Human Impact on the Environment
Usually we hear the world “environment” in a negative context. Environment is the “damsel in distress” for humanity, it needs to be saved from pollution, ecological disasters and generally from the human impact on the environment. But if we take the basic definition – the environment is just everything that surrounds us.
Despite our major responsibility for everything that happens with natural environment and full responsibility for what happens with social environment, the environment in general is not only a bunch of problems we created and need to fix now. It is a complex system that we have to live in.
The nature that surrounds us is, obviously, the natural environment. We are used to think about it as about a fragile system with lots of interconnections that can easily be ruined by human impact on the environment. But, as any other system created by nature (including our own body and brain), natural environment is much more durable than we think.
As our body can regenerate and our brain can rebuild the broken neuron paths through delegating the functions of the injured part to the other areas, natural environment renews itself, adjusting to the new conditions like ice ages or changing the axis of the Earth. The real trouble is just in the time it needs to regenerate. Usually the global changes take centuries to occur – it is very fast on geological scale, but enough for the living and flexible part of the world to change accordingly.
But human impact on the environment takes decades instead of centuries to change the world around and the changes become more and more fast and drastic. It is like giving our body mere hours to heal the previous wounds before inflicting new ones or taking the native African to the Arctica to live.
Humanity thinks too much of itself, claiming that it can destroy the Earth. As George Carlin once said: “the planet is fine, the people are [in trouble]”. The Earth and its ecosystem have survived the explosion of supernova nearby that caused the first great extinction of the ocean life, the Permian extinction that wiped out more than ninety percent of the species inhabiting the Earth at that time and, of course, the Jurassic catastrophe, when life again had to start everything anew. What people really should care about is for destroying the natural environment that is best suitable for them.
From the very beginning of the civilization humans started to create environment that is beneficial for them. Houses are artificial caves, crops are artificial lanes with edible plants and animal farms are the source of easy prey and a substitute for hunting. Every person in environment created artificially can feel relatively safer than in natural environment. All the development of the infrastructure has the one and only goal – to make places for human living more comfortable.
After fulfilling the basic needs of being fed and having a place to live, humans started to create social environment – the places to communicate, to have fun, to conduct rituals that are important for the society. The thousands of years of human history were almost unnoticed for the planet on global scale, because everything was built from the easily recycling materials.
Almost everything done by our ancestors except glass and metal items was as fine for ecosystem as rocks, sand and rotten organic remains, the amount of pollution caused by human impact on the environment could be easily neglected. Surely, humanity hastened the extinction of some species people hunted, but, if we look at these events from the scope of the planetary ecosystem, this loss wasn’t essential for survival.
The troubles started with the industrial revolution, when the factories started producing plastic and other substances based on oil. The common trait of these substances is that they either do not degrade naturally or take centuries to disappear completely. They can’t be used by the wildlife and just stay where they are, taking space from the natural materials.
While the quantity of people of the planet grew, the demand for everything, naturally, grew accordingly. People got used to the level of comfort they had and they needed more and more materials to create environment they can feel the same comfort while growing in numbers. To get these materials now people have the two easiest options: to increase the usage of the natural materials, like wood, or to create more complicated and cheap artificial materials disregarding their impact on natural environment.
Surely, the humanity is now thinking heavily about taking the third option: green energy, using the asteroids as source of valuable materials and clear water, biodegradable materials, renewing the organic materials taken from the ecosystem – but, as we stated before, the trouble isn’t in finding the solution. The real issue is that humanity shall find the solution before it wipes itself from the face of the Earth, shooting itself in the leg.
One of the perfect solution would be slowing down the production of goods. There is already too much of everything that is made all over the world. Moreover, the items are made deliberately to be almost unrepairable. The big companies want to make sure that they will have the steady income from their own service centers and stores that will sell the new things to substitute broken ones. Fifty years ago almost everyone who had a car knew how to disassemble that car, fix it and assemble it back.
The same thing was true for almost every piece of furniture and every technical device people had at home. The technics was rare and valuable, so it was worth repairing. Now the technics is so widespread and easy to break that people prefer to spend their time for earning money to buy the new item, not to learn the instruction and repair the used one. Moreover, the consumerism dictates the increasing demand: when SomePhone X+1 is released, SomePhone X automatically turns into trash.
It is natural to buy the cheapest product, but usually, in developing countries where the factories are situated, the ecological safety is the first thing in the list that can be omitted to lower the price of production. The ecological laws and regulations in such countries are deliberately allowing the pollution to get more orders from the customers abroad. But polluting the countries from the other side of the globe doesn’t mean we are safe. It only means we will be the last to be poisoned.
When you return home, try to count how many useless things you have around. Maybe the shirt or the dress that was worn just once? Or the pile of the broken cellphones you don’t know what to do with? Headphones that you are going to repair “later” for more than a year? We’re pretty sure that everyone of us will find lots and lots of such things. It doesn’t mean we all are bad. It means only that we didn’t think about it before and just did what everyone else did, or what the advertisement told us to be the easiest and the most comfortable thing to do.
Everything that humanity needs to create civilization that is friendly to the current natural environment requires thinking. It doesn’t mean reducing the level of comfort – just thinking, paying more attention to daily activities and self-educating. To reduce the destructive human impact on the environment humanity just needs to slow down.
Slow the reproducing rates and production rates. Care more about the already existing children who need to be raised in decent conditions instead of making lots of brand new. Re-learn to repair technics you have, sort the trash, use green energy (or make your local authorities use it) and think about the things that we use in our daily life, not taking the first we see from the store shelf.
Thinking about preserving the natural environment suitable for us doesn’t turn us into zealous vegan hippies in the worst meaning of these words. It just makes us all a bit more thoughtful about what we do, a bit more aware of our daily lives. There are plenty of examples of people and whole families who do this on their daily basis and they don’t lose any comfort of their life.
At least no more than those who go jogging instead of sleeping a half of an hour more. Caring about the environment is not caring about the abstract planet – it is caring about your own home, your own well-being and the well-being of your future descendants. So doing it is equally important to cleaning your house or keeping your body fit and healthy.