I am by no means your stereotypical environmentalist – I eat meat, don’t recycle as much as I should, have never protested at Faslane, loathe the small of patchouli etc. but it’s clear to me, and it should be clear to everyone that environmental issues are not some abstract, indulgent thing to be concerned about.
From the scientific consensus that the planet is warming and it’s down to human influence (for more information, this is a good place to start) to reports that in the last 40 years, our planet has lost 50% of it’s living creatures, the case that we need to make drastic changes to how humanity is affecting our planet is only growing stronger, to the point of being incontrovertible by any but the most head-in-the-sand/vested interest climate change denier.
We simply cannot continue to regard the environment as ‘tomorrow’s problem’ and allow immediate profits and challenges to push hard decisions regarding it. We need to invest in renewable energy BEFORE fossil fuels run out while also attempting to reduce the demand for fossil fuels and hence emissions via managing consumption.
The ever more desperate means undertaken to obtain fossil fuels are both an environmental and economic concern. For example, hydrauclic fracturing (fracking) processes seeking shale gas have been shown to cause seismic instability and water pollution, while also being very expensive to develop – only coming to fruition in recent years due to massive public investment in the form of subsidies*.
Similar concerns surround the prospect of far continental shelf drilling for oil, as the rigs get further out, having to drill deeper etc. the cost rises exponentially, as does the risk of major accidents. In the current climate of dropping oil prices, this is both economically unviable and environmentally unacceptable.
* Yeah, ever noticed how folks who argue against renewable energy always bring up the fact that it’s not yet profitable and relies on subsidies, while completely ignoring the fact that fossil fuel concerns soak up far more public money than renewables ever have?
One thing that brought this home was this recent interactive from the BBC which details how Earth has changed in our lifetimes. Packed aside some fascinating factoids about how far you’ve flown through space , how many solar eclipses or volcanic eruptions there have been since you first drew breath, there are also sobering references to rising sea levels, increases in global temperature, more species on the endangered list, the ever increasing power demands, human population, holes in the ozone layer and the reducing amount of forest cover in the world.
You don’t have to be a tree hugging, wiccan hippy singing ‘Kumbaya’ to the woodland creatures to appreciate that our planet is a closed system who’s resources we are consuming at an excessive rate, who’s ability to regenerate we are poisoning and who’s diversity and indeed, future we are jeopardising.
Even if you look at all this from a purely profit based standpoint, you have to realize that the market is crashing, full of diminishing returns with vanishing long term viability.
Dealing with environmental concerns – lowering emissions, financing renewables instead of squeezing the last, desperately expensive (in so many ways) fossil fuels out of the ground and changing how we handle energy demand, the whole idea of recycling and waste, transport, manufacturing and everything in between – should be a priority for everyone, not something which is denied, laughed at and sidelined.
The planet is not a disposable consumer item, we need to stop treating it like it is.