simple ways to help the environment

simple ways to help the environment
simple ways to help the environment

This article offers a few simple steps — small steps, yes, but steps nonetheless — you can take to help the environment.

These steps are cheap. And they help the environment

They won’t help the environment much if you already do everything right. But if you’re like most average Americans, you probably do some of the wrong things.

Most of these steps are small things — things you could do without anyone’s help. They don’t cost much. They won’t make much difference to climate change. But they will make a lot more difference to the planet than not trying.

The basic problem with environmental issues is that most of us care a lot more about the consequences of our actions than we do about the actions themselves. The consequence is something that could happen tomorrow or in a thousand years. The action is something you do now.

Because the consequences are in the future, it’s easy to lose track of the action: the magazine article you read, the car you drive, the vacation you take. But the current action has an immediate effect. When you fly somewhere, you not only make someone else rich, you also make a volcano more interesting. When you eat beef, you are not only helping a cow. You are also helping yourself and everyone else.

But although actions have consequences, consequences don’t always have actions. It doesn’t have to be an act of God to cause a forest fire. Climate change is the result not only of what we humans do, but of influences we don’t control.

Here are some things you can do right now that have no effect whatsoever on your life:

  * You can eat a vegetarian diet. That does not hurt anyone and is mostly harmless. Eating a vegetarian diet is painless.

  * You can drive an electric car, which will not harm anyone.

  * You can walk, ride a bike, take public transportation, or ride a horse.

  * You can recycle.

  * You can compost.

  * You can recycle and compost.

  * You can grow your own food, or can your own food, or take other steps to reduce the food miles.

  * You can switch from incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescents.

  * You can reduce your home’s electricity use by shutting off lights when you leave a room.

  * You can

Environmentalists say we should save the planet, but how do we know if we are saving it?

One way is to measure what nature gives us, and then compare it to what nature gives us now.

People used to think that growing plants was bad for the environment. Now we know that plants clean the air, purify water, and make more oxygen than humans can breathe. Plants also absorb carbon dioxide, which humans exhale. So we are adding carbon to the atmosphere through breathing, and plants remove carbon through photosynthesis.

Take a walk in the woods. Look at the leaves, and you will start to notice the litter under your feet. At first, it looks like trash: leaves, sticks, and pine needles. But look more closely. Some of the stuff looks like food, and so it must come from animals. Some of the stuff looks like wood, and so it must come from trees. Some of the stuff looks like fertilizer, so it must come from microorganisms in the soil.

You probably noticed that most of the litter is plastic. Plastic is not very good for the environment. For example, it breaks down into tiny pieces, which get washed down rivers and streams and into lakes, oceans, and seas. The bits never go away. Instead, they mix with other bits of plastic and with other bits of chemicals, and become smaller and smaller and smaller, becoming a soup of molecules that animals and birds mistake for food.

Plastic also affects climate. It absorbs heat, and so keeps heat from escaping as in glass, metal, and wood. Carbon dioxide, on the other hand, is a greenhouse gas. The more of it there is in the air, the warmer our planet becomes.


The problem is, we don’t really know the best way to help the environment.

But imagine this: instead of writing articles, we did something. If only we could identify the best things to do, then all we had to do was do them.

What would we do?

Probably we’d try to save energy. But no matter what we did, there would be pollution. We would probably have to use less stuff because the stuff we use today comes from resources we can’t easily replace. We would probably useless stuff because it’s too resource-intensive to reuse. We would probably useless stuff because, until we make it cheap enough, we can’t really afford not to.

So our “helping the environment” would probably hurt us as much as it would hurt the environment.

In fact, however, it would probably be worse.

Because our problem isn’t just pollution, it’s all the harm we do to the Earth.

We probably can’t help the environment without helping ourselves.

And helping ourselves might actually help the environment.

Because it might help ourselves, it might help the planet.

Our aim should be “more good than harm.”

But “more good” is vague.

And much of what’s good for us is actually harmful to the environment.

It might help the environment if we stopped using carbon-based fuels and used something that wasn’t carbon-based, but that wouldn’t be easy. If we did use carbon-based fuels, it might help us if we made more efficient use of them. But if we did that, it would probably hurt us because we’d have to use more stuff. On the other hand, it might help us if we used less stuff.

But using less stuff actually hurts

There are two reasons environmentalists are always asking Americans to cut back on their energy use. First, oil is cheap, and cutting down on energy use is cheap too. Second, people don’t like to be told what to do.

But is it really a good idea for most of us to cut back on energy use? Not in the long run, at least. The more energy we use, the more energy we have to use. If we cut our energy use in half, we will still have half as much energy as we would have if we had used twice as much.

In fact, in the long run, the energy we use will be more important to our future than the energy we use now. If we cut energy use by half, that will be the equivalent of achieving a 100 percent reduction in energy use.

People also don’t like to be told what to do. But, even so, there is a simple way we can each do something to help the environment. We can think about the future.

The environmental crisis is not just about energy. It is also about population. We live in a time of rapid population growth. The planet cannot support the number of people who currently inhabit it.

We are being asked to cut back our energy use because most of us currently use more than we should. But most of us, fortunately, don’t have children. If we all did, the planet could not support us. In fact, it could barely support us now.

So, if you are worried about the future of the planet, think about the future. Why do you want children? Do you want children for their sake? Or is it only because they will make the future brighter? Do you want them because you think life will be better for them than it is for you? Or is it only because they will make your life better?

If you want to have children, then think about that future. Do you want your children to live in a new, greener, less crowded world? Do you want your children?

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