“The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders.” – Edward Abbey
The significance of the above quote is highly underestimated.
Today I’m writing an unusual reflection, something a bit atypical for my blog. I will be addressing my advocacy for the protection of our environment, and the experiences that have led me to recognize that it is of utmost importance for humanity to change our actions.
When I’ve considered my career path in the past, such as in high school, I never truly considered the importance of the planet we stand on and the other living things we impact with our simple daily choices. Sure, I may have been determined to study biology in hopes of going into genetics or research in ground-breaking subjects, but the environment was not part of my original career path.
Then I entered college. The first science class I took was based in the ecological and botanical sciences at UMF. A great portion of that class consisted of the teachings of climate change and how it will change the world if it continues to occur at its current rate. I learned about the problems that all life would face from the pollution and loss of resources in this process, and how these issues would lead to further devastation of human society. This was the first time that I truly took to heart the significance of the environment. In knowing that the actions of humans contribute to the destruction of ecosystems and life, I feel it is ethically wrong to stand by and do nothing to change my actions or influence the actions of others.
After that first semester, my plans changed quite a bit. I transferred universities with the desire to learn about ecology and the environment from one of the best biology departments in the country. I spontaneously went abroad to various South American countries, where I learned of culture and investigated the adverse environmental and social effects of private forestry and silviculture industries. I changed my lifestyle and became a vegetarian (both addressing ethical and environmental issues). I then got involved briefly with Wake Forest’s Sustainability Office and was further educated in sharing concepts of sustainability and environmentalism with other students and peers. And finally, I am here on my environmental and ecological studies program to further my understanding of the environment, taught by one of the most environmentally aware study abroad programs in the world.
It was here in Australia that I learned of the disparaging choice of the US to elect Trump as president, ensuring ignorance and rejection of the state of our environment. Obama is currently working hard to ensure its protection (among other things…) in the little time he has left, but the effects of his actions are not a continuum. We as humanity must continue to fight for environmental justice and education on how our actions impact the world around us.
This has been especially apparent to me in Australia, as I’ve learned of how deforestation of the Wet Tropics leads to land degradation and extinction; it additionally has contributed to the toxic coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef. All of this is anthropogenically oriented, very much due to our industries and lifestyles. For example, the deforestation of the Wet Tropics has taken place in trade for agriculture; specifically livestock industries. Raising livestock is already so costly in energy and resources (fyi it takes 660 gallons of water to produce a hamburger. That consumes more water than taking a shower, which on average is 17.2 gallons); destroying resourceful ecosystems for the industry makes it even worse.
I cannot and will not condone actions of environmental destruction. You shouldn’t condone these actions either, because in one way or another it will affect you as it will affect everyone. We’re already seeing these effects take place, in the extreme weather circumstances of hurricanes and droughts. With these weather patterns comes societal quarrels and war. This is not simply a problem of environment and nature: it encompasses everything including society, economics and politics.
If you’ve ever read my blog posts or looked at the photos I post on social media, you’ll notice that my passion for the outdoors tops all others in my life. In understanding the implications of the fragility of our environment, I feel it is only right to fight for its protection. I want to dedicate my career to working for this cause in one way or another.
I guess what I really want to pass onto you is that taking action in this matter is so essential. Making those simple lifestyle changes (such as eating vegetarian for a day or two a week, or investing in local produce rather than those transported from distant places) can really make a difference in your energy and resource consumption. Passing on the knowledge of renewable energies and investing in sustainability furthers this difference. And I know environmentalists say this quite a bit, but it’s so true: we only have one Earth, and it is of utmost importance that we care for it and everything on it.
Take part in local elections. Change your lifestyle habits. Contribute to the extension of this knowledge. As Edward Abbey implies, we need to be defenders and protectors of the environment. It doesn’t take much when the masses are advocating for it. Do it for Leo.