Our Environmental Footprint

By Nisha Mele, age 13 and a concerned citizen

Yes, many people know and care about the climate change crisis. However, how many of them are actually doing something about it? The worst part is that we are making this so much worse. We caused this, and we must be the ones to fix it!  Not only is it affecting us, it is affecting the innocent wildlife and their habitats. They didn’t do anything at all, but they are getting hit the hardest with this emergency.

Obviously, this is a global issue. However, absolutely nothing will change if people don’t start caring. This has to start with an individual taking action; then a town taking action; then a state taking action; then a country taking action; and then eventually the world taking action. Since it has to start somewhere, I believe that it should start right here in my community. With someone taking charge, maybe other people will follow along.

Some people seem to believe that if they ignore it, it will simply go away. They refuse to open their eyes and to see how critical it is that they do something. They continue to take unnecessarily long showers and use up far more electricity than they need. It is super easy to take small steps to be kinder to our environment. However, many people seem to care more about their luxury than protecting our earth. We need to stop being selfish and begin to focus on our planet, our HOME.

In the Arctic, the ice is melting. Ice glaciers that existed a century ago now no longer exist. Animals are losing their homes and their food sources. Some people who live in places like Alaska have lost their homes as well. In 39 years, the ice content in the Northern Hemisphere decreased by 1.15 million square kilometers. That is a LOT of melted ice! We have to reduce the loss of glaciers. We can do this indirectly by taking small steps to reduce our negative footsteps on the earth, which is also our only home.

This issue affects everyone. Starting somewhere will eventually make a big difference. If I was mayor, I would help my citizens understand and enable them to care. Once people begin to realize how bad this situation is, and how it will affect us long-term, I truly believe that they will start to make positive changes to help our environment. For example, by 2018, 36.57 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide had been released into our atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, which causes the “greenhouse effect”. It wears down the atmosphere, allowing more sunlight through, and this warms the temperature of the entire planet, a phenomenon called global warming. The heat is melting our glaciers and sea ice, shifting precipitation patterns and causing extreme weather events, causing rising seas, and moving animals away from their habitats, among other major impacts.

To start, I would create regulations to prevent unnecessary wastage of resources, like water and electricity. Using timed faucets in public sinks and high efficiency public toilets, plus timed electric lighting throughout my city would help. I would have visible messaging throughout the community to remind people to conserve water and electricity and give businesses a financial incentive to do the same and “go green”.  I would arrange for public service announcements on television and radio to remind people to be motivated to take shorter showers, use less hot water, and minimize lighting in their homes. I would create a local environmental protection agency to promote these concepts; and go into schools and businesses to educate the community. This is mainly to get people motivated about changing their ways.  Small things will eventually make a big difference, and you have to start somewhere.

It is interesting to note that 96% of everyday items require fossil fuels. Fossil fuels come from the earth, but the problem with them is that extracting them, transporting them, and burning them emit a lot of pollution. We rely heavily on fossil fuels, but what happens when they run out? Well, they are non-renewable fossils and so without them, we won’t have our main source of energy.

But there is good news! There are other options that we can use instead of fossil fuels. Not only are there other resources we can use, but these alternatives are much more environmentally friendly. The best energy to use is sustainable resources, like solar and wind power. These are renewable, sustainable resources that will never run out! They do not cause global warming, they don’t melt the ice, they only require natural sources and are much less expensive… there are so many benefits from this that there is no reason not to use them! Often, solar panels can provide the same energy for a much lower cost!

Using renewable energy is very important for the longevity of our planet and is sustainable. If I were mayor, I would set up solar panels throughout my community and incentivize citizens and businesses to do the same. Wind energy is another great, inexpensive way to get energy. Although wind turbines are expensive up front to install, it would be a worthwhile investment in the long run. I would create public projects to install wind turbines throughout my city.

Thankfully, sustainable renewable resources like wind and solar powers are being implemented more and more throughout our country to slowly replace fossil fuels but this needs to be a global effort. If we do not start to embrace more sustainable options, then we will continue to rely on fossil fuels. If we continue to rely on fossil fuels, we will continue having to burn them to create energy. The more we burn fossil fuels, the more carbon dioxide enters our atmosphere. The more carbon dioxide that enters our atmosphere, the more worn down our atmosphere will become. The more worn down our atmosphere will become, then the more sunlight will seep through. The more warmth that comes in, the more global warming will change for the worst. The more climate change worsens, the more ice will melt in the Arctic, and other cold places. The more ice that melts, the more Arctic animals will die. This is just a terrible chain of events, all leading to the worst. We need to stop burning fossil fuels, or else we will eventually run out, and kill our planet and our animal and plant life in the process.

The only way to stop this is to come together unified as a human race, and all do our part to save our planet before it is too late.  If everyone says, “I won’t make a difference, so there’s no point trying”, then we all will continue to ruin our planet without changing. On the other hand, if we all come together with a unified effort globally to implement these changes, we can continue to enjoy our planet and protect it for future generations, and save the fragile ecosystems that give life and a home to the animals and plants that share this planet with us. This is how one small community making a difference will eventually become one whole world making a big difference!

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