As a society, we must become increasingly concerned about the weather, the environment, our planet, and the sustainability that remains on Earth. On Christmas Day here in Snellville, Georgia in the United States, the outside high temperature at my home was 76.5 degrees Fahrenheit. While it was wonderful to enjoy such balmy weather in the winter, we must be reminded that such a temperature is off the chart for this time of year! Such high temperatures in winter are definitely disturbing and unsettling. The expected temperature in my area for this time of year is likely between 35 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit, so the 76.5 that was reached recently is definite cause for concern.
During the last week of December 2015, it was so warm at my home that I had windows open and the heat was off. My heat was off for the entire week – in the last week of December! Rather than turn on the air conditioning – which I simply was unable to bring myself to do – I believed it a better alternative to allow the outside air to flow through the house by opening some windows. I’m not sure that Mother Nature knows what is going on either; she definitely appears to be confused!
This brings me to the causes of such wild weather. If we look back even 100 or 150 years ago, we will see a more substantial amount of forest coverage on Earth. Last year, my son completed a project about international deforestation, and the information he gathered was shocking! The Amazon rain forest, as well as old growth forests in Columbia, Canada, the United States, and other countries continue to disappear at alarmingly rapid rates. When I think of the absence of all of those trees, I also think about the decrease in oxygen produced for our consumption, and the increase in carbon dioxide that also contributes to higher air temperatures and the greenhouse effect.
Pollution and acid rain are other factors that negatively affect our environment, increasing air temperatures and damaging or killing trees, respectively. The United States is a country that has implemented and done much to enforce laws to decrease pollution being cast into the environment. While more could be done here, it is already more than what is being done in many other highly populated countries around the globe. In places such as China, Russia, India, Mexico, and other countries, I wonder what, if any, laws regulating pollution exist or which may be enforced at all?
About 25 years ago, I first visited Eastern and Western Europe, studying in Poland for part of one summer. I recall that the smog and pollution in Warsaw, Poland hung over the city like a large black cloud. When I first saw it, I thought it unusual that a rain cloud appeared so low over the ground, and concentrated and immobilized directly over the city. In the next moment, I realized that it was all of the pollution in the air. It was incredible!
While washing my hair in the shower in my dorm at Krakow, Poland, it was as if brown dye was coming off of my hair – and I have never dyed my hair! It was sickening to see and realize the great amount of pollution in which the people in Poland lived. While I stayed in Poland, I made sure to drink imported, bottled spring water, and to occasionally wash the dirt and grime out of my hair with it, as well. It is no wonder all of the people who had cancer, miscarriages, and other medical conditions in Poland when they are breathing polluted air, and cooking with and drinking polluted water. It was definitely angering and saddening to think that I could do nothing about it to help those people.
Further, this brings us to sustainability. How many more resources remain on Earth to sustain people, plants, animals, and to maintain a healthy and safe environment for all into the future? It is quite possible that Earth is already beyond it’s carrying capacity. With average yearly temperatures continuing to increase, the Polar ice caps melting, vast forests disappearing, pollution continuing to devastate the environment, further expansion of the holes in the ozone layer, huge oil spills in the oceans, what will be left, not only for us, but for our future generations? Will there be future generations that will be able to adequately function and survive on Earth?
We, as a people, have contributed to the destruction of our planet. We are destroying our beautiful habitat. So much more must be done to save our planet, but I wonder if it may already be too late? We all have to do our part. Sometimes, we may wonder how much one person can do, however I believe it is important to do whatever possible. One person can recycle as much of their waste as possible – plastics, metals, glass, paper, cardboard. One person can use less electricity, natural gas, and gasoline. One person can wear a sweater or use a wool blanket rather than cranking up the heat another notch or two. One person can take fewer and more economical trips driving a vehicle, combining all errands into one trip rather than several on different days.
Certainly, I do not have the power to enforce laws that regulate pollution or that protect our environment, especially when it comes to big companies. However, I am one who can say that I have done my part, that I have done as much as possible to preserve the environment, and to teach and encourage others to do the same. I can encourage children and adults to have an appreciation for the outdoors, to learn about the environment, and to be aware of ways to save and protect it. I can take responsibility for reducing the pollution and energy use that I cause, and to oversee the recycling efforts of my family.
I have to believe that one person can make a difference, even if it is a small difference. And, I am a person who lives to make whatever positive difference that I can, not only for myself, but for others, as well. How will you make a positive difference for our environment, for future generations? What will you do? Whatever you will do, do it now, before it’s too late!