Essay: Thinking about environmental issues — how can we help?
More and more people have been talking about it lately; in recent news, Leonardo DiCaprio won an Oscar and as we all awaited his acceptance speech, I don’t think any of us expected what came next. DiCaprio, in his speech, mentioned how important it is for us to start being more environmentally conscious. It was great of him to use his fame to be an advocate for the environment. Senator Bernie Sanders has also been using environmental awareness in his presidential campaign.
So why should you, as a citizen of Rochester, care? We only have one planet and we get so much support from it. It is our duty to care for the environment and take care of it because it takes care of us. We don’t have to do anything huge like inventing a way to clean oceans or anything (a 21-year old kid already did that) but it’s the little everyday things you can do.
We can ride our bikes, walk, or carpool more often to lower our general carbon emissions. The country of Bhutan is carbon negative; this means that the amount of carbon that Bhutan emits is absorbed by all of their trees. They have set the parameters for an incredible goal for us and it all starts with you.
But we can’t leave this up to just a few people. For it to work, EVERYONE has to get involved and do their part. Rochester already has a great goal to help combat some environmental issues. In October 2015, Mayor Ardell Brede stated that Rochester will use 100 percent sustainable energy by the year 2031. This will mostly consist of solar energy and will minimize our carbon emissions.
Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that contributes to the overall global climate change. Methane is another greenhouse gas that does the same thing. In the U.S, cattle are the main producers of this gas. Be more food conscious and eat less red meat; your body only needs the nutrients from 3 ounces of red meat each month. If we’re all reducing our red meat intake, then the number of cows we need to raise will go down, along with our methane contributions. This is a tough compromise because it sounds like we’re getting rid of jobs in the agriculture industry. We could actually be creating jobs by switching over from large scale agriculture to animal husbandry. We could raise less cattle, but use more sanitary and humane practices. This would both expand the job market and reduce the cattle population.
I realize that this is a tough situation and being the capitalist society that we are these are high demands to meet. It would be a slow process that would have to be implemented little by little, but I strongly believe these are changes that need to be made if we want to have a thriving future.
Water is another big environmental issue that we should be aware of. We have a depleting water supply. States all over the U.S are experiencing longer times of drought. Reducing the amount of water we use to raise livestock would help this issue tremendously. It takes an average of 4,000 gallons of water to raise 1 pound of beef. And sure you can save 2 to 3 gallons of water by shortening your showers, but eliminating beef from your diet can save an average of 1000 gallons each day. Even eating less beef will help conserve water.
I have given a few examples of little everyday things that can be done to be more environmentally conscious, but really the most important thing you can do is educate yourself on the situation. Educate yourself then educate others. Start a climate change book club like a group of people in Stillwater has done. Or pick a different topic that speaks to you and learn about it with a friend maybe you’ll become the inventor of something awesome that helps the environment.
One more thing before I go and this one is so important: Tell your children. Our children and grandchildren are the ones who will continue to take care of this earth when we are gone. We need to educate our children and raise environmentally conscious kids that will grow up and have a hunger for environmental change. I think Dr. Seuss said it best when he said “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.” That line is from his book The Lorax which is a children’s book that outlines the importance of trees for a healthy environment.
Earth day is Friday, April 22nd. Grab your kids and check out the EarthFest activities here in Rochester!
Autumn Johnson is a vegetarian, puppy enthusiast, environmental health student and health sciences major at University of Minnesota Rochester.
(Cover graphic: The Med City Beat)