We, as Americans and people, applaud actions individuals take towards environmental sustainability. We congratulate recyclers and bicyclists, gardeners and organic shoppers. Practicing one or two of the handful of habits we have been told to do (such as turning off lights and shutting off water when brushing our teeth) makes us feel as though we are doing our part.
These habits we associate with a certain number of trees saved or gallons of water less polluted. However, before the industrial revolution, and more generally civilization, these resources would have been mostly unharmed. So none of us are actually “saving” 'x' number of trees by going vegan. Rather, there are 'x' less trees that are chopped down in order to support our consumptive lifestyles.
I don’t write this to discourage anyone from continuing the sustainable habits we currently have but to encourage all of us to be more aware of other steps we can make to be better to our planet. Just because we already make a couple conscious decisions does not mean that it is enough. Continue to strive for new ways to be impactful.
The most important action we can all undertake is to be more educated in environmental issues. There are not simple solutions to climate change, but steps to combat it are too important to ignore. A Ted Talk titled, “100 Ways to Reverse Climate Change” details the hundred steps all of us, on a global scale, need to focus on in order to halt and potentially reverse some of the damage we have already caused. Researching tactics such as these make it clear that climate change is indeed the fault of all of us and can only be tackled by all of our conscious actions.
The issues surrounding climate change can be daunting, but obtaining all the knowledge we can and tackling change in our personal footprint and also governmental and corporate impacts will gradually minimize the issue. If we had taken action 50 years ago when scientists were first understanding the impacts of climate change, then drastic measures would not be needed today. Yet, our consumption of fossil fuels has only increased since that time and now immediate and drastic action is required.
The best course of action you can undertake is to buy less, or at least to buy secondhand. Go to Goodwill for your clothes, furniture or cooking supplies. Only buy the food you know that you are going to eat. Actions such as these can slowly transform our mindsets and steer us in the direction of environmental sustainability.