In honor of Earth Day and National Park Week, I have some thoughts to share…
Not only is today Earth Day, the 47th iteration, but this past week has also been National Park Week. It brings me great joy to see so many people mobilize in effort to better protect and nurture our precious planet, as it’s desperately needed.
With the current White House administration seemingly hell-bent on ripping apart all of the good President Barack Obama accomplished – the Clean Power Plan, the Paris Agreement and multiple other statutes – during his tenure and devaluing the the notion of acting on climate change, more individuals must remain vigilant and work harder than ever to educate, empower and preserve.
Public concern for environmental concerns has only increased in the past decade, and that’s a number that should continue to increase.
We are an incredibly destructive and short-sighted species, and many don’t even realize the extent to which this affects our surroundings.
We pour tons of plastic, chemicals and other detritus into assorted biomes, which wreak discord on countless species of flora and fauna. We rape pristine lands for nothing more than petty profit and vacation destinations. Fossil fuel burning has played a role in the increased levels of carbon in our atmosphere and oceans.
The decline in pH noted in the above graph is likely to have pronounced effects on oceanic organisms. It might severely damage coral, which is already suffering from increased ocean temperatures, and certain bivalves.
We needlessly butcher endangered animals that are not only beautiful, but extremely vital to their local ecosystems, and for what? Gaudy clothing and accessories, “traditional” medicine, delicacies, and sadistic enjoyment. All ridiculous, unnecessary and naive, to put it nicely. We threaten all animals with our constant pursuit of natural resources and land appropriation.
The above chart demonstrates our increased cognizance of the threat other animals are facing.
So yeah, we do a lot of bad shit.
But, events like the ones that have transpired this week keep me aloft. As you read this, not only will people be participating in environmental cleanups and educational sessions, thousands will march for science across the globe. It will be a collective resistance against politicians and businessmen who think science, in its innumerable forms, can be denied and drown out by avarice and partisanship.
While Scott Pruitt, the “director” of the Environmental Protection Agency, might want you to feel otherwise, America must not abdicate its position as one of the world’s preeminent environmental stewards. We really have done a lot of good with regulating merciless corporations and protecting wildlife, and that good, combined with the efforts of other countries, has pushed historically apathetic nations like China (the worst perpetrator of pollution in the world) to up their games.
The above graph indicates the stringency of environmental regulations now, with past stringency levels and GDP shown for reference. An article in The Economist explains the research behind the project. Source: OECD
Businesses are kept on tight chains, and it should remain that way. As the world continues its increasingly brisk trudge toward renewable energy and other eco-friendly policies, like recyclables, that pressure must be continually applied so corporations are forced to evolve in a positive way.
One of multiple graphs in the above-linked Bloomberg article, which documents the astronomical rise in the economic viability of clean energy. Investment in Power Capacity, 2008-2015. Source: BNEF, UNEP
It’s unfortunate that long-term sources of employment like coal mining are being eradicated, but it’s for the greater good. We need to adapt, or else our bad habits are going to bite us like a rabid dog later on. By sacrificing now, our offspring may just thrive in the breathtaking, vibrant places we are beyond lucky to inhabit.
Not only must common citizens make concessions, but they must also play their part in working toward a better future. Small actions like avoiding certain plastics and recycling eligible ones can do wonders. Donating to causes like the National Resources Defense Council and the World Wildlife Fund make huge differences as well.
The latest annual report from the NRDC, which is consistently rated as one of the most reliable and impactful non-profits in the environmental sector. Source: NRDC
Another activity that I personally advocate the strongest for is visiting national and state parks. As technology continues to burgeon, more and more people seem to be leading less-insular lives. They see pictures and videos of exotic, diverse places on social media and wish to explore themselves. This cultural phenomenon is not always good, in fact it can be downright morbid, but it’s at least a starting point.
Taking a vested interest in National Parks not only fosters understanding of local ecosystems, but it serves as a large economic boon as well. Source: Headwaters Economics
Last year, I went on a cross-country road trip and visited more than a dozen national parks and heritage sites, and I can not understate how vital that journey was for my personal and intellectual development. It truly put into perspective how places like Zion and Yellowstone are miracles of nature, and how much our boorish transgressions are threatening them. Visiting these places make for great pictures, but they make for even better learning opportunities.
An old-growth forest of towering coastal redwoods in Northern California. The forest serves as a habitat for an assortment of species, both common and endangered. The trees themselves are endangered from climate change and logging. Source: Michael Kiwak
Instead, smartphones can be used for documentation of interesting facts and sights. Even then, take plenty of time to absorb your surroundings. Appreciate them and, most importantly, respect them. A year later, I can still picture even the most nuanced details: the color of the stones, the shape of the leaves, the temperature of the wind mingling with my skin.
The iconic Yosemite Valley in Eastern California. Yosemite NP, which spans more than 740,000 acres, serves as the home to a multitude of rare geologic formations and plant species. Source: Michael Kiwak
Sensations such as those are what inspire admiration, and they are truly unique and cherishable.
Now I realize you all aren’t me. You can believe in what you choose and act how you wish to act. But at least take a few minutes to read about everything we have done and are doing to negatively affect this planet.
There is a lot of material on the matter – a sliver of which I’ve tried by best to provide in this article – and it can be daunting, but try to view the big picture and absorb the gravity of the situation.
The Earth spawned us, and it will destroy us if we cannot take better care of it.