It is easy to decry the state of the environment and talk at length about the problems. The next step of fixing the problems and clearing the mess is more difficult.
There is ample information available now on cause and effect of different pollutants that pollute air, water and land. The solutions for these problems have also been worked out. In many cases these have involved innovations that the industries have been taking advantage of in the light of demand by consumers for greener products.
The article ‘Ways to Stop Pollution‘ cites many ways that much of major pollutions can be addressed. While all pollutions involve actions by individuals, the corporate sector and the government, keep in mind that the corporate sector is producing goods that require a market and consumers.
So there is a great deal that individuals can do to fix the major environmental challenges facing the world. A scientific study by a Norwegian team published in 2015, was carried out using data from 43 countries and about 200 products. They found products made for individual use was responsible for ‘60% of GHG global emissions’. Moreover, 50% to 80% of natural resources like land, materials, and water are used to manufacture goods used by households (1). Food was a major component and was responsible for 48% to 70% of the environmental impact that a household has on the environment. They found that the developed countries have a bigger impact, but many developing countries with rising income are also major contributors to pollution (1).
So by keeping the environment in mind while making purchases, individuals can be a major driving force in protecting the environment.
The article Ways to Stop Pollution was written for the digital magazine LoveToKnow, and was published this year, and provides some suggestions. This list is obviously not exhaustive and people can get imaginative in finding many other ways to tackle pollution.
Ivanova D, Stadler K, Steen-Olsen K, Wood R, Vita G, Tukker A and EG Hertwich. 2016. Environmental Impact Assessment of Household Consumption. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 20: 526–536. doi:10.1111/jiec.12371
The polar ice caps will melt completely in twenty years reports the Guardian (1). When this happens, the absent icecaps will no longer affect only the polar bears or penguins or dozens of other species. Without the cooling effect of the ice caps, global warming will accelerate, with all its attendant impacts hitting the world soon (2).
People need to increase their efforts to fight climate change. It is up to each one of us. Governments and industries will never be leaders of any change. Change in policy and industries been always driven by consumer choice and demand.
Consider for example, the demand of nuclear energy in Germany. The Energytransition.org traces the origin of the Green Party in Germany in 1970s to the anti-nuclear movement. When they came to power before the end of the millennium, they decided to phase out nuclear energy by 2020s. The Fukushima disaster only strengthened and hastened this resolution (3).
It is no longer possible to rely entirely on government policies or wait for innovations from the industries. The prosperity of the last century needs to be tempered with care for the environment. Traditional life before mechanisation started ensured a simple and frugal life with less impact on the environment. The excess consumption created by rapidly advancing technology has to go hand in hand with a conscious effort not to pollute.
People do not have to give up modern amenities or conveniences be environmentally friendly. Nor is it necessary to spend more money. The change needed is nonetheless not going to be easy as it means rethinking habits of consumption. Some goods such as organic food purchased can be expensive, but with the benefit of some planning, to reduce waste or excessive spending, there is no additional expenditure needed.
Each individual needs to be mindful of their energy use at home, the mileage they drive or fly, and the food or other materials they buy.