I’m going to open this with a direct quote from this Vermont source:
“We believe that the scientific community is right. Climate change is real, is caused by human activity and is already creating devastating problems in the United States and throughout the world. We believe that the United States can and must lead the world in transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy. No. We do not believe that it makes sense to build the Keystone pipeline or other projects which make us more dependent on oil and other fossil fuels.”
What is an Environmentalist?
For the context of this post (and how this all relates to me), here’s my definition of the word, Environmentalist: A person who is concerned with or advocates the protection of the environment.
Please note that definition came from a simple google search of the word.
How am I an environmentalist?
This is a complex identity for me since it encompasses so many different thoughts and feelings, particularly in terms of the list of issues I care about in this umbrella subject. As the post title implies, these are the issues I care about. Other people who identify with this term might have a different set or organization of environmental issues that make up the core of their viewpoints.
Taken right from NASA:
“Climate change” encompasses global warming, but refers to the broader range of changes that are happening to our planet. These include rising sea levels, shrinking mountain glaciers, accelerating ice melt in Greenland, Antarctica and the Arctic, and shifts in flower/plant blooming times. These are all consequences of the warming, which is caused mainly by people burning fossil fuels and putting out heat-trapping gases into the air. The terms “global warming” and “climate change” are sometimes used interchangeably, but strictly they refer to slightly different things.
I believe that climate change is real, and is being magnified by human made things. There is so much to this issue that it’s hard to fit into just a few paragraphs for a single blog post. A recent example of how massive a problem this is can be found here. I feel that climate change is the villain behind California’s major drought. A recent ThinkProgress article explains how to read online writing about climate change. This particular aspect comes up in political discussions frequently, and is a factor in my opinion on specific politicians.
From the WWF:
Pollution may muddy landscapes, poison soils and waterways, or kill plants and animals. Humans are also regularly harmed by pollution. Long-term exposure to air pollution, for example, can lead to chronic respiratory disease, lung cancer and other diseases. Toxic chemicals that accumulate in top predators can make some species unsafe to eat. More than one billion people lack access to clean water and 2.4 billion don’t have adequate sanitation, putting them at risk of contracting deadly diseases.
Pollution was my first exposure to environmental issues. I was talking about this in Elementary school, and the Power Rangers even did a few episodes related to what pollution is and why it’s bad. Having been in a state that is fierce about cleaning up pollution and a few that clearly don’t care, I can really see the difference it makes just in a first world country. I can’t even begin to fathom what it would be like to be surrounded by pollution in an area less wealthy than the United States. Because of that, I want to go somewhere to see for myself just how bad it is. In theory, I feel like this is the easiest issue to tackle to fight for the earth.
Fair Trade & Organic Products
This is something of a recent issue to me. This particular issue also has a couple sides to it.
I’ll start with Fair Trade:
“Fair Trade goods are just that. Fair. From far-away farms to your shopping cart, products that bear our logo come from farmers and workers who are justly compensated. We help farmers in developing countries build sustainable businesses that positively influence their communities.”
I had first seen this on coffee products, but now it’s on so much more. The concept of people helping to better each other instead of just looking for profit is something I can put my heart behind.
I am working on improving myself when it comes to buying fair trade, and learning about the impacts this has in other parts of the world.
As for organic products, I’m going to start with Wikipedia’s definition:
“Organic foods are foods produced by organic farming. While the standards differ worldwide, organic farming in general features cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.”
This sounds wonderful, it really does. BUT, I have been shown quite a few things about the term “organic” in recent years and need to look at it a little closer. Mayo Clinic starts to break down what constitutes something as Organic.
Again, this all started in a good place, but I think that the concept has been stolen by corporate America. Here’s where I see company greed eroding the value of the word organic.
Finally, this article finishes the job of breaking down the myths behind the word organic. With all of that being said, I no longer buy organic products for the sake of buying organic. For a short time, I was hooked on “Organic Milk” because I could taste a slight difference in it, but after a little bit of time (and money!) it started to taste more like a corporate scheme to make me spend an extra two to five dollars on milk with each gallon.
Again, organic is a lovely concept but at the end of the day, there’s only a few select “organic” products that I’ll make a point to buy. This article from ThinkProgress is the final nail on that coffin.
From The EPA:
EPA efforts in the area of sustainability practices and approaches include labeling green products and promoting green chemistry and engineering, managing materials rather than creating waste, using green infrastructure to manage storm water runoff, and supporting the sustainable design of communities.
I think this is the core of all the other issues, because something not being sustainable leads to pollution, which in turn leads to climate change. The other effect is that fair trade and organics suffer when something isn’t sustainable. Working someone to death in a sweat shop to replace them with someone else isn’t an idea I’m comfortable with, but it’s all too common in the world right now.
One of many pollutants I know of is plastic bags from grocery stores, which I’ve used plenty of times myself. I love the trend to use green bags, mine come from Milwaukee’s Pridefest. California recently banned the use of plastic bags statewide, and I hope Vermont does the same thing.
Some people call science a religion. While I know that it’s actually a mass of proven facts, and methods to discover how things in the world work, I guess you could say, I’m a believer. It should be stated that I use the word faith in this phrase very differently than it’s more common religious notation, and this article explains what that means. There’s a few OKCupid questions that help me state my position pretty clearly: Science is where I do put my faith in, and I feel that it should be taught alone in schools, and religion should be taught at a Church, Synagogue, Temple, or wherever your faith is practiced. I do acknowledge how this can be considered an extreme position. Having faith in science is one of my core practices as a Unitarian Universalist.
On a side note, my identity as an environmentalist is one of the lesser reasons I moved to Vermont.
Speaking of Vermont, VTDigger did a great post about putting your environmental actions where your mouth is.