“LIVING FOR THE FUTURE”
THE IDEA OF SUSTAINABILITY
|In 1970, the international symbol for recycling was designed by Gary Anderson, a college student who won an environmental awareness contest sponsored by the Chicago-based Container Corporation of America.
Credit: Image by Krdan, courtesy of Wikipedia.
Sustainability has been described as “the capacity to endure.” This is a big question, what human population levels and overall level of resource use will our fragile planet be able to endure? It is becoming apparent to many scientists and world leaders that the human species is living beyond its income. We cannot sustain the rate at which we consume fossil fuels. Sustainability would include population control, alternative energy sources, the preservation of important natural resources such as forests and wetlands, maintaining natural ecosystems of plants and animals, the reuse and recycling of the resources that we use, reversing the enormous extinction rates occurring today (estimated to be thousands of times greater than the average over the course of the evolution of life), constructing energy-efficient buildings made of ecologically friendly materials, and consuming local rather than imported foods.
The overall impact on the environment around us –gauged for an individual, a group, an event, or a product – is often measured in terms of the “carbon footprint” that it makes. The carbon footprint is the sum total of greenhouse gases (especially carbon dioxide) brought about by that entity – this includes emissions in the course of moving things (for instance, our foods) and people around, in our use of land for buildings or food production (including effects of deforestation), in the manufacture of materials and products, in our choice of energy sources, and so on. A central focus of efforts to develop a world life style that can continue long into the future (be sustained), without degrading our atmosphere and depleting nonrenewable resources, is on reducing the carbon footprint that we humans are making on the Earth. This is especially important for industrialized countries with the largest carbon footprints, but ultimately the impacts of taking action or not will impact everyone.
Here are some of the suggestions that have been forwarded to allow you to practice a more sustainable lifestyle:
1. Use mass transit (buses, subways).
2. Buy energy-efficient vehicles, such as electric cars and hybrids.
3. Have an energy study done of your house, improve on insulation and window/door sealings.
4. Turn your house thermostat down a few degrees in the winter, up a few in the summer.
5. Use energy-efficient lighting, such as compact fluorescent lights.
6. Recycle (glass, metal, paper, plastic, etc.)
7. Explore alternative forms of energy (solar, wind, geothermal, etc.)
8. Have your own reusable and washable shopping bags.
9. Support your community by shopping locally.
10. Eat local foods, and grow many of your own.
11. Avoid consuming endangered species (e.g. a number of seafoods) or other foods that are harvested or processed in non-sustainable ways.
12. Reduce waste (compost vegetables you do not eat, recycle, avoid paper plates and Styrofoam cups, etc.)
13. Use rechargeable batteries when possible
14. Wash your clothes in cold water, with a cold-water detergent
15. Reduce water use with low flow shower heads, smaller-tank toilets, etc.
16. Volunteer in your community for sustainable projects
WHY SHOULD I CARE?
We are talking about your future, and the future of your children and grandchildren. And the future of the human species. And the future of the planet Earth, and the life it has sustained. What kind of a world will people live in a hundred years from now? A thousand years from now?
This is a webpage with a world map of the carbon footprint. It contains a colorful and informative ranking by country of those places with the greatest carbon footprint.
This is an interactive site for kids by PBS. It gives general information as well as games and activities based on sustainability principles.
This is a diorama of a sustainable house. This is the same poster that is in the From the Big Bang to the World Wide Web exhibit.
Wikipedia’s webpage about environmental issues is informative.
This is a Global Warming fact sheet by NASA.