There's a lot going around these days about the environment, climate change and our place (humans) in that discussion. I don't really want to get into much of that here. I really could go on and on, countering both of the two 'main' sides of the debate, but that would turn into it's own thing and last far too long. For me (over all), I do believe that there is enough evidence that there are changes going on with our climate, and we (humans) are trashing our environment (quite literally), but I have yet to see any actual evidence that we (humans) are directly responsible for the changes going on with the planet's climate.
Don't forget that our planet has gone through changes in climate long before we either had the capabilities of causing that level of impact (like the Ice Ages) or even existed in the first place. For all we know, we could be at the start of another naturally occurring shift in climate and nothing we have done or can do will change anything in that specific regard.
But as I already said, we are trashing the environment, and our planet. And we all can at least try and do something about that. Whether or not that helps with any kind of climate change or not is neither here nor there, as the climate is not the end all be all of existence; the climate could stay exactly as is and it's not going to make a lick of difference if we are all dead anyway because we trashed our planet beyond life sustaining needs. I won't matter what the climate is like if we pollute and/or destroy the very fabrics of what keeps our sorry lazy asses alive in the first place.
And that could very well happen. I'm not saying it will, I'm saying it could, and that is a possibility that is so easily avoided that it's pathetic we may not due to the inherent ignorance, arrogance and downright laziness of humans.
Before I move on, do you want a perfect example of how lazy humans are? No? Too bad, here it is anyway. In all things that require any amount of effort when driving, nothing requires any less effort than using a turn signal. There is not one single action with driving that takes any less effort than simply lightly flicking one finger up or down, and yet most U.S. Americans (at least, as I cannot speak for citizens of any other countries) cannot even do that. If that does not illustrate to you just how lazy humans are, I don't know what will.
I apologize for that side rant there, it just really cracks me up in all the wrong ways simply thinking about how self centered so many people are and the complete lack of empathy so many show in their own actions or inactions, and this is probably the single most common example I see litterally every single time I am on the road.
Now, the point of this post here stems from various conversations I've had with people in real life; people who seem extremely concerned, or even down right terrified of what may be on the horizon due to all the doom and gloom spouted by various figures. And what most (if not all) of these conversations boil down to is that if you really are truly concerned about our future (and you probably should be), do anything in your power to make a difference! Don't hold the weight of the entire would on your shoulders, but do whatever things you can to at least contribute somewhat less to the destruction (or even perceived destruction) going on around you.
There really is just so much each and every one of us can do to at least limit our own individual carbon footprints.
Some people will try and convince you to 100% eliminate all trace that you ever stepped foot on this planet; while I do admire that level of determination, and if they really can live up to their own hype, I applaud them. But expecting that of everyone is just downright stupid with a capital S. Someone who can't even flick a finger to let those around them know what they are doing while on the road isn't going to lift a finger (they literally prove this by not lifting a finger to use their turn signal), it just won't happen. Hell, the average human (at least here in the USA) when confronted with a trash can and a recycle bin will simply choose which ever is closer (even if the difference can only be measured in millimeters) regardless of what they are throwing away.
If you really are concerned for the future, then put that concern to good use and at least try and make a change in yourself where ever you can. Do what you can, and always strive to do better next time. And don't ever be put off by failure; embrace it, analyze it, learn from it.
In regard to the environment specifically, there really are just so many things each and every one of us could do that it is extremely difficult to to focus; and I myself only know a small fractions of ways to help out. Here are just a few, relatively simple areas that can make at least some amount of difference.
Recycle the best way you can, cut up plastic drink holders (like what 6 packs come in) regardless of where you live, limit aerosols as much as possible, utilize any kind of reusable materials like shopping bags, limit water waste any way you can, car pool or otherwise limit your drive time as much as possible, choose recycled products whenever you can, and DO NOT LITTER! PICK UP AFTER YOURSELF ALWAYS!
One of the easiest and longest term options here is to get and use multi-use shopping bags. I myself have gotten several for free from various outlets like Target, Publix and Food Lion. If you ever get a reusable bag, save it, and then do your best to actually use them. My wife and I only have one vehicle at the moment, so it is fairly easy for us. We keep our bags in our van at all times (or at least try to). Anytime we go in any shop, we take at least a few, if not a bunch. As soon as they get unloaded and emptied at home, we make sure to get them back to the van. If we ever find ourselves inside a store and notice that we forgot the bags, one of us will go back and get them. If I am alone, I will go out and get them, even if it means putting aside my cart (I try and get it to where employees are and will be like a customer service area).
(If we had two vehicles, we would simply get more bags, enough to make sure each vehicle would always be stocked.)
Don't get discouraged if you mess up. But also don't over compensate either. I read this article from the UK that claimed that the sales of reusable bags averaged out to like 54 bags per household, and then continued to assume that that meant that these households were throwing them away or something (it was a pretty stupid assumption with nothing to back it up).
If you have enough reusable bags, and don't need any more, then find yourself in a store realizing that you left all your bags at home, don't buy more while you are there (unless you are sure you will make use of them). If you end up having to use the disposable store-provided bags for one trip, so be it. Don't beat yourself up over it and don't over compensate that oversight. Just try and learn and do better next time. And if you do end up with disposable plastic bags, put them to good use. Store them and use them for something else that suits your life. For me, they make perfect garbage bags for smaller 'office style' trash cans (my garbage company requires all trash to be in bags, not loose in the can, for some reason).
It is actually pretty easy once you get the hang of it. You will forget sometimes, and that is ok. Just do your best to do better next time. I know I keep repeating that, but some people really do need to hear it, and it is absolute truth. No one is perfect, and we all make mistakes. It happens and it is ok. What's not ok is not trying to learn from those mistakes, or using those mistakes as an excuse to not even try.
Recycling is complicated, especially these days. First of all, a lot of recycling doesn't actually get recycled anymore; some trash collectors just mix their recycling in with the regular landfill destined trash. This is because most people don't know how to recycle and it has bit us all in the ass. As I understand it, the U.S. for example use to sell our recycle pickups to Canada, and then they would either take care of it themselves or pass it on to someone else who would. But more and more those recycle pickups were overrun with trash (because people put whatever they felt like in the recycling regardless of whether or not it could be recycled). Eventually the end of the line stopped accepting all recycling because it was more work than it was worth, sorting that recycling from the massive amounts of trash. Once that happened, the entire chain was broken, and instead of trying to sort it out themselves, [each previous link in that chain] just decided to dump it where ever, including (but not limited to) landfills.
Bottom line is that recyclers are now standing up and saying, "Woah woah woah woah WOAH! Hold up. We aren't prepared to recycle anything! What are we supposed to do with this crap?"
This is why it is so important to properly sort your recycling and make sure everything gets put where it needs to go, in a state it needs to be in.
My best advice if you really want to make sure that your recycling gets put to proper use would be to sort, store and transport it yourself to properly researched recycling centers. But this is not going to work for a lot of people; most people don't have the space to even store their recycling and I would never suggest they even try. I've tried in the past, living in cramped apartments for example, and it just does not work. But if you can, you should.
Otherwise, do your best to make sure that what you are putting in any recycle bin is truly recyclable, and accepted by whomever is responsible for that pickup. And at least rinse out any food debris if you can, and if the material holds up to getting wet.
If you are limited to either your home trash company, or something your complex has setup, reach out to them and get a full list of what is and is not acceptable recycling, and then do everything in your power to adhere to that; meaning, if you are throwing it away anyway, and it can be recycled, make sure it is recycled. I cannot stress enough that any amount of anything that you can do can make some bit of difference.
And remember, only if it can be recycled. That grease, sauce and cheese soaked pizza box cannot be recycled, and neither can the slices of pizza you left in there. That is garbage. Sadly, this does need to be pointed out to some people...
Here are some other random ideas that could help.
If you are someone that does not like tap water, and tend to buy bottled water, why not purchase a filter system that is basically just a pitcher that you keep in your refrigerator? Brita for example? This will cut down on the waste of everything that goes into bottled water. Then buy some kind of reusable bottle for on the go drinking.
One way of reducing water waste would be to avoid flushing the toilet if and when ever possible. But I can see how one may find that too gross or unsanitary to be realistic and that's absolutely fair. Though, being concerned that your pets might drink from the toilet isn't very fair since home toilets come with lids, and those lids should always be closed when not in active use anyway, right?
Other water conservation methods could include taking shorter showers or turning the water off all together while you lather up. Don't turn the water on and then leave it running while you go to other things, even if you are trying to heat it up (wait diligently so you can shut it down as soon as it's ready and you are also ready to fully utilize that heat). Basically, just make any effort possible to not let water go to waste.
If you are out going to multiple locations in or around the same general area, don't drive the few feet to get closer to a secondary location. Instead, actually walk if your body is capable. Seriously, I know people who will drive to the other side of the parking lot just to walk less. If there is level of personal safety involved, that is one thing; don't ever put yourself in danger just to cut carbon emissions (in my opinion at least). Otherwise, walk the extra length!
Now, these are all just minimal passive ideas that each and every one of us can strive to achieve. But don't dismiss them just because you know you won't achieve these goals 100% of the time, or because someone else is not going to make the same effort. You alone will not save the planet, ever. But enough of us working together as much as possible, might.
Sadly, the unfortunate truth is that even the best of efforts made by the vast majority of us could make can be negated by a pathetic few, and we will never get all people to do better. Humanity is sadly just too self centered and lazy to ever make a true effort even if they actually know for a fact it's needed (not saying it's truly known, just if we could all actually agree that change was needed). Do I need to bring out the turn signal example again? Because I can...
But that should never keep you from doing anything you can to be a part of the solution, even if it is only part of the time. Any[/i[ bit of help can in fact help. And I do apologize if this came off as too preachy; this is just something that I am passionate about. However, I do not apologize if I sounded overly bitter; humanity has unfortunately given me no reason to be optimistic, and humanity SHOULD be ashamed of itself because I know that people are [i]capable of so much more, even if they choose not to even try.
If you are not even trying, you really SHOULD feel ashamed.
Before I sign off on this, here are a few random tidbits.
When it comes to the debate about whether or not humans are effecting the climate, as I already said science has already told us that the planet's climate has shifted drastically multiple times throughout history. So who's to say that this isn't just another one of those cases? However, some say it's arrogant to think that humans are even capable of impacting our environment to a degree that could cause a shift in climate. To me, that sounds pretty ignorant (dismissing the very possibility all together).
Name me one other species on the face of the planet that refines metal, creates plastics and other toxic chemicals, that splits the atom, that unnaturally pollutes the land, sea and air, that powers their homes and the outdoors with unnaturally occurring electricity. Just one other species please. Don't act like humans are just another creature like any other inhabiting this planet. Other creatures tend to adapt to their environments; we are the only ones I know of that try and adapt the environment to OURSELVES.
Regardless of climate change, one thing that I would HOPE can't be disputed by anyone capable of any level of decently reasonable thought is that we are in fact polluting the hell out of this planet. There are tons of videos and photos showing the massive amounts of garbage in various bodies of water (one in particular is a video of mounds of trash floating down a stream out there somewhere), not to mention stories of various animals like whales washing up with actual tons of garbage in their stomachs.
I've seen many buck passers out there saying things like, "Well look where those videos are coming from! Third world countries! That's not us!"
Where do you think most of that trash came from in the first place? Remember that thing I talked about with what trash collectors have been doing with their 'recycling'? I seriously wouldn't be surprised to see some of your personal trash in those videos. It's also a pathetic person who would use another person's failures as a deflection of their own failures. "Hey, look at that! They're doing way more bad stuff than me so what I'm doing can't be bad, so THERE!"
Now for an anecdote about recycling.
When I worked at Toys R Us back in the 90's, the management did this thing where they had a recycle bin next to the trash can in the break room for the soul purpose of using the money gained to go back to the employees. In California, bringing in aluminum cans and plastic bottles can get you money when taken to specific recyclers. This money would go to various parties and other gatherings (we did a yearly baseball game at a park against the other local TRU stores).
Employees were told specifically about this, and the cans were very clearly labeled and presented. But of course, the employees couldn't be bothered to pay any attention to what they were doing, and just threw whatever where ever. For some reason, I ended up being in charge of taking the stored bags of recycling to a center and get the money to management.
No complaints here as I was always on the clock; I got paid to take a drive and smoke which was great lol.
Anyway, each and every time it went the same way. All of these places would have similar rules when it can to recycling; you got one (higher) price for pure recycling, and another (lower) price for 'mixed' recycling ('mixed' means trash is mixed in). Care to guess which we already had?
So I'd always get the mixed price, and I always asked them to write on the receipt what the pure price would have been, so that all back at the store could see what their laziness missed out on. Management would even point out the reason behind the lack luster spreads at any of the events they planned out.
Do you think anything ever changed? Of course not. And why not? Because lazy.