As you read this sentence an area of forest the size of a football field is clear-cut by illegal loggers. Almost half of our lakes in the U.S are too polluted to swim in and can’t house aquatic life. We throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles per hour and up to 200 species go extinct every single day.
As I learn these startling statistics I can’t help but think how am I, as an individual supposed to solve problems of this magnitude. As a part of the new generation I’ve been told that it’s all up to me, I along with other millennials are the only “hope” for the future of this planet. But, it doesn’t have to be that way and in fact it shouldn’t be that way. Everyone has the power to change, for the good of themselves and the world around them. Others have repeatedly told me “I have a job and I can’t just go out and sit in front of a tree for a week” or “I have a family, I don’t have time to worry about other things.” But the fact is, we as humans are not separate from the environment, we are a part of it. Therefore, anything that occurs around us has a powerful effect on us as individuals and as a race. The statistics mentioned above are all a result of human action and therefore, all of the same issues can be resolved by us as well. But, everyone has to act.
After learning of so many pressing issues that face our natural world, I started spending my nights reading, writing, and researching to do something about it. The fact that I wasn’t of age worthy of attention hindered the ability for me to work with many non-profits but I found one that gave me a chance and just so happened to be the largest environmental organization in the world: Greenpeace.
With this, I felt a sense of relief and meaning within myself. I became engrossed in the environmental movement of which now I call my life. I stopped eating meat cold turkey; unheard of in the high meat consuming culture I come from and am completely surrounded by. I stopped drinking from plastic bottles. I started composting. I started fundraising for conservation organizations. I constantly educated myself by reading volumes upon volumes on environmental topics, and covered my room with quotes from Henry David Thoreau, Rachel Carson, and Native American proverbs.
Every part of my being cared, my bones were on fire and nothing, nothing could stop me, not even my conservative parents who brushed it off as a “hobby.” I took Gandhi’s quote “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” and made it my life. The drive I had was from someplace very simple, a quote I always told myself; “In the great scheme of things, what matters is not how long you live but why you live, what you stand for and what you are willing to die for.” It doesn’t matter what you care about or who you are, as long as you care enough to create positive change around you. There are 7 billion people on this planet, but you can make a difference, and no matter how small, it will always be significant.
With respect to the environment, everyone has to make a change and do what he or she can. Not everybody has to climb a smokestack, protest in the street or get arrested in order to have their voice heard or to act. Many do, and I commend their bravery and perseverance. But, for others that may not be an option.
So I say do what you can, you have the capability to do much more than you think. Start with the basics like changing your light bulbs, if everyone changed only one light bulb to a compact fluorescent bulb or better yet LED, 600 million dollars of energy costs would be saved each year. Imagine changing multiple lights in your home and the impact that could have.
Recycling. We all know the saying reduce, reuse, recycle. Putting that one aluminum can in the recycling bin saves enough energy to power your television set for three hours. One can.
As Americans, we throw away almost half of our food and it ends up in the landfill. According to the EPA, more food reaches landfills than any other single material in municipal solid waste. This becomes a significant source of methane, adds to disposal costs and can generate health issues.
These are difficult problems that we face every day yet the solution is simple: don’t waste. The solutions to many of these problems are achievable if each person does their part and takes action in any way they can. You may find yourself throwing a can in the recycling bin one day and joining the environmental movement the next.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
– Margaret Mead