While there is debate among non-scientists about climate change, there seems to be a general consensus by the scientific community that humans have had an impact on the planet and that our activities have accelerated the rate of environmental decline (although Alex Epstein, a non-scientist, disagrees in his aptly named Forbes article ‘97% of Climate Scientists Agree’ is 100% Wrong).
So I thought I’d put together a quick summary of how the Earth has suffered at the hands of humans just to remind you that although this blog may focus on sustainable fashion, its central theme is in fact the pursuit of sustainability.
Air Pollution & Global Warming
Pollution in the atmosphere caused by the increase in C02 emissions has accelerated climate change, greenhouse effect and ozone depletion. Human progress defined by our industrial revolution is the primary cause of this. One of the best YouTube videos that I’ve come across that explains climate change in relatively simple terms is this Ted Talk by David Roberts:
In conventional farming practices there is the pervasive use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides to grow crops as farmers aim to maximise yield. Over time, the soil becomes increasingly infertile and farmers are then compelled to purchase more synthetic fertilisers to make up for the lost nutrients in the soil. It is a vicious cycle that can cause devastating consequences for both the soil and the farmer. In India and many other parts of the world, including Australia, farmer suicides are becoming increasingly common. I recommend reading Ilan Greenberg’s Modern Farmer article: Why Are So Many Farmers Killing Themselves?
Trees negate some of the pollution we cause by absorbing much of the Co2 that is released into the atmosphere. However the Earth’s tropical rainforests are under threat as millions of acres around the world fall victim to burning or bulldozing at the hands of humans. By doing so we are also endangering other plant and animal species that call these forests home. I wrote about this subject in a recent post titled Deforestation: A Killer of Orangutans & Childhood Dreams. You can also watch this video produced by CNN and narrated by correspondent Philippe Cousteau explaining the basics of deforestation and why it occurs:
Our rivers have fallen prey to the litres of fertilisers, pesticides and other chemical residues that farms and companies use in their daily operations affecting natural wildlife and causing other environmental impacts downstream. This doesn’t just affect animal species, humans are also affected. This video highlights 25 of the Most Polluted Places in the World, many of them featuring polluted rivers and its effects on the health of the surrounding community:
Overfishing & Marine Issues
Uncontrolled fishing has reduced stocks of almost all commercial species such as tuna and salmon. Catching too much fish, whether it is commercial or non-commercial fishing, leads to an overall degradation to the system and is a non-sustainable use of the oceans. We aren’t just catching fish either. Because businesses are looking to exploit anything commercially viable in our oceans, marine mammals, sharks, sea birds and other non-commercially viable fish species are often killed as bycatch and discarded. An award winning animation that I highly recommend you watch is this one titled Ending Overfishing:
Biodiversity & Extinction
Human domination of this planet means that our reckless behaviour – through pollution, overconsumption of resources and poaching - has not only caused animal species to become extinct, but plant species as well. (See “Extinction: Just How Bad Is It and Why Should We Care?”)
According to Jonathon Porritt in his book Save the Earth 274 people are born every minute compared with 97 that die. Many of those born are in Third World countries. It is important to note however that it is the highly industrialised nations that comprise the ‘West’ that is responsible for consuming much of the Earth’s finite resources. Nevertheless this is still an issue that we must consider. If all countries lived the way the Western world lived, the Earth would be unable to support our rate of consumption and waste. The Western way of life is inherently unsustainable.
Where to from here?
Despite the overwhelming evidence of the destructive role that humans play on the environment, there still remains a band of sceptics and deniers that firmly believe that Earth is entering into one of its 'normal cycles', as it has done many times over millions of years. One can only conclude that people who believe this way are like psychopaths who express no remorse for any wrongdoing. It's these attitudes that have created the environmental mess we live in today.
The negative impact of industrial progress: air pollution, global warming, soil degradation, deforestation, poisoned rivers, overfishing, plant and animal species extinction & overpopulation
Luckily over the last 30 years, there are increasing numbers of civilians, environmentalists, conservationists, campaigners, activists, writers and organisations such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth that are speaking up. Now more than ever, there is a glimmer of hope that we may use our human intelligence to find ways of efficiently distributing the planets' resources, moving towards renewable energy and transforming ourselves out of this selfish materialistic mentality that has caused much of the environmental destruction. We may actually find ways to live sustainably and in harmony with the Earth.
Mahatma Gandhi once said "Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed." I happen to agree. Do you? If so, how are you reducing your negative footprint on our planet?