Human Survival Starts with Awareness

Annette Ungermann, Staff Writer

All too often, I stumble across articles that describe another record-breaking season that is leading our environment into greater peril. By having this constant awareness that the world around us is dying, and the animals that live on it, at alarming rates, it’s easy to adopt a fatalistic point of view. Centuries of awful foresight have led us to where we are today, and our generation will be the one to face the consequences.

Our last chance to reverse this course is at hand.  The human race is about to set an unalterable course towards its own extinction, unless the prospects of a colony on Mars drastically improves.

Unfortunately, the likelihood of the global cooperation necessary to avoid this fate is slim. It’s especially true for America, with our next secretary of energy, Rick Perry, being a huge proponent of oil drilling. There’s also the fact that climate change is a low priority to the average American; according to Pew Research Center, only 11% of Americans actually follow news relating to issues of climate change consistently.

However, willingness to act has been shown to correlate with belief in climate change, according to researchers at Cornell University, which in turn, correlates with character traits of compassion and fairness. “Compassion and fairness make perfect sense, because climate change is an environmental justice issue, and being willing to do something about climate change also requires that we care about future generations. Both of those things require compassion and a sense of fairness,” said the study’s lead author.

In the 21st century, this means we have to look further into the future and make it a priority in our daily lives. Being “good environmental citizen,” according to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, is “some of the most important work any of us can do. It is for our children, and our children’s children, and generations yet to come.” Through educating ourselves, especially, about environmental issues, we give ourselves more power. Or at the very least, we become aware of how our actions impact the environment, and become better minded citizens when it comes to understanding the importance of protecting the planet.

What needs to be a priority is staying on top of environmental issues that are pressing. At the very least, it’s the bare minimum of what all of us can do. Most people are aware that we should recycle, use less plastic, save energy, et cetera. But this information can be lost easily in our day-to-day lives, and slowly sinks on our priority lists. I’m certainly not the most environmentally conscious, and this worries me. Should I be more concerned about the fact that I’m not worried enough about the environment? I certainly don’t have a lot of power to make environmental awareness a priority in the world, and the planet can’t necessarily save itself.

So, as minute as it may seem, we do have power: protecting animals like bees that keep us alive by pollination, or making an effort to use less plastic. Simply being educated about what environmental issues have importance to our world is a good place to start, be it climate change or mass extinction.

All we have is hope for the future, really. How we act now has to be more environmentally minded, to secure that future. Scientist Stephen Hawking says humanity can’t survive another 1,000 years on Earth. Of course, that’s fatalistic, but it could be a reality. Even if it’s not, it’s not a bad idea to be environmentally conscious, even if our best hope for survival is the prospect of forming colonies on other planets.

We should do what we can. We need to be aware of the world around us, as we are responsible for it. We need to start with educating ourselves, at the very least.