We all know that we should take care of our environment. Unfortunately, we seem to have a problem with that. Often it is our habits, in many cases convenience and greed, that have a negative effect on the environment. And it’s so easy to forget. At some point, we start ignoring that taking care of the environment is important. And then it becomes routine. But fortunately, humans can think and there is hope that we are able to change our habits. Because it’s absolutely necessary.
If we consume too many things, we exploit our natural resources. And natural resources are limited. There are studies that have found that we actually need twice the resources of our planet to maintain our current level of consumption. Every year, the organization “Global Overshoot Day” calculates the day on which we have used up all the resources that nature is able to (re-)produce in a full year. Their calculation includes an assessment of the amount of greenhouse gases the world’s natural systems can absorb, without causing permanent damage. In recent years, this day has continuously moved backwards in the calendar. In 2015 it was August 13. For the rest of the year we have been living beyond our natural limits. Since we only have one world, we cannot take more than nature can provide us with. Resource conservation is therefore very important and it needs to guide us in our purchasing decisions. We should consume only as much as we really need, purchasing only what we can really use.
We also have to make sure that the things we buy are being produced in a manner that causes as little environemental degradation as possible. Greenhouse gases (eg CO2), massively emitted in the process of manufacturing our goods and through transport, speed up climate change, which will have negative implications for all humans. It causes the sea level to rise significantly and large land masses will be flooded permanently. In some parts of the world there will be stronger storms and more rain, while other parts of the world will dry out and will no longer be suitable for growing the food we need. The oceans will acidify and fish species and other marine species will become extinct. Furthermore, pollution of the air, the land and the water is extremely dangerous for us humans. And the environment is already overburdened. Even in Europe. Although we have the best environmental standards in the world, it is still not enough to adequately protect the environment. And we, the consumers, play a major role in this context: Over-pollution happens only because we want to consume an excessive amount of food, various goods, electricity and fuel. We should significantly reduce our total consumption, while at the same time reducing the amount of unsustainable products and increasing the amount of goods that are environmentally sutainable, in their use and in the methods used for producing them.
The preservation of animal and plant species is important as well, even if we do not appreciate their existence. Perhaps we don’t think it’s important if certain species of butterflies, bees and frogs become extinct in the process of ever-increasing economic growth. We should, however, be aware of the fact that nature, in the form we know is good for us, depends on its biodiversity. Biodiversity is important for the entire natural system (ecosystem). This system is very fragile and we need to protect it, so that it may remain good for us. Even small changes can cause the entire system to stop functioning properly. Hence, we need to accept that protecting all species matters, even if this means that we need to cut back on our convenience and greed based consumerism.
Our increasing use of disposable goods also give cause for concern. Disposable goods end up in landfills after single use. Landfills harm the environment. And the production of these goods has already consumed natural resources and polluted the environment. Do we really need “coffee to go” in paper cups when there are plenty of nice reusable cup models that we can? And with every purchase a new plastic bag? Can’t we switch to cloth bags we can use for many years? And what about clothes? Why do we need clothes that we only wear once? There are so many habits we can change, without it becoming unreasonable for us. The time to change is now.