As we head into the new year, many of us like to reflect on the past and make resolutions for the future. Because of all the recent upheaval in the world, now is the perfect time to identify the five most vital environmental issues facing future generations. And, more importantly, how we can help address them today.
We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children~Ancient Proverb
The 5 Most Vital Environmental Issues (and What We Can Do to Help):
1. CLIMATE CHANGENinety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is occurring and greenhouse gas emissions are the main cause. Yet, political will has not been strong enough so far to initiate an effective policy shift. Fossil fuels still trump sustainable forms of energy. Maybe more extreme weather events will convince the public. Because droughts, wildfires, heat waves, and flooding are dramatic events, they may be what it finally takes to pressure policymakers into action. What You Can Do: Your home and transportation could be major sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, you should find ways to reduce your carbon footprint.
- Conduct a certified home energy audit to make your home more energy efficient.
- Commute via biking, walking, or public transportation.
- Trade in your gas guzzler for a fuel-efficient hybrid or better yet—go electric.
- When you fly, make sure to reduce your carbon footprint. You can buy carbon offsets for air miles you travel from companies such as Carbonfund.org.
2. POLLUTIONAir pollution and climate change are closely linked. As a result, greenhouse gas emissions remain and the resulting smog remains a vital environmental issue. Water and soil pollution might not get the media attention that air pollution does, but they are still important public health concerns. Most noteworthy, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, dirty water is the world’s biggest health risk. Soil contamination is a major issue across the world. In China, nearly 20 percent of arable land has been contaminated by toxic heavy metals. Consequently, soil pollution threatens food security and poses health risks to the local population. The use of pesticides and fertilizers are also major factors in soil pollution What You Can Do:
- Switch over to green energy to cut back on fossil fuel emissions.
- Install solar or wind power on your property.
- Sign up for a renewable energy producer like Ethical Electric that connects consumers to 100 percent renewable energy sources to power their homes.
- Switch from toxic synthetic lawn chemicals to an organic lawn care program.
3. DEFORESTATIONForests serve as “carbon sinks”. As a result, they absorb CO2 that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere and worsen global warming. In fact, 15 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation. Cutting down trees also threatens animals and humans who rely on healthy forests to sustain themselves. What You Can Do:
- Support Rainforest Alliance and similar organizations.
- Stop using paper towels and use washable cloths instead.
- Use cloth shopping bags (instead of paper).
- Look at labels to make sure you only use FSC-certified wood and paper products.
- Boycott products made by palm oil companies that contribute to deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia.
4. WATER SCARCITYOnly three percent of the world’s water is fresh water. Hence, 1.1 billion people lack access to clean, safe drinking water. And access to water and keeping water clean are not just vital environmental issues for developing countries but the United States as well. Most noteworthy, more than a third of all counties in the lower 48 states will soon be at higher risk of water shortages. What You Can Do:
- Water efficiency can help us deal with water scarcity.
- Install an ENERGY STAR-certified washer.
- Use low-flow faucets and plug up leaks.
- Water your lawn in the morning or evening when the cooler air causes less evaporation
- Use non-toxic cleaning products and eco-friendly pesticides and herbicides that won’t contaminate groundwater.
5. SOIL EROSION AND DEGRADATIONFinally, unsustainable industrial agriculture practices have caused soil erosion and degradation. As a result, the land is less arable, waterways are clogged and polluted, and flooding and desertification have increased. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the earth has lost half of its topsoil in the last 150 years. What You Can Do:
- Support sustainable agriculture that puts people and the planet above profit.
- Switch to non-toxic organic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers.
- Boost areas that are prone to erosion with sturdy plant life.
- Restore soil quality by regularly adding animal manure, reducing pesticides, and adding compost.