What is the environment and its components?
We New Yorkers live in a city that is gradually moving toward environmental sustainability, but we are far from where we should end up. A circular economy in which there is no waste and in which all material outcomes become inputs is far beyond our technological and organizational capabilities today. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think about how to get from here to there. Much of the work of building environmental sustainability requires developing systems that allow us to live our lives the way we want to while causing as little harm as possible to the planet. Large enterprises are needed to manage wastewater and drinking water treatment, to develop renewable energy and to build a modern power grid. Government policy is needed to ensure the preservation of forests, oceans and biodiversity. Avoiding a pandemic requires global, national and local public health systems. Mitigating and adapting to climate change also requires collective action. So what can individuals do?
As individuals, we make decisions about our own activities and inevitably, those decisions include choices about resource consumption. I don’t see any value in criticizing people who fly planes to global climate conferences. (I assume you remember planes and conferences, right?) But I see great value in looking at the importance of attending a conference and asking if the trip will be fun or if you will have an important opportunity to learn and teach. This year we taught you how to attend events virtually. There is no doubt that being at an event allows for a kind of connection that cannot be achieved virtually. Often times you will find that the financial and environmental costs of travel far outweigh the benefits. These are the times when you should travel. My argument here is that the thought process, the analysis of environmental costs and benefits, is what lies at the heart of individual responsibility for environmental sustainability. Individuals have a responsibility to think about their environmental impact, and to minimize the damage they do to the planet as much as possible.
Animals that help the environment
Scientists have discovered that bats can eat up to 1,000 insects in one hour. Just one Mexican free-tailed bat colony in Texas consisting of 20 million bats is capable of eating 220 tons (or the equivalent of 55 elephants) of insects in one night! Bat species play a vital role in maintaining insect populations and helping control pest populations, such as mosquitoes. This role is perhaps most important for the agricultural sector where insects can cause disease in animals and destroy crops. The value that bats provide to the agricultural industry in their role in pest control is estimated at more than 3.7 billion annually in North America alone.
Unfortunately, the bats are disappearing. Their population decline is caused by habitat loss, disturbance during hibernation, and disease. Bats are also potentially threatened by the use of chemical pesticides. A study that sampled bat tissue for pesticide contamination found that all bat samples, all from the Indiana region of the United States, tested positive for at least one type of pesticide. The presence of pesticides in bat tissues raises serious questions about the effect of environmental toxins on bat populations.
The use of plastic is destroying our oceans
Since 1950, humans have produced about 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic. The impact of plastic use on our oceans is catastrophic. It is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish. Plastic usually ends up in the stomachs of marine animals, and plastic straws can take up to 200 years to decompose.
The amount of garbage we create is increasing, and landfills are filling up fast. The demand for more food, material goods, and shelter also means the destruction of large areas of forests and natural habitats.
Purpose of the EPA:
It has several purposes. To understand the EPA’s role, let’s look at them one by one. The EPA’s job is to make sure that:
- The people of America need clean air, water, and good soil to keep the earth fertile.
- Using scientific information to enhance national efforts and reduce environmental risks.
- Fair and effective enforcement of federal laws intended to protect human health and our environment. The EPA must also ensure that implementation is consistent with congressional intent.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers factors that are integral to US policy-making. Thus, the EPA integrates into its work issues related to natural resources and human health along with economic growth and energy. It also takes into account the factors of industry, transportation, agriculture and international trade in formulating environmental protection policy.
- Provide access to accurate information about human health and environmental risks for all segments of the population.
- Contaminated sites are being cleaned up and reactivated by responsible parties through the Environmental Protection Agency.
- The Environmental Protection Agency is also conducting a review of the safety levels of chemicals available on the market.
- The regulations are developed and implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency.
- The Environmental Protection Agency gives grants to local conservation projects.
- The purpose of the EPA is also to educate people about the problems.
- The Environmental Protection Agency can also amend federal laws. For example, in 2019, it evaluated 40 items to see if they were low or high priority.
- Another major purpose of the Environmental Protection Agency is to promote energy efficiency. Energy saving will ultimately benefit the environment and thus becomes an integral part of environmental protection.