Our basic survival needs all come from the environment: water, food, air and shelter.
We need pure, clean air 14-50 times a minute. Our lives begin with air, and end with the absence of it. We receive life giving oxygen through the process of photosynthesis in which plants transform carbon dioxide into the basic molecules of life’s architecture.
We need water. Everyone, regardless of political or religious stance, ethnicity, values or social standing, can agree on this timeless truth: no one can go more than a week without fresh water. Without it, we die.
We get our shelter from nature’s bounty. Timber is derived from trees; even the origins of concrete, steel, and glass are found in the natural environment.
Beyond the basic needs for survival, we receive personal rejuvenation from nature. Who isn’t soothed by the enduring wave-return-wave of rhythmic ocean tide; humbled while sojourning a soft, fresh trail among ancient Douglas Fir giants; inspired by the backdrop of towering mountains against a twilight tangerine sun hanging over a pristine lake, or mystified by the unfathomable strength of a single seed bursting forth life, nutrition and beauty? Nature has a way of not only keeping us alive, but inspiring us creatively and artistically; instilling intrigue and wonder and connection to other cohabitants of earth, and bringing to mind reminiscences of history and culture. Respect and reverence ensues. Nature also calms anxiety, clears the mind and blesses us with a sweet escape from the loudness and busy-ness of living in a technology and entertainment-crazed society.
Over time, we’ve distanced ourselves from our environment, viewing it as a commodity, evaluating only its economic value, particularly in the past 150 years of industrialization, where technology, innovation and over-consumption have boomed. But we’re destroying our life-source. Prominent environmental activist David Suzuki reports in his book The Legacy: An Elder’s Vision for Our Sustainable Future that forty percent of photosynthetic plants in the world have been decimated. A large majority of 3% amount of fresh water on earth has been ravaged by disgusting pollution. It is now a major transporter of disease. The World Health Organization estimates that 1.5 billion people worldwide do not have access to clean, safe drinking water. Five million people die each year from diseases attributed to consuming unsafe water. Anthropogenic (human influenced) climate change causes erratic weather patterns, leaving severe drought and water shortages in one region and excessive flooding in another.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, each year about 13 million hectares of the world’s forests are lost due to deforestation. The timber coming from trees is used in the construction of many of our homes. Trees are furthermore required to produce the life-sustaining oxygen, to transpire water to continue the hydrologic cycle, and to absorb the heat-trapping greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Our air quality now is not adequate to sustain human health. Human-generated pollutants have perpetrated acidic rain, ozone depletion and set free a cocktail of hazardous waste into our fragile atmosphere. Patterns of industrialization and over consumption of non-renewable natural resources that result in pollution have complicated our ancient relationship with nature. Society’s bent on profit, enjoyment and comfort. But is it right? Is it just to measure such attributes against the environment that ensures our survival?
What can I do, as an Island-bound teenager when faced with the state of the earth’s natural environment? I’ve asked myself that a lot lately. I don’t know what to do when oil and other fossil fuels run out. I don’t know how to clean-up an oil spill, re-introduce dwindling species, or depend on some other energy source that will get me to where I want to go, keep me the right temperature, clothe me and power the global industries without fueling global warming, ozone depletion, acid rain and adverse pollution. I don’t know how to convince my elders that the patterns of the world are unsustainable for future generations. I don’t know how to re-distribute the wealth of water. I cannot change the world. But I can change myself.
I have decided to have as a little an environmental impact on the earth as possible – hence the moniker “Small Impact Teen”. Having a small impact means living as simply as possible, without the technological externalities that the majority of North American society depends upon.
My goals are simple and direct:
• Buy less, consider what is truly important.
• Drive less, walk and bike more.
• Go outdoors.
• Appreciate nature.
• Eat locally.
• Spend more time with people, without the addition of electronic devices.
• Live simply, so others may simply live.
My challenge to both you and I is to start appreciating our dependent relationship with nature, and work together to protect and preserve it. It’s our life source. Let’s not sever the relationship.
About Small Impact Teen:
Carly is a recent high-school graduate embarking on a lifetime journey to protect, preserve and honor the environment. She chronicles her transition to a simple life through her blog at: http://smallimpactteen.weebly.com/