Every day I watch the people around me throw away unnecessary amounts of trash, use an abnormally large amount of water and treat the Earth solely as an abundant resource for their personal disposal.
A few weeks ago I took a summer course on waste management. We visited a landfill on the first day. I was saddened by the huge amounts of trash our community is forced to try to dispose of and sort. In the materials recovery facility, where recyclables are sorted, a problem was the lack of community effort and awareness of what is recyclable in the city’s curbside recycling program. The piles of recyclables would be cluttered with trash bags and glass bottles that couldn’t be recycled on site. The ignorance of others slows down the environmental progression our society can make.
Why should people care about the environment? It affects the health and well-being of those around us, as well as those on opposite hemispheres, not to mention the sustainability of our planet.
I seem to be automatically lumped into into the category of radical, all-natural, soil worshipping tree huggers that just spend time making hemp bracelets and tie dyeing.
I am often asked what I can do with an environmental science degree or simply what environmental science is. Our environment only surrounds us constantly and supports our life so we are able to be here.
I feel many Americans are oblivious to care about environmental concerns. According to the book, “An Inconvenient Truth”, “The United States is responsible for more greenhouse gas pollution than South America, Africa, the Middle East, Australia, Japan, and Asia all put together.” For anybody that doesn’t believe it, just step outside the United States and you will notice the drastic differences in consumption and transportation habits of other countries.
Being an environmentalist might seem like a lifestyle choice, when it should be everyone’s responsibility to do everything in their power to keep a sustainable planet.
In Europe it is already a norm to keep the environment in mind in every aspect of life. The water surrounding Norway is filled with wind mills that supply complete energy to the mainland. Almost every residential house in Germany has solar panels. Europe is fully connected by trains to optimize public transportation in a convenient way.
Central squares in European cities even offer pedestrian zones that strictly prohibit cars. Gas is four times as expensive in Europe than the United States and spotting an SUV is a rare occurrence. In Kansas City, I can barely walk on the sidewalk without someone in a car yelling obscenities to me.
Maybe time will tell when Americans start to realize the importance of sustainability instead of it just being a lifestyle choice, political agenda or marketing strategy. Businesses use it to their advantage to claim they are “green.”
We even have the Student Union and other “green” buildings on campus doing the minimum to pass LEED certification.
The Bookstore in the Student Union doesn’t even have a single recycle bin. Packaging, paper and other materials go straight in the trash. Not just our school uses the aspect of being “green” to lure people to our school. Companies simply add green-colored packaging to make consumers believe it is organic or good for the environment. Even political candidates use environmental awareness, or lack thereof as an arguing point.
Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum once said to a group of voters, “This isn’t climate science, it is political science… Tell that to a plant, how dangerous carbon dioxide is.”
Actually, that excess of carbon dioxide that plants love so much (according to 98 percent of scientists studying global warming) is contributing to global warming and has supported natural disasters and suffering.
I propose we don’t leave environmental concerns to politicians, especially those who promote global warming denial and other pseudoscience.
Citizens need to take action in promoting and sustaining the environment themselves in order to keep our home a beautiful planet for eternity.