Time to green up now

"In planetary terms, we are all downstream," said authors William McDonough and Michael Braungart in their green manifesto, "Cradle to Cradle." Their book reveals the closed-loop nature of our delicate planetary system and cites trash as merely one example of our interconnectedness. There is no "away" to throw things to, really, and that is at least one reason to be concerned about "going green." We may not see where our trash goes, but others do, and the world feels our impact.

That’s not the only problem. Not only does the combustion of fossil fuels pollute our habitat, but obtaining them comes at a great cost. Mountaintop removal – the blowing up of a mountain to get a few blocks of coal- is just one among the many violent ways we retrieve our energy.

Nevertheless, it is important for us to step up and recognize that the way we are treating our planet is not only harming it immensely, but has humanitarian impacts as well.

So, what exactly does "going green" mean? Will it really solve all our problems? Does it mean we all have to stop driving cars, become vegetarians or vegans and sit around in the dark tomorrow? Yes and no. "Going green" is not simply an environmental issue, and it’s not just a catchy phrase tree huggers use to promote their agenda of saving forests, streams and animals. Environmentalism is about much more than the environment; it’s about loving people.

Environmentalism as a movement has origins reaching back to Benjamin Franklin in the late 1730s. The Industrial Revolution introduced the environment to contamination and pollution from fresh new factories and innovative new ways of producing things at a rate faster and more efficient than ever before.

In the 1800s, John Muir and Henry David Thoreau voiced concerns about protecting natural resources in the West. Yet, during the 19th century, wildlife began feeling the hit. The Passenger Pigeon went from being one of the most common birds in the world to extinct as a result of habitat loss. Their meat was used as cheap food for slaves and the poor.

The 20th century saw an increased focus on endangered species, the creation of the National Park Service as well as the questioning of the use of pesticides and other chemicals. The ensuing public concern led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 as well as a plethora of environmentally friendly organizations.

However, the mid 1970s saw people panic over the verge of an environmental collapse. It’s evident the green movement has always been, at least in part, about people.

The global warming debate has now switched from, "if it’s happening," to, "how it’s happening." According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the United States is the largest source of global warming pollution in the world. This needs to stop.

The United States is responsible for consuming 30 percent of the world’s resources, which is far more than our share, filmmaker Ann Leonard said. Leonard explains the destruction behind consumerism and the damage our throwaway society is causing in her short film "The Story of Stuff," found on her Web site (http://storyofstuff.com).

When we destroy our earth, the poor are the most deeply affected. The United States and other countries move their dirty factories to pollute poorer nations and take advantage of cheap labor. Trash is shipped to landfills in areas less economically useful to us. Other nations’ forests are cut down for our paper. Essentially, we commit environmental racism. Most situations of dire poverty and starvation have environmental components to them because there really is no "away" to throw things.

If we continue down this road, author Tony Campolo in his book "How to Save the Earth Without Worshipping Nature" explains, we will see the decimation of a continent in our lifetime. The Sahara Desert is spreading two miles south every year because the Amazon Rainforest, which used to create the moisture in the air that eventually rained down on Africa, is being cut down for cattle grazing fields. Japan, Germany and the United States cannot support the amount of beef demanded in their own countries.

Essentially, we only need to imagine the worst case scenario in each of the areas affected by environmental degradation to know what it will be like if we continue in our ways – water shortages, droughts, famine, starvation, endangered species, global warming.

Like in the 1970s, we find ourselves again fearing an ecological disaster. However, there are things we can do. Are you ready to help save your planet?

Stay tuned for more on "going green."

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Title: Time to green up now | Author: Megan Risley | Section: Opinions | Published Date: 2009-04-29 | Internal ID: 110