Recently I received news that I will be embarking on an amazing adventure through Europe. I will be working in my field as an environmentalist to deliver speeches and educate people on the impacts of climate change. I will be working in association with two European organizations, Europe on Track and The European Students’ Forum. Over 400 people from around the world had applied for this position and I am so happy to have been chosen for this amazing opportunity.
I will be travelling to countries all throughout Europe with a photographer and videographer by my side, as well as the AEGEE representatives in each city.
Currently, I am preparing my speeches and information I wish to speak about throughout this time. Delving into this subject with full force has reconnected my passion for the environment and species we share our planet with. Therefore, this week I want to talk a bit more about climate change and the environmental crisis – as well as the small changes each one of us can make to lower our ecological footprints.
“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”
– Brundtland Report, 1987
It is important to focus on the definition of sustainable development when looking at the future. We should not be creating such an impact as to be putting our future generation’s needs on the back burner. We must be working towards implementing green ideologies in order to obtain a sustainable future.
One of the main issues at hand with global warming is the impact of densely populated urban areas. The carbon outputs in densely populated cities are much higher in percentage in comparison to the rural areas. This causes the carbon to be trapped in a sort of ‘dome’ over the city and results in an increased overall temperature. This is known as an urban heat island – with minimal vegetation to absorb mass carbon emissions amongst other human impacts causing the heat island effects. There are many downsides to an UHI including ozone depletion and decreased air quality. Although, there are many ways in which we can lower these impacts including increasing citywide vegetation such as green rooftops as well as lighter colored building to reflect sunlight and lower heat absorption. As for individual impacts, we can focus on reducing our carbon footprint in ways such as using driving alternatives (green vehicles, carpooling, public transit, walking…etc.)
Along with the issues associated with urban heat islands is the huge issue of mass deforestation. We are ridding our planet of one of the most vital factors needed…trees. Trees are absolutely necessary for the absorption of carbon dioxide and release of oxygen in order to equalize our earth’s temperature and air quality. The destruction of our forests is causing major decreases in air quality and adding to the rapid impacts of climate change. There are ways in which we can help in this sector as well including planting trees and going paperless. As well, we should always be conscious when we are buying products and try to opt for reusable and recyclable when possible.
This leads to the next issue at hand which is waste production. With the continuous increase of the human population, there is more and more waste being produced. When products are not able to be recycled or composted, they will ultimately end up in our landfills and eventually our oceans. The problem with this is that most products ending up in the landfill and made up of chemicals and toxins that end up being leached into our soil, groundwater, and oceans. They do not break down the way organic matter does and break up into contaminating particles. The mass increases in pollution are directly associated with global warming and ecosystem disruption. The obvious solution to this is to be conscious of making as little amount of waste as possible. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
Burning Fossil Fuels
Burning fossil fuels adds a massive percentage of the greenhouse gases going into our atmosphere. The increased pollution creates the greenhouse effect which causes radiation from the lower atmosphere to be emitted to the surface and increases the overall temperature. The main solution to this problem is to decrease dependency on non-renewable resources and switch over to renewable resources such as solar energy and wind energy amongst other forms available.
Climate Change Effects
There are many ways we can see direct evidence of climate change today. Carbon levels in the atmosphere haven’t been this high for centuries, now sitting around 400 parts per million. This has led to the ability to track a steady overall increase in global temperatures. Another obvious response to climate change has been the depletion of glaciers and ice sheets in northern environments and therefore directly associated with the increase in sea levels. Not to mention, the pre-extinction of species due to ecosystem impacts such as coral reef bleaching and ocean acidification due to increased ocean temperatures and carbon absorption.
Climate change does not only affect the world around us but directly affects us as well. Our lowered air quality increases the risk of respiratory diseases. The steady increase in sea levels can put our freshwater supplies at risk. The increase in global temperatures has a direct impact on the increase of natural disasters – as well this will result in more droughts and heat waves.
Although we cannot end climate change overnight, we can each do things to lower our individual impact.
Take the quiz to see your ecological footprint here
We should be taking steps to living a more efficient and sustainable lifestyle. Ways we can do this are making our homes more eco-friendly, changing our modes of transportation, buying locally, waste less, eat less meat, start composting, go paperless, stop using single-use plastics, and invest in long-term reusable products – amongst a wide variety of other solutions. These small changes can have long-term beneficial impacts on our earth, ecosystems, species, and ourselves!