Imagine a world 20 years into the future. In the book Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach, he developed an ecotopian society of which citizens of Ecotopia share a common commitment to buying local products and other necessities, reducing their energy consumption, and recycling all disposable goods. The citizens are technologically creative, while remaining involved with and sensitive to nature. Personal transportation has been given up by citizens of Ecotopia in favor of wider options for public transportation, such as publicly shared bicycles available throughout the streets of Ecotopia. How are humans affecting climate change and what are steps we can take to help this issue?
I realized that environmentalism was a problem when I was out on Halloween with a couple of my friends. We were strolling along the windy beach sprinting from house to house shoving candy into our pillow cases. My friend had unwrapped her chewy pink laffy taffy and enjoyed every last savored bite and then chucked the wrapper onto the street. After that moment I frequently noticed the amount of trash thrown onto the sides of the street. Statistics show 50% of all littered items are cigarettes, the total amount of litter dumped into the ocean every year is 9 billion tons, the total annual amount spent on cleaning up litter yearly is $11.5 billion, and 75% amount of people who admit to littering every year. The most common objects littered is paper 29%, food 33%, glass 6% and plastic 2% (Statistic Bain). Littering is harmful to the environment in a numerous amount of ways. Littering affects animals and their habitats for example, if you litter in the ocean then trash can get caught on animals or plant life. An animal that has been a big target for ocean trash is turtles. Trash gets caught around turtles necks their shell making it difficult for them to move around. Over one hundred animals are killed every year due to littering. When I was young I loved balloons, every time I saw one I would get down on my knees and beg to get one. Whenever I did I would always manage to let them loose of my tiny hands and I would watch the balloon become smaller and then eventually disappear deep into the sky. When I was a bit older, my friend told me that whenever you let a balloon float into the sky it increases the chance of getting one stuck on a bird. Not only birds but other animal populations are beginning to decrease from environmental issues.
Climate change has had an extreme impact on many problems within our environment. Climate change causes glaciers to shrink, ice on rivers and lakes to break up earlier, plant and animal ranges shifting and trees to bud sooner. Global temperatures will continue to rise for decades to come, largely due to greenhouse gasses produced by human activities. “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which includes more than 1,300 scientists from the United States and other countries, forecasts a temperature rise of 2.5 to 10 degrees fahrenheit over the next century” (The Consequences). Human activity is claimed to be one of the major impacts of climate change. Humans littering contribute to climate change because trash gets dumped into landfills and more gasses are produced.
Along with littering, human activity also affects the biosphere causing plants and animals to die off. If you take 1 species out of an ecosystem the whole ecosystem can fall apart. Humans affect biodiversity indirectly by removing trees. Humans cut down 8000 hectares of trees a day, and low amount of trees causes a decrease in habitats and species in the ecosystem. Polar bears are a prime example of a decreasing population in species due to climate change. The loss of ice in oceans have led the researchers to predict that polar bear numbers will shrink by 30% over the next 30 or 40 years (Werber, Cassie). Along with polar bears, reindeer populations are also decreasing rapidly. Reindeers are moving farther north due to temperatures increasing. This is destroying vegetation in the places where the animals end up. Habitats are altering due to some of our human activities. The temperatures of colder areas rising leads back to climate change.
Have you ever noticed how warm the days get? When the heat rises it causes glaciers and ice caps to melt or the ocean to expand increasing the amount of water in the ocean. The annual rate of sea level rise over the past 20 years has been 0.13 inches a year. The burning of fossil fuels and other human and natural activities has released enormous amounts of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere. When Earth's surface temperature rises the oceans absorb about 80 percent of this additional heat. Sea level rise is primarily because of heat being trapped into the atmosphere resulting in the temperature to rise. When the temperatures rise glaciers and ice caps melt. Higher temperatures caused by global warming have led to greater than average summer glacier and ice cap melting as well as snowfall in the winter which results in a gain in runoff into the ocean, causing sea levels to rise. If the oceans rise enough for it to reach farther inland, it can cause destructive erosion, flooding of wetlands, and lost habitat for fish, birds, and plants. “Recent study says we can expect the oceans to rise between 2.5 and 6.5 feet (0.8 and 2 meters) by 2100” (Sea Level). If the oceans keep rising then important cities such as New York and San Francisco could drown. Although flooding is the obvious consequence of rising sea levels, there are plenty of other effects to consider. Rising oceans can affect animal populations, our economy, our coastal life, and contaminate our drinking water.
Look at any ecosystem and there could be multiple forms of contamination, streams full of toxic chemicals, rivers overloaded with nutrients from farms, trash blowing away from landfills, city skies covered in smog. Toxic chemicals that accumulate in top predators can make some species unsafe to eat. “More than one billion people lack access to clean water and 2.4 billion don’t have adequate sanitation, putting them at risk of contracting deadly diseases” (World Wildlife). The three main contributing factors to pollution are ocean litter, pesticides/fertilizers, and air pollution. When I was 7 years old my mom and I were driving home from Chicago. When we were in Ohio I remember passing by a huge factory. The bright green grass was no longer bright it was dull, and the sky was no longer azure filled with the sun instead it was filled with grey puffy clouds. As I breathed in the toxins it felt almost as if I was trying to gasp for that one last breath of the crisp air but it was no longer their. The landscape was lifeless everything was in black and white. The state of Ohio has several manufacturing plants and has a big electricity generation sector. The harmful fumes emitted from the plants and other industries makes the state one of the highest polluted states in the U.S. Humans that have long-term exposure to air pollution, for example, can lead to chronic respiratory disease, lung cancer and other diseases. Smoking is a big issue not only for humans but also the environment. Cigarettes are constantly thrown onto streets and sidewalks waiting for someone to run over them.
Its interesting how you can have one opinion and then if you research it more your thinking can change. During my researching process my thinking about this issue has changed. Before researching I knew that their were many different problems with the environment I had heard it in the news or I’ve seen it first hand. My interpretation of environmental issues used to just be about cutting back on electronics and mass producing products, but after this I realized there's a lot of contributors to these issues. For example humans always having a high demand for more products is a big contribution to more factories and more smog in our air. I can not tell you one time I have been watching t.v. and a car ad has come on. Transportation is huge for us, cars, buses, trains, subways the gas they produce is let into the air constantly. Have you ever seen someone throw something out of the window of a car? I have and I’ve even done it myself people litter constantly! These are the types of issues we can help decrease from happening by making the right actions.
What can we do to help the environmental problems? Recycling helps conserve energy and reduces pollution and greenhouse gases from resource extraction, manufacturing, and disposal. At home, make it a habit to turn off the lights as you leave a room. Replace standard light bulbs with energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs. Turn off your computer and unplug electronics when they are not in use. Whenever possible it is good to ride your bike or talk a stroll. Cars are a big impact on polluting the environment, plus you can exercise! Changing our lifestyle in small meaningful ways can make an improvement.