We are all responsible for our actions, are we not?
While some environmentalists say, “Think Globally, Act Locally.” Many people now think that because the environmental problems we face are so big and global in nature, the only way they can be solved is by international agreement where many governments cooperate together. In May 2019, the UN released an intergovernmental report on biodiversity, it concluded that, “the health of ecosystems on which all species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever.” To make matters worse, the human population and meat consumption also continue to grow rapidly. Meat production has increased by 500% in the past 60 years. This is one reason why organisations like PETA promote the vegan diet.
There are many different types of ‘political’ organisation in terms of seeking to solve environmental problems. They range from, (1) citizen campaigns, small NGOs (within a country), large NGOs (international, such as Green Peace and PETA), (2) through individual governments to (3) global intergovernmental organisations. An example of a grassroots level political organisation is the Extinction Rebellion group who in 2019 did peaceful street protests in many countries in the world. An example of an intergovernmental political agreement is the “Paris Agreement” organised by the United Nations that seeks to cut greenhouse gas emissions, it was signed in 2016 by over 150 countries.
The key environmental issues that the various environmentally focused political organisations are trying to solve are:
- Overconsumption — Today there are around 7.5 billion people on planet earth, but that number is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050. To produce food/goods for all these people results in natural resource depletion, pollution and global warming.
- Natural resource depletion — Some scientists say one out of every ten types of fauna and flora are expected to go extinct by 2050. For example, orangutans live in rainforests, when these are cut down, so is their habitat. Not only do rainforests act as biodiversity reserves but they absorb CO2 and produce fresh oxygen. Nonetheless, at present, about 18 million acres of rainforest are destroyed each year.
- Pollution — Millions of tons of rubbish and sewage is thrown into rivers and the oceans each year. Modern agricultural and industrial processes use and produce all sorts of toxic chemicals.
- Global Warming — 97% of scientists who study the climate agree that global temperatures are rising, ice caps are melting, and droughts are becoming more common, in no small part because of human activities.
In order to address these problems, society will need to fundamentally change. But change isn’t easy. Not many people would want to give up ordering takeaway food (plastic packaging), give up on the idea of flying overseas every year (CO2) or indeed give up on the idea of having more than two children. Fundamental change can only happen as a result of political activity. Therefore, the best political activity, at any level, would focus on three things:
- Enforce environmental protection laws — This will help conserve remaining natural habitats, cut pollution and reduce cruelty to animals
- Invest in info-tech — As this can lead to a fossil fuel free future and production processes that no longer deplete natural resources
- To focus on human happiness — As people often go shopping and eat too much because they are unhappy or over-stressed, organisations need to promote the idea of doing yoga and being vegan as eco-friendly alternatives
To sum up, because the environmental problems faced by humankind today are so substantial, political action needs to be taken at all levels. We need to think globally (e.g., demand our governments to cut CO2 and preserve remaining areas of wilderness) and act locally (e.g., no longer using single-use plastics like water bottle and milkshake straws).
IPBES (2019). IPBES Global Assessment Summary for Policymakers. Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Retrieved, https://www.ipbes.net/news/ipbes-global-assessment-summary-policymakers-pdf
Steed, E. (2018, 25 June). Philosophy Illustrated. The New Yorker.