Clegg: The problem with environmental advocacy

BY CHRIS CLEGG | APRIL 23, 2015 5:00 AM

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Wednesday marked the 45th anniversary of Earth Day in which billions of people worldwide pretended to care about things such as the environment, cleaner air, and recycling. OK, well, maybe some of us actually do care about these things, but the uniform response around the globe to address environmental issues has been lackluster at best.

First of all, while I appreciate that we take a day out of the year to recognize the beautiful planet that we live in, shouldn’t every day be Earth Day? Shouldn’t we be trying to live as environmentally savvy as possible every day of the year and not just on April 22? Of course we should, but it’s hard, and trust me, I know.

I can’t make it into work on time without driving my car. I can’t always find a recycling bin, so sometimes I throwaway my plastic in the garbage. When it’s January in Iowa and the winter is throwing subzero temperatures in my face, I tend to use more fuel to avoid it. In other words, similar to how we would all like to eat healthier, we would all like to be environmentally friendly, but it is hard for any individual to practice what they preach here because issues such as climate change and rising sea levels do not pose immediately visible threats to the people that accelerate them.

Take nuclear warfare, for comparison. People perceive Iranian nuclear stores and North Korean weapons testing as huge concerns of national security because we know that, through the swift motion of pressing a big red button that says “LAUNCH,” the world could be completely reshaped.

After all, we have seen the effects of weapons of mass destruction, both domestically and abroad. So, consequently, we start negotiating with Iran and spend billions of dollars on our defense budget and call it a solution.

This type of immediacy, in both problem and solution, pushes the topic itself to the forefront. If the popularity of an issue does directly correlate with the amount of time that is spent trying to solve that issue, then I am afraid that we will not see much progress on environmental issues for quite some time.

According to a poll conducted by the New York Times, Stanford University and Resources for the Future, 57 percent of American adults think that if nothing is done to reduce global warming in the future, it will become a “very serious” problem for the world. Compare this with the 44 percent of adult Americans who answered “Not at all” to a question that read: “How much do you think global warming has hurt you personally?,” and you highlight the root of the problem.

While people are very much aware of the issue, sufficient solutions are not being generated because, after all, won’t it be someone else’s problem? Don’t get me wrong, I applaud the steps the Obama administration has taken in trying to tackle the issues of keeping our environment a safe place to live (i.e., the Global Warming Climate Change Initiative and the agreement between the U.S. and China to slash greenhouse-gas emissions), but we can’t rely on laws and regulations, especially if they’re not universal, to fix such an issue that is so global in scope.

Perhaps the best weapon we have against climate change is ironically one that got us into this mess in the first place: the power of the people. You may not be able to sign a law into effect, but you can drive less, recycle more, and become an environmentally conscious person.

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