Living in a consumerist, money-driven society where most of the items we buy are considered to be temporary and disposable, it can be so easy for us to get caught up in the small things. Do we have the best computer? Is our smartphone the latest model? Does our style inspire envy in all of our friends? For those of us who do not have the money or resources to worry about these things, day-to-day survival concerns are paramount. What is the cheapest or most convenient option for us, regardless of its environmental cost?
While we may be swamped by these everyday concerns, it is important for us not to forget the urgent problems in our world that need to be tackled if we – as a human species – are to have any chance of long-term survival. Here are five big issues that you can help tackle for the sake of our planet … whatever your budget.
1. The Health of the Oceans
The importance of our oceans cannot be overstated. They supply us with an estimated 70 percent of the oxygen we breathe, while also playing a vital role in regulating the Earth’s climate by absorbing 30 percent of the greenhouse gases we produce. Sadly, this absorption of greenhouse gases is one of the issues placing marine life at risk. We humans have increased our output of these gases so dramatically in recent decades that they have begun to make the waters significantly more acidic – thereby threatening the future of marine animals who have adapted to a more alkaline environment.
Overfishing is another grave threat to marine animals. 80 percent of the worlds’ fish stocks are fully or over-exploited, while experts have estimated that the oceans could be devoid of life as soon as 2025! As if this weren’t serious enough, the oceans also contain around 405 dead zones. Dead zones are areas that have been deprived of oxygen and are therefore unable to sustain life. This usually occurs because of pesticide or fertilizer run-off from agricultural facilities. Animal agriculture has been strongly implicated in the creation of dead zones, due to its much larger rate of fertilizer and chemical use, in comparison with plant-based agriculture.
For tips on how you can help the world’s oceans, click on the links below.
- 6 Ways You Can Help Save Our Oceans
- Why we Need to Take Action Now to Prevent the World’s Oceans From Heading to a Dead End
2. Climate Change
A phenomenon of widespread climate change has been recorded by scientists around the world for a number of decades. This phenomenon has been driven by the increased amounts of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases we humans have produced in recent decades, as a result of escalating industrial activity. These gases exert a “warming” effect on our planet’s atmosphere and have caused the Earth’s average yearly temperature to increase by 1 degree Fahrenheit since 1950. This warming trend has gone on to wreak havoc on some of our planet’s most fragile and ecologically diverse land areas, habitats, and animal species. In June, it was confirmed that the Bramble Cay melomys – a small rodent which had lived on an island off the coast of Australia – had become the first animal to go extinct specifically because of climate change.
Other effects that climate change has had on our planet include melting glaciers, rising sea levels, and an increased prevalence of natural disasters. Earlier this year, it emerged that our greenhouse gas emissions have even managed to cancel the next Ice Age, set to take place in 50,000 years’ time! You can learn more about how to tackle climate change in your everyday life by checking out the posts below.
- Scientists Say Climate Change Has Reached the ‘Point of No Return’ – 5 Things You Can Do Today
- #EatForThePlanet: Why Choosing Plant-Based Is the Most Powerful Action to Fight Climate Change
3. Plastic Pollution
Plastic is truly ubiquitous in modern society and is used to wrap almost everything we buy. However, this convenience comes at a heavy price. Shockingly, all of the plastic that has ever been manufactured is still in existence today, as it can take up to a thousand years for this material to break down. Even when it does break down, it never completely “disappears,” but simply splits up into countless, minuscule microplastic fragments. Only 15 percent of plastics are recycled, in comparison to the 88 percent recycling rate for steel, and the 63 percent rate for paper.
270,000 tons of plastic debris are currently floating around on the surface of our oceans, but this represents only a tiny fraction of the total waste that they contain. 8.8 million tons of plastic waste make their way from landfills into the oceans every single year … and this, in turn, has caused a number of “trash islands” to spring up in various locations. The most well-known of these is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is already twice as large as the entire state of Texas! 700 marine species are at risk of going extinct because of the trash we produce. You can find out how to play a role in changing this alarming prediction by clicking on some of the resources below.
- One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic Campaign
- 10 Life Hacks to Help You Cut Plastic Out of the Picture
- 10 Simple Actions That Just Might Save Our World’s Oceans From Plastic
And if you need some inspiration, look no further than the stories of these incredible people who have proven that it is possible to break the plastic habit.
- 7 Amazing People Who Prove That Living Plastic-Free is Possible
- Two Years of Living Plastic Free: How I Did it and What I’ve Learned
4. Animal Agriculture
Factory farms are well-known for their cruel practices toward the animals who live within them. De-beaking, tail docking, and branding (all performed without anesthetic or pain relief) are routine procedures. However, it is not as well-known that all systems of animal agriculture (whether they are factory-farm-based or not) are taking a devastating toll on the health of our planet. The animal agriculture industry currently occupies 45 percent of the planet’s total land area. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has conservatively estimated that livestock production accounts for 14.5 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions, while The Worldwatch Institute has found that this figure could be as high as 51 percent. In a study presented at the American Society for Nutrition’s annual meeting earlier this year, plant-based meat alternatives were found to be responsible for ten times fewer greenhouse gas emissions than comparable beef-based products.
One of the single most powerful steps that every individual on this planet can take to fight climate change is to leave meat and dairy off their plates, and instead adopt a plant-based diet. One person who does this can save up to 200,000 gallons of freshwater supplies per year and slash their carbon footprint in half. As the leading organization at the forefront of the conscious consumerism movement, it is One Green Planet’s view that our food choices have the power to heal our broken food system, give species a fighting chance for survival, and pave the way for a truly sustainable future. You can find out how to get started by referring to the resources below.
- One Green Planet’s #EatforthePlanet Campaign
- This Chart is the Only Thing You Need to See to Understand Why Vegan is Best For the Planet
- New to Eating Vegan? Try These 5 Health Hacks to Keep Things Simple
5. Palm Oil Production
Palm oil production is a leading cause of deforestation, habitat loss, species extinction, and environmental degradation in Indonesia. This country – composed of around 17,000 individual islands – currently has the second highest rate of biodiversity in the world, but this status has been increasingly threatened in recent decades by the slash-and-burn technique employed by palm oil producers in the country. Forest fires are commonly started by palm oil companies as a quick, cheap method of clearing forested areas to make way for palm plantations. Between 2011 and 2012 alone, 8,000 square miles of Indonesian rainforest were cleared to make way for palm oil plantations. 300 football fields’ worth of forest are destroyed for palm oil every single hour.
Countless wild animals have been killed or have lost their homes as a result of these fires, while the dangerous gases and chemicals released by the flames have seriously jeopardized the health of local children and communities. Indonesia is now listed by the World Resources Institute as one of the top ten heaviest polluters in the world, largely because of forest fires. Last year, it was estimated that burning forests and peatland accounted for a whopping 97 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas footprint. Dr. Bill Hare, founder and CEO of Climate Analytics, has explained: “The problem that we see in Indonesia with essentially unrestrained deforestation going on is a bad message for the world. If we can’t really control deforestation in this region, who’s going to be next? It would be a signal that countries can get away with this kind of deforestation without any real constraint.”
Palm oil can be found in approximately 50 percent of consumer products. However, it is imperative that we each make an effort to avoid it in our everyday lives … because when the demand for palm oil goes down, the ongoing desecration of Indonesia’s wildlife can stop too.
- Top 10 Facts You NEED to Know About Palm Oil
- Why You Should Avoid Palm Oil, and How to Do It
- Deforestation, Human Rights Abuse, Animal Extinction and the One Industry That Unites Them All
While it may seem daunting to know that these major issues are facing the planet, there are actions we can take to mitigate the damage caused by each. The future of the planet, and the human population, is in our hands and we have the choice to build a better one every single day … so what will you choose?
Lead image source: Jay Ondreicka/Shutterstock