I’m not an activist for the environment. I don’t volunteer at environment organizations, and I’m not an environmental speaker. And yet, you don’t have to be Greta Thunberg to realize that we’re taking the path to the wrong future.
I remember playing Anno 2070 a few years back. One of the main features of the game was that when you build factories and such, you lower the environmental health of the island you were managing.
The island changed to reflect the score. It seemed to grow darker, the overall population happiness was low, and crops would take a penalty to production.
And you know what? That isn’t so much different than reality! I mean, if the bees were extinct than crops would surely take a penalty. Also, environmental anxiety — called Eco-Anxiety — is a thing now that affects people’s mental wellbeing around the world.
Anno 2070 depicts a future where we didn’t manage to stop pollution from making an irrevocable damage to the earth and that’s why people live in small islands.
Let’s explore the three main threats to environmental health we face today.
The Bees Are In Danger
The bee was declared the most important living being on the planet, and for a good reason.
Without bees who transfer pollen from flower to flower, many fruits wouldn’t exist.
What’s the reason they’re dying out? Well, the article above mentions these reasons:
“The uncontrolled use of pesticides, deforestation or lack of flowers are the main reasons for their extinction.”
Guess what? We keep cutting down trees and use pesticides every day. So, whether you like it or not, we’re moving closer to the bees’ extinction.
Are we going to use science to strengthen their genes in some way, perhaps? Do we plan on finding some other bug to carry pollen for us? Well, no one presented a solution so far.
But let’s dig deeper into what will happen when we lose the bees. The BBC made a fascinating video about that. Here’s what they have to say in the article around the video:
“We may lose all the plants that bees pollinate, all of the animals that eat those plants and so on up the food chain. Which means a world without bees could struggle to sustain the global human population of 7 billion. Our supermarkets would have half the amount of fruit and vegetables.”
The bees are perhaps the most significant loss we’re about to face, but it is only a symptom of the much larger problem of excessive deforestation.
We’re Cutting Down Too Many Trees
I never understood why we use wood for paper. It’s not a bold claim to say that the Amazon Forest is the lung of the world. Trees have a fundamental function. They take Carbon Dioxide and Water and turn it into Glucose for their metabolism and Oxygen (as a by-product).
An article explored how much oxygen trees make and how much humans use. The answer is surprising:
“A human breathes about 9.5 tonnes of air in a year, but oxygen only makes up about 23 percent of that air, by mass, and we only extract a little over a third of the oxygen from each breath. That works out to a total of about 740kg of oxygen per year. Which is, very roughly, seven or eight trees’ worth.”
We cut down roughly 12 billion trees each year, and hundreds of thousands of babies are born each day across the globe. Our Oxygen requirements only continue to rise, and the trees to replenish it keep dropping.
And if today we have what, 8 billion people on earth? This population meter is pretty grim to look at because it shows deaths, too, and they happen every second. Let that sink in for a second.
Anyway, we need to multiply the human population by eight just to replenish the oxygen we consume. That’s around 64 billion trees. Fortunately, a study in 2015 showed that we have over 3 trillion trees on earth. But that’s no reason to think the problem will go on its own.
Here are some wood uses that we could probably improve or replace:
- Paper — we could recycle more paper. We could try to use other resources for it too. I mean, how about something we’re not in danger of depleting like algae? Better yet, instead of growing hamburgers in a lab, why not grow wood for paper? Burgers in a lab are supposed to be for mass consumption, so the technology exists. We just have to use it to free the forests too.
- Housing — Woodhouses are susceptible to fire as California painfully knows. The United States alone cuts down so many trees for shelter each year while Europe and the middle east incorporate stone in the making of houses. Now, stone houses are not better off for the environment, too, but perhaps some compromise between the two could be found?
- Fuel and Electricity — Fossil fuels and gas are two other types of fuels that are also depleting, but before those came into everyday use, wood was the primary fuel source.
Those are only three examples, and if you search the internet, you’ll see many more. And you know what? The globe is getting hotter every day since our CO2 keeps blocking the sun’s rays from leaving, and I think that more than everything, it’s the sun’s way of telling us, “hey, I’ll be here long after you die. Why not use the energy I can provide? I’m not depleting anytime soon. When I do, You’ll already die.”
Solar Energy is the cleanest form of energy we can harness. And If every residential building could incorporate solar panels into its construction, then our energy consumption from fossil fuels would have been lowered dramatically. Why don’t we do it? Well, It’s not profitable, and the weather is an issue. But if I were trying to solve the problem, I would put solar panels everywhere I could. Nevada is an excellent example of a place where clouds are rarely an issue.
A few years ago, a fantastic project called Solar Roadways was born and created solar panels for some parking lots and roads. If the governments of the world believed in clean energy, why don’t they fund this research? If solar panels covered the entire pavements of the United States, there wouldn’t be a need for power plants.
Stop Using wood and fossil fuels — invest in harnessing the sun’s energy instead.
The Oceans Are Dying
During 2018, I supported a group called 4Ocean. As of writing these words, they pulled out of the ocean almost 7 million pounds of trash. They are doing an excellent job of personifying the problem of sea pollution and making people engaged.
They offered a bracelet for each month’s support. I loved it! Each month I would get a bracelet (made from the materials brought out of the ocean) in a different color and would get a thank you card that explains how I helped save the planet. I still keep them; I just don’t have enough money to continue supporting new bracelets.
The oceans’ pollution has opened a significant avenue of research on tools to clean the ocean, but I think that is only taking care of the symptom of the problem and not the problem itself — we need to use more perishable materials. Plastic is the bane of the ocean, but it surely does make our lives much more comfortable.
You, the reader, probably have a plastic bottle in your vicinity right now. Look around you. Is it water? Maybe a Soda brand? We didn’t find an excellent solution to perish plastic yet. There is promising research going on, but it would probably take a while to come to fruition and mass production.
Until we can find a solution, why not be active about recycling bottles? Most of them could be reusable. Better yet, have a personal bottle that goes with you everywhere and has a filter that cleans tap water.
Think about all the water bottles that will save. Let’s say at least one bottle every day? That’s 365 bottles per year. Multiply that by a million people doing the same as you, and you have 365 million plastic bottles of water not thrown into the ocean each year! Incredible right? That result is just from replacing the use of one-time plastic water bottles every day.
The Future Is Grim And Entirely In Your Hands
These are only the three most prominent examples of how we ruin the planet every day, and if we didn’t stop, it would have serious repercussions. As much as I love Anno 2070, I don’t want to play it in real life.
Lots of animals will die both in the ocean and on land if we don’t clean the ocean and control deforestation. Lots of humans will die as a result, too.
Also, a world without bees is a world without honey. Are you prepared for that?
Overall, this situation is entirely in our hands. Excessive use of metal and glass may be less deadly for the oceans than plastic. It’s still not perfect, but perhaps next time you order pizza, order it with a glass bottle or a metal can of pop.
Also, power plants make electricity by demand. Perhaps try to lower your power consumption. Don’t leave the A/C all day every day. Maybe practice cold showers in the summer. Maybe add a solar panel and charge your tablets and phone from that instead of the wall.
There are lots of small changes to do, even without government intervention. You are the end-user. Your actions determine the shape of the world.
You know what they say, be the change you want to see in the world.