For the greater green

It’s evident: Climate change is happening, humans are woefully exacerbating the situation, and drastic changes in lifestyle and human activity need to be made in order to stave off further calamitous consequences.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “With appropriate actions by governments, communities, individuals and businesses, we can reduce the amount of greenhouse gas pollution we release and lower the risk of much greater warming and severe consequences.” The EPA also said that in order to be significantly impactful, this action must cumulatively result in reducing harmful emissions by 80 percent across the board, preferably by 2020.

Multiple environmental studies claim this life-altering change is imperative because, according to a 2011 report by the National Academy of Sciences, “Climate changes caused by carbon dioxide are expected to persist for many centuries even if emissions were to be halted at any point in time.” Immediate action is required to mitigate the extreme consequences the human population is going to face within the next few centuries. Furthermore, according to the EPA, action of this proportion and efficacy will require massive improvements in energy efficiency, public transportation systems and reforestation. We as a global society need to become fully dependent on renewable-based resources — from fuel to food to sticky notes. With our nation’s current apathetic state, the implementation of policy and necessary change seems almost impossible on all levels, be it government, community or individual.

The problem is this: Embedded in the foundational concept of this great nation, the ability and right to take such initiative may only lie within the individual. And if history has taught us anything, it is that one cannot expect individuals to behave this way unless something directly and immediately affects their own ability to survive.

In the context of 2014 America, willingly taking part in transforming the essence of our society would violate the average individual’s instinctual desire to survive. It is easy to see how many of the most basic instinctual needs are now correlated and deeply dependent on financially surviving and thriving within this society. This means the average individual is likely to value the direct inconveniences and hindrances associated with converting to a greener lifestyle more than the (seemingly) less immediate consequences of continuing life the way we are. Realistically, the average American makes $51,000 a year, lives in a home that costs at least twice that, is $15,000 in debt and has two children to take care of. So tell me how, on God’s decreasingly green earth, can we faithfully trust the modern individual to, say, forgo their car and use less reliable public transportation systems to get to work when it directly impedes their ability to comfortably maintain their lifestyle? The average individual simply can’t afford such a drastic, inconvenient change.

I am by no means insinuating that we raise the red flag and obediently take our role as proletariat brothers and sisters, working for the common good and poverty of humanity. But I am suggesting the very realistic and necessary possibility of allowing our government systems to become more socialized, centralized and heavy-handed. These changes would allow our government to initiate massive public works programs, to restructure and reallocate government budgeting and possibly even the distribution of wealth, to strictly and closely monitor businesses, emissions standards and even the average individual. I am suggesting the progression and course of environmental stabilization and protection needs to be placed under martial law.

Maybe it’s time to allow our governing entities to all but force individual, communal, corporate and legal participation, in which case we could faithfully trust the human individual to follow another natural instinct: to jump on the bandwagon.

letters@chronicle.utah.edu

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