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Evironmentalism: The Next Step Broad Social Change Through Personal Commitment Introduction In the last thirty years, America has witnessed an environmental revolution. New laws like the 1963 Clean Air Act and the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act forged new ground in political environmentalism. Social phenomena like Earth Day, organized by Dennis Hayes in 1970, and the beginning of large-scale recycling, marked by Oregon's 1972 Bottle Bill, have help change the way Americans think about the environment. As we approach the third millennium, however, we must reconsider our place on the planet and reflect on our efforts and progress towards a sustainable society. As global warming becomes a scientific reality, natural disasters make monthly appearances in the headlines, and communities continue to find their ground-water contaminated by industrial and nuclear waste, we must ask ourselves: are we doing enough? The environmental movement in the past has largely been a social and political phenomenon. While many of us recycle (yet still only 35 percent of us) and take dead batteries to our town's Hazardous Waste Day, most Americans have not made the environment a personal issue. Very few of us have taken the kind of personal life-changing steps that are necessary to create an environmentally sustainable society. It is simply naive to believe that America's present rates of consumption, waste production, and environmental contamination are sustainable. The kind of social change required can only happen when we as individuals embrace the effort in our everyday lives. Only then will corporate America and the government realize that they too must change to maintain their customer base and public support. This kind of personal commitment to change would also create a new social ethic based on the environment under which people and companies who do not care for the earth would be held socially and financially responsible. In six parts, this article will re-examine our place in the environmental movement and investigate exactly what changes we can make in our personal lives to bring about positive change. These areas are transportation, energy, recycling and waste management, toxins and pollution, food, and water. Some of the changes discussed will require sacrifice. But, more important, these changes will often simplify our lives, bring our families and communities closer together, and help us to better understand, revere, and coexist with the world upon which each of us is directly dependent. Transportation The invention of the automobile is one of history's greatest environmental disasters. The automobile decentralized our society. People with cars moved out of the city and drove to work from their suburban homes. Before the automobile, agriculture was local. Food was grown by farmers living in what was soon to be the suburbs, and delivered fresh to markets in the cities. Because of the short distance food had to travel, farmers didn't need to add preservatives or other additives to maintain freshness. Clearly, the automobile, like other harmful inventions, makes our lives easier in many ways, but how often do we consider the environment when weighing these benefits? Fossil fuels account for the automobile's most significant effect on the environment. Not only are the emissions from cars and trucks toxic to every air-breathing organism, but every step of the fossil fuel process, from extraction to disposal, is bad for the environment. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), millions of gallons of untreated water contaminated by the drilling processes are dumped into waterways and oceans annually. Once extracted, fossil fuels are frequently refined on site, burying 179 million tons of toxic waste annually. During transport, an average of 1 million gallons of oil is spilled into the ocean each month. Upon arrival, fossil fuels are usually burned in automobiles or power plants. The average coal-burning power plant burns about 10,000 tons of coal in a single day. With even a low estimate of five per cent waste, that leaves 500 tons of toxic waste produced each day by a single power plant. If used in cars, oil must be refined further, wasting more energy and creating more toxic waste before drivers purchase it. The combustion engines used in cars and trucks emit toxic gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect and acid rain, deplete the ozone layer, and create more than 50% of the smog producing toxins that
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Energy development, Energy economics, Low-carbon economy, Environmentalism, Fossil fuel, Fuels, Fossil-fuel power station, Renewable energy, Sustainability, Non-renewable resource, Energy industry, Energy policy of the United States
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