Looking for Answers to a Big Picture Problem

Fri, 2011-01-28 11:01

Look at the headlines on CNN.com, and you’ll find news about our world’s “major” issues: a school experimenting with segregation, an analysis of Arab protesters or a celebrity’s newest scandal. Navigate over to the opinions page, and you can read editorials about nearly everything BUT the environment. Yet here we are, humans who represent a meager 5% of the world’s population, but we’re capable of draining 30% of its resources, and depleting rainforests at the staggering rate of an acre a second. The lack of awareness surrounding these environmental issues begs the question: why?

Recently named by Audobon Magazine as one of the leading conservationists of the 20th century, Carl Safina also authored “The View From Lazy Point: A Natural Year in an Unnatural World”. This week, he addressed this important question about the American mentality regarding conservation in a harsh, yet charging article. It seems, according to Safina, that we are more inclined to ask why not … and that is precisely the problem. Why not expend freshwater resources faster than they can be replenished? Why not simply use up fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, as we see fit? Why not cut down natural forestry to make room for more supercenters and shopping malls? Safina believes the consequences of this mentality are disastrous. He says, “But I'll make a casual wager: Things now largely ignored will become too obvious to deny. It becomes a question of ‘When?’”

The fact of the matter is that awareness of environmental concerns is only part of the problem. Without action steps that people can and are willing to take, awareness does little to address the actual problem. Safina proposes that we need to look at the bigger picture when devising an action plan; that it’s our institutions that need to be examined and updated in order to limit the environmental depletion we already know is occurring. If major corporations can implement changes that decrease paper usage and utilize alternative or renewable energy sources, Safina thinks we’d be taking a step in the right direction. The issue, he argues, isn’t lack of technology or solutions; it’s a simple lack of implementation.

Unfortunately implementation of eco-friendly business practices isn’t always a priority for companies. Either because of perceived expense or inconvenience, businesses tend to stick to the status quo. But the small things can add up to a big difference: such as a newspaper company printing only on recycled paper, or issuing the paper to subscribers online, unless requested to deliver a hard copy. It’s these types of innovations that business owners need to be looking into, before it becomes too late.

Despite Safina’s push for change, I do disagree with his pinning a majority of the blame for our environmental wastefulness on businesses. Because really, most people in the world don’t have a say in the day-to-day operations of Fortune 500 companies. So what can the everyman do to actually make a difference in corporate America? Here are a few ideas:

  • Figure out what companies you frequently use are doing to limit their environmental impact. If the answer is “not much”, consider doing business elsewhere.
  • Train to become LEED accredited - Everblue Training Institute provides instruction to become accredited for multiple green certifications, and certification will open up new job opportunities!
  • Opt-out of receiving paper statements, notices, and publications, instead ask to receive these by e-mail.

Do you have any other tips? What did you think of Safina’s article? Do you agree or disagree with where he places the blame? Leave a comment on Twitter and tag @everblue_edu to let us know!