Why I Started Caring About the Evironment

01/26/2012 09:28 am ET | Updated Mar 27, 2012

The state of the environment and the effects of global climate change are two of the most hotly debated issues of our era. What kind of world will we leave to our children, and how will we achieve that kind of world? Shall we sit back and accept the fact that since human beings walked the planet, we've had an effect on it and therefore need not worry about our current-day impact. Or, will we take responsibility for the pollution that we have been leaving on the face of the Earth for millennia (but more so in the past two centuries)? I personally believe that we should take initiative and stand up to help change the geological future of our planet, and that this change can only be reached via global collaboration.

Why should we work so hard to change the planet's future? Like the many bystanders asking themselves this question, I too was once cynical of what I considered to be an overreaction to an apocalyptic declaration. That is not to say, however, that I was in doubt of the existence of global warming -- I have always fully believed the scientific proof of the affect of greenhouse gases on the ozone and therefore the climate -- I was just skeptical of the level of action that we were being asked to take. People have been predicting the apocalypse for centuries, so why should I believe them now? Then came two events that changed my mind forever: the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan. When I saw the level of devastation that these two countries were experiencing, possibly because of my and others' laziness about recycling a piece of paper or driving from one store to another downtown, I began to change my views. Suddenly I was more willing to walk all the way to the recycling bin because of my memories of pictures of a town completely destroyed by a natural disaster whose severity could have been prevented. Whenever I was in doubt about whether I really did want to bother recycling that one scrap of paper, I asked myself how I would feel if that were my town that had been leveled. As I walked to the recycling bin, I tried to ask myself if I could even picture such a sight and found that I could not.

However, individual views will do very little to help in the long run. Environmental preservation, and climate change in particular, is a global problem and it should be addressed and treated as such. How one nation decides to confront the climatic changes affects everyone else in every other nation, and this is the problem that needs most desperately to be recognized. It is true that reaching a sort of global collaboration will not be easy. It will seem difficult and perhaps, at times, impossible. Some nations, after all, just seem to be better equipped to handle the measure of environmental friendliness that are being called for in the world today. For example, I spent my last summer in France with a program called Experiment in International Living. My host family lived in a big city, in comparison to Americans who often live in the suburbs. greatly reduced greenhouse gas emissions not only because of public transportation and less use of cars, but because once everything was so close together there was no need for any sort of transportation vehicle at all but our own two feet. On the other hand, the United States would face greater difficulty, I would imagine, in lowering its greenhouse gas emission to the level of Europe's only because the United States has a car culture that Europe does not have. Americans often live in the suburbs, which can be a convenient escape from the hustle and bustle of city life and the workplace but is a travesty when it comes to environmental effects. For the United States, embracing new environmental measures would require much more of a paradigm shift in certain areas, but if we are to truly attempt to preserve our planet for the generations to come, then we must all work together.