The Final Chapter

              Taking care of the environment is something I have always been passionate about, something I credit my dad and his love of science for, but prior to taking this class, I was getting to a point where I felt hopeless about the state of the planet. I wasn’t sure if there was really anything that I could do, but this class has helped me to remember that every small thing we do has an impact. Our discussions of self-narratives and paradigm shifts reminded me that it’s worthwhile to do whatever we can, even if it doesn’t seem like anyone else will. People do what they see others doing, so if I can do something to help, then hopefully my friends and family will do it too and continue to extend outward from there.

As I research energy sources, I’m amazed at how many renewable sources of energy we really have access to. Of course, each source has its downsides, and no one source can be implemented everywhere, but there are so many ways to harness energy from our environment that at least one of them can be used in any location. These energy sources also give me hope, because if humans can devise a way to get energy from sources other than fossil fuels, there could be even greater things coming if we encourage creativity and ingenuity in this field.

When reading the article about poverty and environmental degradation, I thought the correlation was interesting. It makes sense, impoverished people often don’t have access to education to know how the things they do affect the environment, but even if they did, many don’t have much choice. The same actions that are harming the environment are the only source of income for many of these people, and for most of these people having enough money to live off is (and should be) one of their top priorities. I think it’s important to understand the correlation between poverty and environmental degradation, but not to place blame on the people in poverty. It is up to the people who are doing better economically to help the people in poverty rise out of that state to a place where they no longer rely on practices that can harm the environment just to sustain themselves.

              In Jessica Jackley’s TED Talk she explained one way we can do just that. The system that she set up to help entrepreneurs in impoverished countries get loans to start their businesses is an excellent example of a way we can help these people earn more money, and indirectly, slow the unsafe practices many are involved in right now. She also talked about the stories we tell about ourselves and about other people, something I thought went well with our continuous discussion of self-narratives and paradigm shifts.

In the end, she talks about not feeling like she needs to convince people to care, because we already do. And that the reason we pause is that we care so much that we are afraid to mess up. This is something that really resonated with me. Even though she was talking about poverty, I feel like that same feeling can be applied towards acting against climate change. People are so afraid of messing something up that they don’t try at all, not because they don’t care, but because they care too much.

              The other article focused on the economics that come into play when we talk about climate change. Significant progress won’t come until we do something to convince large companies to stop their harmful practices. One of the best ways to do that would be to make sustainable practices the most cost-effective way to do things. Big companies have shown over and over again that if it’s going to save them money, they will choose to do things that harm the environment. So, whether it’s through taxes or cap and trade policies, we need to make it so that companies will choose to do the right thing on their own.

Going forward, I think I would like to play the role of an activist or an educator. That said, I feel like all activists have an obligation to also be educators. Otherwise, your activism won’t do any good if it doesn’t teach people. I want to be an activist because I want to be able to feel that I’m making a difference, and do what I can to keep this from being humanity’s final chapter.


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