Over the past few centuries, most of America has transformed into a land of corporate business and profit, and it seems our everyday actions fuel this state of existence. One might assume the majority of people on earth are morally sound, but even if this is truly the case, the relationship we have with our natural environment remains questionable. Even though we strive to put our best face forward and treat others kindly, growing up in modern America has made it easy to not do the same to the land. With all the amazing structures we have created, America has by no means been destroyed. However, if we look at it objectively, the land has lost the war against the tree-cutters and polluters of recent history. The war may be nearly over--and some might say that it already is--but while there are people who constantly abuse the land, there are certainly others who stop at nothing to nurture it. Whether it is too little, too late is up for debate.
Daily life in today’s America means consumption of resources, and this to an extent might be considered “abuse” of the land. Simply taking a shower and driving to work consumes water and pollutes the air. Lin (2008) succinctly describes the consumption problem:
“Although the term ‘consumption’ suggests a using up, or depletion, of the Earth's resources, the consumption problem has little to do with scarcity. Problems of scarcity can often be overcome by substituting one resource for another. The real problem with consumption is its environmental impacts, especially given the tremendous scale and intensity of activities conducted by modern human societies.”
We may think that our day to day actions do not significantly affect the land, but with so many people doing so many of the same things, it certainly adds up. On the other hand, one might argue that a person would not typically abuse the land deliberately, and simply living life should not be condemned.
Ironically, even those who try to “do more” may be hurting the cause. Some activists are constantly traveling the world in an attempt to help underprivileged lands. Their ultimate goal is to improve peoples’ lives, but achieving this goal for everyone can be very destructive, as Lin (2008) asserts:
“...it is impossible in the long term for the world's 6.5 billion people to continue to consume the Earth's resources at present rates. The prospect of billions of more residents in the developing world adopting Western lifestyles and consumption patterns is simply unimaginable.”
Basically, either Western civilization completely revamps its way of living to save resources for third world nations, or any attempts to help them should not include a lifestyle modernization. We cannot have it both ways.
Those who are not traveling the world to help impoverished lands can still nurture their own land. It may not seem like much to do “your part” by not littering and conserving water--or maybe even driving a hybrid car--but if consumption can quickly accrue due to the sheer number of people involved, so too can conservation. These collective small acts are only the tip of the iceberg, though. Shogren (2001) believes that lawmakers need to redirect $1.9 billion annually in federal money to “reduce polluted runoff from fields, provide habitat for wildlife and resist urban sprawl.” As it turns out, replacing forests with cities has more implications than meets the eye:
“The clearing and burning of tropical forests by unsustainable overseas agriculture industries produces more greenhouse gases than all the cars, trucks, tractors and farm equipment in the world combined.” (Anonymous, U.S. Newswire, 2010)
If we are truly concerned about future deforestation and diminished natural resources, we can always vote for the Green candidate during the next