Categorized | Environment

An Environment of Change: Small Steps to Sustainability

Posted on 07 December 2011 by admin

The people in the GTA rely heavily on the lake as source of drinking water. While we may not have reached an alarming stage yet, it is better to start making efforts to diffuse the probability altogether.

In an ideal world, there would be infinite freshwater and food to feed the entire population. There would be unlimited oil and coal supply so we could continue powering our vehicles and other countless dependable machines without harming the environment. Unfortunately, this is not the reality we live in. Resources are limited, and the population is growing at an accelerating pace. The world’s population just touched the seven billion mark last month, forcing us to rethink our interaction with the natural environment. John Bongaarts, Vice President of the Population Council reacted to this news by saying that this is “both good and bad news…while the world has proved it can accommodate so many without a complete breakdown, it is also experiencing environmental stress like climate change and growing agricultural needs.”

Our affinity for non-renewable resources is an unhealthy relationship waiting to crumble. Exploitation of natural resources, especially oil, has been a driving force behind the global political agenda since the last fifty years, having largely influenced foreign relations. Fossil fuel extraction and processing results in large amounts of carbon dioxide and toxic chemical emissions, which, in turn contribute to global warming and also cause air and water pollution.  The need to switch to renewable energy sources has thus become almost necessary.

Climate change is 21st century’s most pressing environmental issue, the effect of which has become evident through rising sea-levels and melting of the polar ice caps. Scientific research has shown that climate change can have dire consequences impacting agricultural productivity and water availability.

Food & Agricultural Organization of the United Nations projects that by 2025, 1,800 million people will face absolute water scarcity. Currently, 98% of the 925 million people that don’t have adequate amount of food live in developing nations. Such astounding statistics help paint a picture of the state of the world. As residents of a developed nation with abundant natural resources, it is very easy for us to take what we have for granted and have a blurred view of conditions in developing nations. It is important for us as global citizens to be aware that our actions have a greater impact.

Environmental problems like deforestation and water contamination may seem distant and irrelevant just because they are not happening in our backyards, but distance should not impede our ability to view the bigger environmental picture as an interconnected system. For example, if a company releases large amounts of toxic chemicals into water, it does not only hurt aquatic life, but can eventually land up on our plates as it makes its way through the food chain. Human health is inextricably linked to environmental conditions. We don’t have to look any further than Lake Ontario to look for evidence of environmental harm. Of all the Great Lakes, it is the most polluted, with deteriorating water quality and marine life health. The people in the GTA rely heavily on the lake as source of drinking water. While we may not have reached an alarming stage yet, it is better to start making efforts to diffuse the probability altogether. It should not be necessary to always make a human case, when convincing each other to take care of the environment; we, humans, are as much a part of the environment as trees and mountains. As residents of this planet, we have a moral duty to protect it.

What we should be aiming towards is the sustenance of our economic, social and environmental future, because all of these are inevitably linked. Businesses need to improve their practices to become more environmentally considerate, and governmental regulations must become more stringent. We can’t just rest our hopes on technological advancements to relieve us from changing our lifestyles.  As a society of consumers, we are defined by the type of phone we use or the brand of shoes we wear. Technology may have made refrigerators more energy efficient, but the number of refrigerators sold has remarkably increased too, undermining the intended effect.

What we need is a complete overhaul of behaviours and habits.  Recycling that piece of paper, that pop can, switching off the lights when we leave the room, not keeping appliances on stand-by when they are not in use, fighting the urge to buy the stack of plastic water bottles, using public transportation as often as possible—these are some easy, practical steps we can all take to reduce our collective carbon footprint. By getting involved in our community, opening up dialogue, buying locally, and ensuring that our homes are energy efficient, we can get started to move into a direction of building local sustainable communities.

Puninda Thind

Waterloo

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