Friday, January 23, 2009

Does it matter?

Recently, a reader asked "Are you optimistic about the future of the planet? About humankind's ability to fix the damage and take a greener path?" My initial thought was ... of course, every effort counts and we're making a difference. But then ... I began to really think about this and I wondered if that was the truth ... or if I just want it to be the truth.

In the fall I made a trip to Chicago ... it's a really nice city and has a lot going for it. Chicago has a wonderful mass transit system ... it's user friendly and convenient. Since parking is expensive and limited in the downtown area, walking is encouraged ... the sidewalks are wide and clean. Many establishments make use of revolving doors which have been proven to be energy efficient. On the other hand, the high rise buildings, across the street from where I stayed, left their lights and computers on all night. The Chicago River and Lake Michigan show signs of pollution ... as does the city in general. This isn't unique to Chicago but is a condition of most large cities.

In truth, the biggest threats to our environment are large companies and governments who won't make "green" changes.

But still ... there must be evidence that we're on the right path! So I went in search of it. Sadly, there isn't much. That may be because we are at the forefront of this effort and it simply takes time for things to change.

According to an article dated April 28, 2006 by the Environmental News Network, a report by the American Lung Association showed that there has been significant air quality improvement in the last decade. The report "found real improvement in air quality over much of the United States, due in part to reduced emissions from power plants." Researchers looked at the number of days deemed to have unhealthy air from 2002 to 2004, and compared it with the numbers from 1996 to 1998.

In an article dated January 23, 2008, a study was released that "indicated that water quality in the Egyptian segment of the River Nile improved considerably in the months of October and November 2007, giving rise to hopes that drinking water quality for many of Egypt’s 80 million people may improve. " This improvement came about by preventing industrial establishments from discharging their waste into the Nile.

So, there is hope. But what about our individual efforts ... do they matter? When we use environmentally friendly cleaning products in our homes and can breathe easier ... it matters. When we recognize a savings in the cost of water and energy or re-purpose an item instead of buying new ... it matters. And it matters, not only because of the immediate benefits we realize ... but because of the message we send. When we refuse to buy a product packaged in plastic we tell the manufacturers that it matters. When we vote for the candidate who seems to want cleaner fuel and sustainability, we tell the world that it matters. We have a voice and it can be heard through our actions. And let's face it ... as consumers, that voice is powerful.

My answer to the question is ... yes, I am optimistic about the future of the planet. I'm also confident about our individual efforts and their contribution to a better world. It may take awhile to see big results ... but they'll come. We just have to continue on the path!

On Monday, a guest author is going to share her thoughts on the subject ... I hope you'll stop by.

As always ... I would love to hear from you!