As of late, climate change has been featured prominently throughout the news. With the advent of disseminated natural disasters, environmental research has compelled us to be more hypervigilant of the state of our environment.
In the most recent report released by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, authors stated that the world has 12 years to limit catastrophic, irreversible changes to the environment. Researchers advocate for urgent action, most notably to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius, as previously highlighted by the Paris agreement. A rise above this could significantly endanger the lives of millions of people through disastrous changes such as drought, flooding and heat.
As millennials, we have more resources and information accessible to us than any previous generation. Thus, our capacity to instill political and social change is heightened: we may break previously drawn out boundaries. From a practical perspective, measuring progress on a qualitative and quantitative scale is a relatively slow process; change does not happen overnight. However, from an environmental standpoint, we have the palpable ability to instill change on a short and long term basis. An alteration in how we use our resources on a day to day basis could go a long way.
A university campus itself is an enormous consumer of energy. If we think of the power used to generate heat and electricity for facilities, it seems nearly unsustainable. Yet, these are everyday privileges, we often take for granted. We expect libraries to be open to the late hours of the night, even when few students realistically study in the nighttime. We buy take out coffee cups or food containers, and easily dispose them, minutes after use. Or better yet, we live 20 minutes from campus, but choose to drive, instead of taking the bus or cycling, for convenience’s sake.
As a generation, we pertain to a throw-away culture. It is far easier to buy something new, than fix an old and broken item. We abide by the saying that time is money. Thus, the time taken to fix an item may be just as valuable to us as the price of the item itself. However, this fast rate of consumption may not be upheld forever. It is necessary to sacrifice our precious resource, time, for the greater good of all our natural resources.
In a country like Ireland, where waste management is so efficient, there lies little transparency behind where our waste goes after disposal. We throw things out and forget about them. Do we know, though, where the contents of our trash bag travel after they are collected? It’s easy to be oblivious to the massive quantity of our waste production, when it’s so well concealed on a day to day basis.
By being more attentive to our behaviour as consumers, we may achieve a sense of sustainability on an individual and collective level. Personally, we can buy less. The simple task of bringing in your own lunch, with your own Tupperware, is already conserving resources. As well, we may move more around our surroundings, instead of expecting our environment to move us. Real progress lies in the finite detail of our actions, the day to day behaviours that are easily modifiable in all of us.
To live sustainably is not to live meagerly, however just more efficiently and conscientiously. Just as we would like to be mindful of our minds and bodies, let’s be mindful of our earth. We want our planet to be like ourselves, strong and healthy, to continuously nurture our symbiotic relationship. We are quite literally the product of our environment, so we need to place the utmost care in fine-tuning the quality of our mutual outcome.