Good Essay On Sustainability Reflection
Following the American Psychological Association’s Guidelines
The Earth’s sustainability, going green, and limiting our carbon footprints is an ever-growing issue in the minds of most of the planet’s population today. We are all growing more aware of our depleting resources, as well as the role humans have played in their running out. Many are becoming more conscious of their carbon footprint, myself included, and are attempting to limit their impact on the Earth and its resources in an effort to undo the seemingly irreparable damage that has been done. Others, however, appear to not care, still believing that the Earth will never run out of land, air, oil, plant life, clean water, or animals for us to live off. While I have lived the past several years making a conscious effort to limit my carbon footprint, after taking the required test I noticed that was surprised to see that I have not made the progress I thought I had, which forced me to reexamine how I feel about sustainability, and my own impact on the planet.
Sustainability means many different things to me. I believe that it is a responsibility we all have not only to the planet, but also to one another and ourselves. If we do not approach using the planet’s resources with a sense that they are finite, then we are simply being greedy. It is nonsensical, bordering on insanity to think that, scientifically, the Earth can regenerate enough oil to power the cars we are mass-producing and driving within the next 50 years. It is a well-known fact that settling the ingredients to make oil deeply enough, and all in the same place beneath the earth’s surface, can take up to 10 million years, as estimated in the Mississippi River Delta in the United States . Creating the resources we use so swiftly is no easy task on the behalf of the planet.
Deforestation, while sometimes blown out of proportion by media outlets and environmentalist groups, is also an issue. Trees provide humans with oxygen. Not only that, but they use harmful carbon dioxide to live, and convert it to oxygen. Trees are self-sustaining support systems that allow humans to survive. Yet we have no qualms with tearing down entire forests to make room for more malls and other unnecessary establishments. The wood is used to make paper, homes, and other goods. However, with reconstitution and recycling on the rise, there is a decreasing reason for deforestation of this magnitude according to Ruud Weijermars’, “Can We Close Earth’s Sustainability Gap? .” Many recycled materials can be used to make homes, while used paper can be recycled to make paper once more. Trees can be replanted but in many cases, the land that has been deforested must be retiled and seeded before it is suitable to grow plant life again. This process can take as many as three growing seasons to complete in many areas. Taking into account that trees take many years to mature, and only seconds to cut down, we are only depriving ourselves of one of the primary instruments for life in order to provide ourselves with needless shopping malls and car dealerships. It is not anything close to sustainability and must be stopped.
In order to counteract actions such as these, I have believed for much of my life that it was up to most individuals to do their part, however small, in limiting their carbon footprint. We must recycle when possible, and buy recycled items in an attempt to close the gap. Using energy efficient lighting and appliances can also limit the use of wasteful electricity, thus helping limit the amount of land needed to accommodate the electricity. This can help limit deforestation and improve the quality of air. Buying locally grown food is another way to help. Carpooling, walking, and biking is another effective way I always believed we could all help limit our carbon footprint. These actions help decrease the amount of harmful emissions from cars, while also lessening the need for oil .
I have partaken in all of these ideas for the majority of my adolescence and adult life. Whenever possibly I have recycled and bought recycled goods. I have bought locally grown food as often as I can and attempt to limit my use of electricity to a reasonable amount. I remain as energy efficient as possible and carpool when I can. I expected my own ecological footprint to be relatively small compared to the average individual, but my results were surprising. I am well below the average Calgarian, with my score falling at 5.3, while the average Calgarian scores 8.6. The average Canadian, however, is only slightly above me with 5.8. More troubling still is my current consumption of resources would take a landmass equivalent to 6.5 Canadian football fields to continue. Despite my attempts to limit my consumption and be aware of sustainability as possible, I require 6.5 football fields to live as I do now.
The idea that I am one person limiting myself and I still require such a large portion of land to survive was overwhelming. It changed how I view sustainability drastically. Prior to taking the test I believed recycling, limiting my energy use and only replacing appliances when they needed replacing, etc., was enough. I was doing my part and it would surely make a sizeable dent in my carbon footprint. However, now I see that even those efforts have only allowed me to score slightly below the average Canadian. In addition, even this score is still clearly unsatisfactory if humans plan to live on the planet for longer than the next twenty years . With the average Calgarian scoring more than two points higher than I do, and seven billion people on the planet, it is difficult to understand how we have not run out of resources already.
Weijermars’ article suggests many ways for each person to limit their carbon footprint in an effort to help the Earth sustain life, but also to help us live healthier and happier. For example, carpooling is not enough. Public transportation, which I use seldom, is a preferable option when available. Many people using one vehicle are preferable to two people using one vehicle. The article also suggests that plants be kept inside the home to increase oxygen and encourage healthier breathing and respiratory systems. Likewise, the article encourages readers to keep small gardens with vegetables or fruits that can be planted in rotation and grown as close to year-round as possible . Small gardens can help supplement other food sources and may not seem like a big deal, but can help cut down on deforestation, land expenses, driving, delivery, and many other services that the simple action of providing food can bring.
My greatest drains on the planet’s resources regarded shelter and services. I have not been as energy efficient as I believed, and due to my food intake and travel, I require many services from the planet. I understand now that sustainability means more than simply recycling my paper products and carpooling. I must consider the ripple effect to my actions. If I am wasteful with electricity, the electric company will clump me in with individuals who are wasteful with electricity. If enough of us are wasteful, eventually the electric company will need a new plant. This will require the clearing of land, building a new plant, loss of trees, and harmful chemicals to continuously be pumped into the air. Though I will not have been the primary cause of this, I will have helped. It is important for me to consider factors such as these when I consider whether to buy energy efficient lightbulbs or appliances, or whether it is worth getting up to turn off a lamp. Each action has a consequence, and as of now, the Earth’s sustainability is at a breaking point. Each action matters greatly and is a deciding factor in the planet’s future, as well as the population’s future.
In sum, my initial views on sustainability have not changed. I still believe everybody should do his or her part for the planet. I also still believe it is each person’s responsibility on behalf of the planet, themselves, and one another to help heal the planet. We are the ones who have damaged it so badly. However, I now see that sustainability is so much more than buying an energy efficient lightbulb or carpooling to work with a peer. We must consider the long-term impact our actions have, as well as the ripple effect they may create. Our carbon footprint does not just touch us, but everything surrounding that issue. Insufficient lighting effects electricity, which can effect deforestation, which can affect the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. We must take sustainability seriously, but on a grander scale than we have ever been able to realize, because what we are creating is a domino effect that we may never be able to reverse.
Weijermars, R. (2011). Can We Close Earth's Sustainability Gap? Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 4667-4672.
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