Today is international Blog Action Day and the theme this year is the environment.
I am really excited of the potential that of more than 7,000 participating blogs and 5 million readers can do to bring awareness to our environment. As humans I believe we have taken responsibility for our environment, but I'm disappointed with the actions (or lack thereof) we've taken toward that end of protecting and preserving our environment.
For my part I can share my observations of four countries I've visited in the past year.
This country might not have the pollution problems of the other four...yet. Being stuck in the comparative stone age, North Korea has preserved some aspects of their environment. But where they save the air from particulates and the water from excessive pollution, they strip the land bare of trees which caused the massive flooding of this past summer. The lack of capitalism might protect, but communism isn't the answer to environmental problems.
When 45+ million people try and squeeze into an area the size of Indiana you'd better have a good plan of how to handle waste and pollution. South Korea has an excellent recycling program. There are massive fines for mixing garbage. Garbage bags are very expensive which encourages use of the free recycling. Glass, plastic, paper and metal. However, despite their best efforts, they still fall short.
This pristine country is doesn't have the the obviously visual environmental problems of other developed countries in Asia. However, simple statistics can prove the downfalls of this country. Malaysia was home to 266 unique species of freshwater fish as surveyed by biologists. A recent biological survey as quote in Jared Diamonds The Third Chimpanzee, found 122 species of fish. That means that since first being discovered, 144 species (more than 50%) have become extinct. That is appalling and the sad part is that it happened without anyone even noticing.
Unfortunately this country has multiple downfalls. The first major problem is the air. Per capita their particulates output into the air is lower than most developed countries but there is an awful lot of people. Factories and cars put an incredible amount of pollution in the air. With the coming Olympics, Beijing has pledged to reduce the number of cars on the road by one million. But, yellow dust affects everyone from Korea to the Americas.
There was a glimmer of hope this year when locals claimed seeing a river dolphin researchers thought to be extinct. Pollution, fishing in the rivers, and the construction of dams killed off the majority of that species population if not the entire population.
Where do I start. I thought that blogging about the environment would be easy but as I try to compile my thoughts and observations about something I care very much about I realize how hard it is. I admire National Geographic magazine's ability to concisely relay the message of environmental protection. As a world leader, the U.S. should embrace environmental protection. Things like carbon sequestration, hybrid cars, wind and solar energy are all great baby steps but we need to have a collective effort that is greater than current actions. The plan needs to cross international boundaries and not be subject to lack of technology or lack of resources.
So, what can we do?
1. Recycle. Just do it. It is easy.
2. Buy recycled products.
3. Plant a tree. Carbon needs to be sequestered.
4. Support renewable resources....ethanol, hybrid cars, biodiesel, etc.
5. Educate yourself.
6. Educate others.
7. Do more.
How do you protect the environment?