect genders disproportionately. Gender justice also assumes a larger role in this context.

Thus, environmental changes have far-reaching consequences most of us don’t really get to hear about.

Yet, it’s an important lesson to remember – let us finally swallow the pill of humility, at least now:

The Earth never ‘needed’ us humans – it will go on despite us and beyond us, as evolution carries on in its own course.

It was, is and always will be only us who need the Earth.

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