Warming oceans. Shrinking ice sheets. Rising temperatures. Extreme disasters.
The signs of climate change extend from severe melting ice and snow in the Arctic to extreme heat in our very own Midwest. The sea levels at coastlines around the world are rising due to the expansion of heated water, but at the same time, glaciers at the world’s mountain peaks are retreating from the warmth of the outside.
It appears that the list goes on and on and on, and in all honesty – it truly does. It is known that since the 1960s humans have been increasing the number of greenhouse gases trapped in the atmosphere steadily, and now nearly 73 percent of Americans believe that global warming is happening – a 10 percent increase from March of 2015, according to a 2019 study by the Yale University program on Climate Change communication. In fact, when the survey was conducted in 2010, only 50 percent of those questioned knew what global warming meant for the environment.
In addition to their awareness on the subject, 72 percent of the population feel climate change is important to them personally, but haven’t done anything about it. Yet in a society where technology leads most daily lives and everything broadcasts through online news sources, a few simple searches through Google and a person will know all there is to know about climate change.
If communicating with more than 300 million people in the United States isn’t the concern, why are we still in danger? In the last 30 years, nearly 1.3 million people around the world have moved or been displaced because of flooding from growing sea levels at their coastal homes. For the Midwest specifically, climate change is leaving an agricultural impact. Escalating temperatures cause cows to consume less grass due to the heat stress, which in turn prevents them from growing and producing meat and milk. One of Missouri’s top commodities, corn, yields less crop as a result of the increasingly dry environment. Climate change leaves its imprint across the globe, but the situation is far from resolved.
The issue is not that people are living in ignorance but that not enough of our society is willing to confront the challenge and bring about change. Anyone can talk about climate change and global warming but talking and doing lie on opposite ends of the spectrum. The same study by Yale University states that nearly half of Americans feel it is somewhat important to act on climate change, but only 40 percent said they made a moderate effort to reduce their carbon footprint. Though the statistics show climate change doesn’t seem like a significant enough issue to most, perhaps people simply need more attainable options to modify their lifestyles and make a difference.
A straightforward way to decrease our individual effect on climate change is investing in the 3R’s of the environment: Reducing, reusing, and recycling. Every item a person buys goes through the cycle of manufacturing to disposal and each step leads to the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the number one cause of climate change. Managing how you discard packaged goods will decrease your specific carbon footprint significantly.
Reducing waste is the simplest of the three – and the easiest to put into effect. Putting a limit to the amount of new products you buy automatically ‘reduces’ the amount you need to dispose of. For example, printing on both sides of the paper will minimize paper wastage. Avoiding plastic silverware and plates will cut an enormous amount of the trash collected by the utensils.
Reusing requires a bit more creativity. Finding ways to extend the utilization of an item will save it from being thrown away. Some uncomplicated ideas are to throw a garage sale for your outgrown clothes and knickknacks, or donating old books and apparel.
Finally, practice the art of recycling. When a product is recycled, it is transformed back into raw material so it can be shaped into a new item. By buying items that can be recycled, the greenhouse gases released by the process of manufacturing brand-new products diminishes. Putting effort into watching the labels of things you buy – so you know if it can be recycled – is all it takes to make a difference.
Bringing about change is not difficult. Yes, it requires a little effort. Yes, it involves some commitment, and yes, it will seem like nothing is changing. But as long as everyone tries, then we will have the hope that we didn’t have before.