You may have heard people say that climate change isn’t that big of a deal; in fact, the climate is constantly changing. The last part of this is true. Over many millions of years, the climate does change, sometimes drastically. There are a few differences, though, between today’s change and the ones billions of years old.
One is that, before, with thriving ecosystems, there was lots of biodiversity, so there were more opportunities for life to evolve and continue. Two is the rate of change. Today the rate of change in our climate is ten times that than in previous events! You can see a graph of this on NASA here.
So what is causing this? There are so many things that come into play. It is good to know that the Earth is incredibly connected. It is sometimes even viewed as a living thing. So many different things come into play for its health.
Generating electricity may be the most widely used resource contributing to climate change. That, as well as transportation, has a major impact. The United States is one of the largest consumers of products that have a negative impact and has placed itself as one of the largest contributors to the warming climate and pollution. I would recommend you explore the graphs on this website. You can choose to view the graph as a chart, map, or table, and search by each country specifically if you’d like.
The meat and dairy industry is also a large contributor with a range of impacts. Pastures for these animals are one of the largest contributors to deforestation. The forests are not only homes to so much biodiversity, but they absorb carbon and are key to balancing our impact.
Naturally, animals produce carbon as we breathe. The earth is designed to sustain the amount of carbon that we produce as biological organisms. With all of the other sources we have created, however, it can’t keep up with the number of humans and the animals we have domesticated as food. These animals also consume a large amount of water and plant food.
Only 55% of the food grown in North America goes to people. The rest is fed to the animals we then eat. There are 9 billion people that need to eat every day. And we have about enough farmland to feed them. But 45% goes to the animals that provide far fewer nutrients for us. I’d recommend reading this interactive article by National Geographic about how to feed 9 billion people.
Humans are naturally omnivorous and eat a variety of foods including meat and a large amount of plant proteins. But if you think of true carnivorous animals like tigers, they only eat once every few days or even weeks. Foxes may eat meat daily, but they eat small rodents, and there are far fewer of them. No animal drinks the milk of another, especially a grown one. So it is so strange that now so many people rely on meat and dairy for food.
Often the animals are inappropriately housed and injected with a variety of chemicals to compensate. All of that gets into the parts of the animal you eat.
One of the best things you can do for your health and the health of the planet is just to reduce your meat and dairy intake to a few times a week or less. Eliminating meat and dairy from your diet doesn’t always mean healthy. That’s why “plant-based” is a better option. That means whole fresh veggies, fruits, grains, and legumes make up the majority of your diet. Processed foods are never healthy even if they are vegan.
Plastic is used in so many ways. And people use it so much. Fifty billion (yes with a b) plastic bottles are bought just in the United States. So much of the plastic we throw away ends up in the ocean, which is an important part of the planet for so many reasons, including the carbon absorbed by the phytoplankton.
Even if you do recycle, plastic can only be recycled so many times. And it doesn’t decompose. Most plastics break down into microplastics that often end up being consumed by animals, including us.
Unfortunately, this isn’t just stuff I’ve read online. I’ve been able to travel the United States since 2016, and have seen the meat and dairy farms, picked up trash on the beach, watched the slow disappearance of Lake Mead and Powell, and felt the heat rise just a bit every year.
The good news is that it’s not too late to balance our impact and live on a healthy planet. And you really can make an impact! Check out these stories, updated every month.
It doesn’t mean you have to go entirely vegan, plastic-free, and walk everywhere you go, either. The idea of “your carbon footprint” was pushed by the BP oil company to take the blame off of their impact.
Though there certainly is truth in being aware of your impact, there is only so much you can do when so many resources are based on something with a negative impact. Your political vote and where you invest your money can make a big impact on the future. Big companies often have the biggest impact, so you can consider your money as a vote and investment for the world you want to live in.
It’s not that difficult to reduce your impact, either. Here are some great resources that may open you up to a more sustainable world.
- Using reusable bags and water bottles are a super easy way to save a lot of plastic from landfills.
- When you use search platforms like Ecosia instead of Google, you can help plant trees with every search.
- EarthHero is like an Earth-healthy Amazon store, where you can track the overall impact of the product throughout its lifetime, all the way to where it decomposes.
- Using laundry detergent sheets is not only plastic-free, but so much easier to use, and takes up far less space than plastic bottles.
- It’s easy to use a lot of plastic dog bags – here is a compostable version (don’t be confused with the EarthRated bags, they are not actually compostable)
- Explore the Carbon Almanac and get emails from The Daily Difference to learn new ways to help.
- Log onto the EarthHero app (different from the website listed before) to track your impacts and find new ways to make a difference.
Just educating yourself and being aware of your impact is so important. And sharing what you’ve learned and acted on with others is a really great way to start.
The biggest way to make a difference is with collaboration. Share what you’ve learned and how you are supporting sustainability in the comments!
Sources: OurWorldInData, NASA, UnitedNations, NationalGeographic, NationalLibraryofMedicine, IAEA, Britannica