Friday, May 30, 2014

Confronting Future Development and Sustainability by Cammi Hubert

PHS 100A Environmental Studies
Warner Pacific College
May 29, 2014
Confronting Future Development and Sustainability
            As this course comes to an end I cannot help but express my concerns about what we will leave for our children and their children. I think that our society has become so greedy and consumed with having the best, biggest and the most that many people look the other way when it comes to giving back what they have so freely taken. I cannot say that I was not aware of the condition of our environment, but I can say I will never look at the world around me the same. After having some education relating to sustainability and our future I see red flags all around me.
            In a previous paper I wrote about an attitude that whatever is depleted in our environment there will always be someone finding a substitute and everything will again be free for the taking. It feels to me like our society expects the government and other pertinent agencies to refill our empty barrels. I often wonder if people take so much for granted because there has always been something or someone to produce a solution. Is the idea that we will continue to use our resources until we are living on other planets because the earth is finally unable to sustain life a logical solution? Or is it because we are such a spoiled nation that most only think about today and not what life will be like in 100 years? If we, meaning everyone, continue to do what we are doing life as we have always known it will no longer be the life that our future generations know.
            As I begin to realize that there are things that can be done to help preserve our natural resources it occurs to me that we will be chasing the damage and only be able to address what is happening now not what has already been destroyed. Our text book writes “The United States with less than 5% of the world’s population consumes 20% of the world’s resources” (Laposata & Withgott, 2014). That is outrageous!
I wonder how many people have ever seen an undeveloped area? With the way we travel, communicate, work and shop most of our society has never experienced a connection with our natural environment. Everything appears material and in the quest to have “things” our consumption of goods and services cannot last forever. When a cell phone is used, a laptop is opened or writing with a simple ink pen is there even a thought about how this is only possible because of the minerals we mine. Every single day we as human beings take the use of a belt buckle or putting on cosmetics for granted. I am curious how many people actually have a concept of how these luxuries are even made.
            Our vast use and destruction of our environment reaches much farther than cleaning up waterways or recycling our plastics, our depletion of the earth is not just surface but underground as well. We mine minerals needed to produce almost everything we use on a daily basis. What happens when the minerals are gone? “ The Minerals Education Coalition estimated that in 2013 the average American consumed more than 17,200 kg (38,000 lbs.) of new minerals and fuels every year” (Laposata & Withgott, 2014). When we compare this to every person in the United States the consumption rate is astronomical. “At the current rates of use, a baby born in 2012 is predicted to use over 1.3 million kg (3 million lbs.) of minerals over his or her lifetime” (Laposata & Withgott, 2014).
            With all of this in mind the world needs to pay attention. I believe we can make a difference in our environment and hopefully stop destroying what is left. If everyone makes a conscious decision to do their part our environment, our health and our quality of life can be maintained without sucking our planet dry. Minerals are a resource that appears to be taken from the earth faster than the earth can reproduce it. Therefore the likelihood of not having the minerals necessary to move forward with things like solar power is very real.
One of the minerals being seriously depleted is indium used in LCD screens and other luxuries.  If we continue to tap into our supplies of this mineral it is possible that it won’t be available in 30 years! This mineral, as well as others, are used in the production of high efficiency cells for solar power. We are just beginning to truly understand all of the benefits that could be realized from the use of solar energy. Discovering that we can create electricity from the sun can put things in a new perspective. When I look around me I realize that electricity is one of the most fundamental components of our everyday lives. For those countries that continue to remain in the dark solar energy could be one of the main changes that could impact every human being on the planet.
            The exposure to the possibility of using the sun to create electricity could make a huge difference in so many ways. The possibility of reducing electricity bills to the point that the power companies could actually owe a credit to the consumer is amazing to me. The enormous amounts of overhead costs from the use of electricity could be decreased so significantly that more people could benefit from these types of savings.
            I can visualize for instance just one residential alcohol and drug treatment facility could realize such an enormous savings from solar power that there would be more funding to help more people. The use of electricity to light up the building; heat up the water, run the furnace and/or the air conditioner , power a commercial kitchen as well as all of the little necessities that require power is so expensive that the numbers of people that benefit from A&D services are essentially limited.  The amount it costs to pay overhead to run one of these facilities could be reduced so significantly that the savings could be put back into funding needed desperately for more services to reach more people.
            The solution is simple; we need to stop taking from our planet and begin working with our planet to utilize the resources that are right in front of us. The sun has always been there and likely always will be. Taking advantage of what is produced naturally by the sun makes sense. We need to let the planet rest and refresh itself instead of depleting and destroying it then maybe there will be something left for the generations to come.

 Laposata, M., & Withgott, J. (2014). Environment:the science behind the stories. (5 ed., pp. 636, 667). Glenview , IL: Pearson Education, Inc.

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