There is more to being green than the fight to stop global warming. All of our natural resources are in peril because of what we do and what that does to our planet. Yet, to hear the battle cry of environmentalists these days you'd think there's only one war to be fought -- over our energy supply and its consequences.
We are facing a fresh water crisis. We are facing a food crisis. We are facing a crisis over deforestation. And we are facing crises in our oceans. While carbon emissions from fossil fuels pollute the air, so does a lot of other stuff.
Now is the time to press for leadership in the protection of all our natural resources. We'll have let an opportunity for a better planet -- in this election of "change" -- to pass us by if we just focus on the cause celebre that global warming is today.
We must increase our freshwater supply by about 20% by the year 2025 to meet world demand, and 90 cities still dump sewage into the Great Lakes, which supply water to 10% of the US population. The Lakes' resource is so great, we are going to great lengths to protect it: Congress last week passed a law formally banning the export of water from the Great Lakes beyond its basin. The price of most food has doubled over the past year, forcing millions deeper into poverty and malnourishment. There is now six times as much plastic as zooplankton in parts of the Pacific Ocean, and 90% of the big fish on Earth have disappeared.
Meanwhile, we have an ever-increasing waste and electronic-waste burden on our hands. We each create twice as much trash per day as we did 40 years ago. The average size of our landfills has multiplied 25 times in that period as well. And our e-waste burden is so bad that we ship 80% of it overseas to countries with weak environmental standards. These countries in turn make products from our discards and ship them right back to us. (And we wonder how lead paint gets in toys.)
As well, up to 40% of global wood production is from illegal timber operations. Deforestation not only displaces people and endangers species, it is the second biggest cause of climate change. (It isn't only fossil fuels that cause global warming.)
To be sure, an alternative energy supply is needed and important. But let's not forget the importance of other environmental factors crucial to our health and well-being, not to mention the planet's.
Thomas M. Kostigen is the author of You Are Here: Exposing the Vital Link Between What We Do and What That Does to Our Planet (HarperOne). www.readyouarehere.com
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