6 Most Pressing Environmental Issues—And What You Can Do To Help
More than four decades after the first Earth Day, there are still many environmental concerns for communities around the world to address; perhaps none so pressing as man-made climate change. But progress is being made, and it could be argued that awareness about environmental issues is at an all-time high. For this coming Earth Day, we’re shining a light on the most pressing environmental concerns that affect us all and showing what you can do to help restore ecological balance to this amazing place we call home.
SOIL EROSION AND DEGRADATION
Unstainable industrial agriculture practices have resulted in soil erosion and degradation that leads to less arable land, clogged and polluted waterways, increased flooding and desertification.
What You Can Do: Support sustainable agriculture that puts people and the planet above profit. On a smaller scale, you can make a difference in your backyard by switching to non-toxic green pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers.
LOSS OF BIODIVERSITY
Increasing human encroachment on wildlife habitats is causing a rapid loss of biodiversity that threatens food security, health, and world stability. Climate change is also a major contributor to biodiversity loss, as some species aren’t able to adapt to changing temperatures. According to the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planent Index, biodiversity has declined 27% in the last 35 years.
What You Can Do: Next time you are at the grocery store, check to see if food packing contains any of the following eco-labels: USDA Organic, Fair Trade Certified, Marine Stewardship Council or Green Seal. Other product certifications include Forest Stewardship Council certification, Rainforest Alliance Certification and Certified Wildlife Friendly. Also, reusing, recycling and composting are easy ways to protect biodiversity.
As the population increases and climate change causes more droughts, water scarcity is becoming more of an issue. Only three percent of the world’s water is fresh water and 1.1 billion people lack access to clean, safe drinking water. As the current drought in California dramatically shows, access to water is not just an issue for developing countries but the United States as well. In fact, by the middle of this century more than third of all countries in the lower 48 states will be at higher risk of water shortages with more than 400 of the 1,100 countries facing an extremely high risk.
What You Can Do: Install an Energy-Star certified washer, using low-flow faucets, plugging up leaks, irrigating the lawn in the morning or evening when the cooler air causes less evaporation, taking shorter showers and NOT running sink water when brushing your teeth. Also, consider using non-toxic cleaning products and eco-friendly pesticides and herbicides that won’t contaminate groundwater.
Forests are important to mitigating climate change because they serve as “carbon sinks,” meaning that they absorb CO2 that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere and worsen global warming. It is estimated that 15 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation. Cutting down trees also threatens animals and humans who rely on healthy forests to sustain themselves, and the loss of tropical rainforests is particularly concerning because around 80 percent of the world’s species reside in these areas. About 17 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been cut down in the past 50 years to make way for cattle ranching. That’s a double whammy for the climate because cattle flatulence is a major source of methane gas, which contributes more to short-term climate change than carbon emissions.
What You Can Do: Purchase a policy with MagicQuote and we’ll plant a tree on your behalf! Try using washable cloths instead of paper towels, use cloth shopping bags (instead of paper), and look at labels to make sure you only use FSC-certified wood and paper products. You can also boycott products made by palm oil companies that contribute to deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia.
Air pollution and climate change are closely linked to the same greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet are also creating smoggy conditions in major cities that endanger public health.
Water and soil pollution might not get the media attention that air pollution does, but they are still important public health concerns. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, dirty water is the world’s biggest health risk. While the Clean Water Act did much to make American water safe from harmful pollutants, today there is a new threat to clean water coming from the shale gas fracking boom taking place across the country and from the EPA itself.
What You Can Do: Many of the solutions to air pollution are similar to those for climate change, though it’s important to either make a concerted effort to drive less or switch to a lower-emissions vehicle. Switching over to green energy is also important, as that will cut back on fossil fuel emissions. If you aren’t able to install solar or wind power on your property or if your utility gets its electricity from dirty energy sources, consider signing up for a renewable energy producer like Ethical Electric that connects consumers to 100 percent renewable energy sources to power their homes.
While 97% of climate scientists agree that global warming is occurring and greenhouse gas emissions are the main contributor, the political will has not been strong enough so far to initiative a massive policy shift away from fossil fuels and toward sustainable forms of energy.
What You Can Do: Your home and transportation could be a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. A certified home energy audit can help make your home energy efficient. If you commute via biking, walking or public transportation you are doing your part to fight global warming, but if you must own a motor vehicle, consider trading in your gas guzzler for a fuel-efficient hybrid or better yet- go electric.