Oh Crap, It’s Earth Day
Ask any non-quack climatologist what’s happening with the planet and he or she will say more or less the same thing: it is experiencing climatic shifts that will likely rain down a shit-storm of nasty consequences: melting glaciers leading to elevated sea levels that will destroy most of the world’s major cities, desertification and fires that will prompt starvation and waves of climate migrations, mass-extinctions of flora and fauna that will shut down ecosystems and so forth. The same non-quack climatologist will also tell you what’s causing these climatic shifts: “anthropogenic drivers”–a fancy way of saying human behavior. Massive output of greenhouses gases–byproducts of the myriad systems that support the modern world–are getting trapped in the atmosphere, capturing heat and setting about aforementioned climate wonkiness. These are, for non-quack-science-subscribing individuals, facts.
Responding to these facts with ameliorative solutions will undoubtedly require geopolitics. But it seems unlikely geopolitical solutions will be implemented before there is a widespread behavioral and (forgive the term) spiritual shift on the individual level. Until every one of us understands how our behavior relates to, and has the power to destroy, the planet’s homeostatic mechanisms, the likelihood that politicians and corporate leaders will take action–folks who often have incentive to not take action–is slim, or at best insufficient to address the magnitude of the problem.
All this is to say that while there are many selfish reasons to follow our prescription for personal behavioral change that benefits the environment, it shouldn’t be forgotten that there is also a global, environmental imperative to do so. Big homes are disproportionately resource intensive and have bigger energy needs relative to small ones; moving to a higher density area that is walkable/bikeable/public transit friendly is perhaps the best way to reduce our carbon footprint; and curbing our consumption habits is a close second. The implications of these things, for many of us, will require behavioral shifts that are not necessarily familiar and many that are downright uncomfortable. Oh well. Such is life. Happy Earth Day!
Sunlight in trees image via Shutterstock