2020 has been a difficult year for humanity in general, but it’s important not to overlook the natural world, which has suffered greatly as well. From South America to the Western U.S. and beyond, fires continue to rage, and forests are burning at an unprecedented rate. In August, a temperature of 130 degrees Fahrenheit was recorded in California’s Death Valley, near the aptly named Furnace Creek.
Upon verification, that remarkable reading will reign as the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth. Clearly, we can no longer afford to ignore the continued impact of climate change. Humanity has caused so much damage, however, that it will take a global effort if we have any hope of getting the Earth back on track.
Even then, the planetary healing process could take years or even centuries. Patience and persistence are key at this time. And time is of the essence: We must act now, and make subtle (as well as some not-so-subtle) changes to stop climate change in its tracks, and effectively change the world.
What’s at Stake
According to experts at NASA, a two-tier approach provides the best hope in regards to curbing the effects of climate change. First, we must drastically reduce the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere, a lofty task which will likely involve intervention at the governmental and/or societal levels.
The good news is that a global push towards sustainability is happening, albeit far too slowly to make much impact. In Europe, climate change is a growing concern among citizens, who are supporting the Parliamentary Green party and various environmental initiatives in record numbers. Elsewhere, U.S. scientists are seeking alternative and sustainable ways to safeguard freshwater supplies, such as the use of Weir boxes to monitor dam health.
Preserving our water supply is crucial in the wake of 2020’s unprecedented fire season. It is just one of the many steps we must take, the bulk of which starts at the individual level.
Implementing Small-Scale Changes at Home
Although it seems relatively innocuous on the surface, the second half of NASA’s approach to climate change may prove even more challenging than reducing global emissions. Responding to climate change will also require us to adapt — that is, to learn how to live with the planetary changes directly caused by the actions of humans.
In many ways, much of modern life is defined by climate change and other environmental concerns, and we have adapted over the years. The act of recycling household waste, for instance, has grown from relative obscurity into the mainstream, in part as a response to climate change. Today, the recycling process is more advanced than ever, encompassing every imaginable material and product.
Electronic waste (e-waste) is particularly troubling from an environmental standpoint. The metals and chemicals present in e-waste can harm wildlife and natural spaces if not disposed of properly. And the unfortunate reality is that less than 13% of e-waste in the U.S. is actually recycled, a negligible amount when you factor in the approximately 152 million cell phones discarded annually.
Environmentalism and Society
The issue of e-waste stands out as an example of how our personal choices can impact society overall. The more people who recycle, and are mindful of such factors as e-waste, water conservation, and emissions levels, the more we can expect to see widespread policy changes. One of the biggest changes to be made to clean up the planet involves how we get around.
Commuters are responsible for an exorbitant amount of greenhouse gas emissions: In fact, the transportation sector is responsible for one-quarter of the world’s CO2 emissions. According to the BBC, the bulk of those emissions is created by personal vehicles, including passenger cars, trucks, and motorcycles.
If daily commuters simply made the switch to a greener alternative, such as an electric vehicle, we could all breathe a little easier while improving the health of the Earth. Fortunately, some signs indicate a shift in sustainable transportation. According to some estimates, 30% of personal vehicles on U.S. roads will be electric by 2030. As a result, we can expect fewer emissions to clog up the skies, in the form of low-maintenance vehicles with a long lifespan potential, further reducing landfill waste.
It has become somewhat of a cliché, but the reality is that Earth remains the only place we call home. After years of neglect, our planet is in dire need of a health elixir of sorts, in the form of advocacy and adaptation. Whether in the form of environmental movements, policy changes, or mindful habits, it is up to individuals and communities alike to become more active stewards of the Earth, for the future of both the planet and humanity itself.