Collage created by Finn Souter using photo of Earth by The New York Public Library on Unsplash and photo of flames by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash
Alessia Georgiou explores how we must treat our environment with the respect it so desperately needs
The environment is our precious natural world, encompassing the air we breathe, the land we walk on, the water we drink, and the diverse ecosystems that support life on Earth, you and I included.
The Environment. A word that many people fear. A word that many people turn a blind eye to. A word that should not be ignored, but instead understood and nurtured.
Our environment faces numerous challenges. Many everyday activities contribute to the constant degradation of Earth’s quality, particularly in terms of environmental and ecological impacts.
‘Grim, ghastly, grisly’, these are some of the many ways to describe the result of our actions. The more we choose to act as if there are no consequences, the more our planet is at risk.
Environmental issues continue to rapidly eat away at our earth, piece by piece. And with each bite, we grow closer to a world we struggle to live in. A way of life we don’t want to have. And a place we can’t inhabit. We need to make a change.
Some of the critical issues include:
It is no lie that burning fossil fuels is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. Burning coal, oil, and gas release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the air. These greenhouse gases trap the heat from the sun and this warms the surface of the Earth instead of keeping it at a stable temperature.
A recent study provides new evidence that global warming is on course to reach more than 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels in the early 2030s. That is less than a decade from now. Well within the lifespan of most people alive today!
1.5 degrees might not sound like a huge increase in temperature, but it may be the difference between life and death for many thousands of people. If we do not change our habits, it could be a life-or-death situation for you too.
Extreme weather events will become even more common; droughts, storms, and rising sea levels, cooler periods and even ice ages. Biodiversity loss and species extinction, food scarcity, and worsening health and poverty for millions of people worldwide. These are only a few of the many disturbing and deadly effects of climate change. Check out more here about the impacts of climate change.
While the world’s transition to renewable energy is something that is out of our individual control. And as it’s not feasible to immediately stop extracting and using fossil fuels it’s easy to feel hopeless, but there are things you can do to help.
Using our cars less reduces air pollution, more walking and cycling improves our health
Firstly, reduce your carbon footprint by conserving energy. Turn off lights, computers, televisions, video games and other electrical equipment when you’re not using them. You can buy equipment that uses less electricity, including lightbulbs, air conditioners, heaters, refrigerators and washing machines. You could install a programmable thermostat to reduce the amount of air conditioning or heating you use, resetting it it when you are asleep or away from home.
Secondly, planning meals ahead of time helps avoid overbuying. You can set a food compost bin to turn food waste into nutrient-rich compost for plants or garden. Use leftovers to create new meals or freeze them for later. All can help reduce food waste and save time and money.
Thirdly, you should aim to reduce the miles you travel. You can share driving trips or take public transport whenever possible. Consider walking or biking instead of driving.
What are the benefits?
For starters, more walking and cycling improves our health, using our cars less reduces air pollution, public transport reduces traffic congestion and switching off lights and not wasting food saves money while also lowering our carbon footprint. Check here for more ways to improve your carbon footprint.
I wish I could know all that there is to know about littering and teach everyone, however, that would take a very long time. And during that time, every day in the uk, over two million pieces of litter, often plastic, are being thrown like a toxic blanket covering the streets or flung into our rivers, seas and oceans.
I can guarantee you, almost every single person reading this has dropped their litter at some point in their lives. And with each and every piece of litter, all of us are impacted in so many ways.
Chemicals and microparticles are released when we litter which is unnatural for the environment, causing multiple problems. For example, over eight million pieces of plastic, make their way via our rivers and into our oceans, which we rely upon for providing over half of the world’s oxygen, vital for our survival.
Our ocean and in turn ourselves don’t deserve to be damaged like this!
Not only does littering pollute the sea, but it affects the air we breathe. Reports estimate that more than 40% of the world’s litter is burned in the open air. This can contribute to the formation of acid rain through a process that involves the release of various pollutants into the atmosphere
Now is the time to make major adjustments to how we live before climate change impacts do it for us!
Acid rain can have damaging effects on aquatic ecosystems, heightening acidity, which can be detrimental to fish, plants, as well as causing respiratory problems and exacerbating conditions like asthma for humans. You can check out more here about its harmful effects.
The solutions are simple – don’t litter.
Next time you find yourself about to drop litter, remind yourself of its dangers. Look for the nearest bin and if you are unable to find one, wait until you do. Make sure you recycle.
Another thing you can do is sign up or donate to charities where you can help clean litter. Take a proactive approach to stop littering. You can get involved in organised river clean-ups. Check it out here.
We have become a wasteful society, which has disastrous consequences for the environment. Now is the time to make major adjustments to how we live before climate change impacts do it for us!
In my next article, coming soon, I will go into the benefits of cutting down on meat consumption to support our environment further.