Our Fragile Earth – National Consumers League

By Jacob Markey, LifeSmarts Summer 2010 intern

The standard of living for most Americans is far better than even when my parents grew up in the 60s. With advances in industry, medicine, and technology, Americans live longer and have access to goods and information like never before. We can hop on a plane and travel across the world in less than a day and converse with people face-to-face who are thousands of miles away using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), a technology I enjoyed while studying abroad this past fall.

Globalization and industrialization have benefited Americans, but have come at a terrible cost to our planet. To power our cars, planes, and factories, we consume nearly 20 million barrels per day of oil. Combined with coal and natural gas, Americans rely on non-renewable sources for over 80% of our country’s energy needs. Using these energy sources pollutes the Earth. Together with the rapid industrialization of countries like China and India and the world’s continual population growth, a dangerous amount of tension is being placed on the Earth.

The consensus in the scientific community is that substantive change must happen. Many feel a failure to do so will alter the Earth in a plethora of irreversible ways, including an increase in temperature, the melting of the polar ice caps, and changes to ecosystems and agriculture around the world. The sad part is that even with drastic changes, much damage has already occurred.

The good news is that we can change our course! After scientists realized chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were the prime cause of the growing hole in the ozone layer, countries around the world signed the Montreal Protocol, eliminating their use. Even though the ozone layer will take decades to replenish, it has begun to recover, signaling a success in the fight against products that can harm our planet.

Dealing with human-created environmental problems is likely to be one of the biggest issues in the 21st century. Teens should therefore follow this issue closely. The world’s youth is responsible for cleaning up the mess left by previous generations. Whether its government policy trying to redress environmental damage or the development of new green technology, the health of our planet is sure to remain a hot topic.