Global environmental cooperation. When it comes down to it, the ways in which we as a race will be able to overcome environmental degradation for the long term and promote environmental sustainability can be boiled down into a few alternatives of action. We will not solve the environmental problem facing our planet until either a few or all of the following things happen: the risk of global environmental collapse becomes more tangible rather than transient, the benefit one gets from being green is immediately recognizable and greater than whatever benefit one is foregoing, environmental problems create a financial risk for the majority of the population or, as a final alternative, society implodes in a worldwide cataclysmic event that erupts fantastically and erases the human race from the face of the planet.
The risk humans face today is one that is intangible and therefore it is harder for us as a population to grasp its importance. (Tainter) In a world where everything makes a sound, is responsive to touch and feeds us information and a million miles per minute, the degree to which we are endangering our own future and the futures of our children by degrading the environment is much harder to grasp. Mother Nature would not cry as a child would when she is in pain. She would not respond when we ask her what’s wrong. The only grasp we have on this environmental change is largely scientific analyses and numerical representations. Granted there are photographs representing before and after pictures of the environment, but the photographs do not do enough to inspire change in the majority of earth’s inhabitants. Unfortunately it is affluence on the part of industrialized nations, for the most part localized in cities, which worldwide encompass 50% of the population on 3% of the world’s land mass, that has a greater effect on the global environment than do the slums of the poorer villages. (Mazur) Although small rural villages abuse the environment and pollute locally, cities multiply this consumption exponentially to the point where this effect is felt throughout the globe, and those in cities are by and large protected from the immediate effects of this degradation though infrastructure and social and economic systems, while those living in lesser developed nations in less fortunate social and economic structures are forced to deal with the consequences. A tsunami in Sri Lanka does little to affect the outlook the average North American has on the world’s environmental health; this tsunami has done nothing to him. He has not been able to feel the magnitude of its force and therefore does not comprehend its importance and meaning in the greater scale of things, namely the health of the planet at large. Granted the tsunami in 2004 was not caused by environmental degradation, but it was just used for illustrative purposes. Other events due to degradation would include severe drought, acid rain, excessively long wet seasons, increase in sea level, increase in the height of tides, accelerated storm formation and increase in aggressive and damaging weather patterns etc. Perhaps a system wherein each and every citizen in nations with high emissions per capita was required to serve in a lesser developed country, particularly one exposed to environmental degradation, as part of a mandatory, year-long instructional course on sustainable development would aid in the quest to make these realities more tangible. (Szabó) It would be a sort of environmental conscription, imposed upon turning 18 years of age. It would also have to added benefit of alleviating poverty, because while these citizens are participating in their year-long course they would also engage in local projects that aid in infrastructure and social development, job creation and education. These exchange programs could be funded by taxation on current environmental abusers, such as the automotive and airline industries. (Encourage Sustainable Trade)
The benefit one gets from changing their lifestyles and habits towards becoming greener must be immediately recognizable and greater than the benefit one is foregoing to accommodate this greener lifestyle. We are a species driven in life by pursuing things that are favourable for our own good. This is how we have evolved and proliferated. Through looking out for oneself one creates a better environment for others, or so it is thought. We are drive by incentive, whether it is intrinsic or extrinsic. It could be the internal drive to succeed and conquer oneself, or the external stimulus that increased performance will lead to a salary raise; either way, we are striving for something better for ourselves. With climate change, people find it difficult to see where personal betterment is satisfied. (Lindstroem) We are inherently greedy, and this comes into play here. In short, unless some type of immediate incentive is created that benefits each individual person for pursuing green acts and green projects, there will not be enough people with enough good will to drastically change their entire lifestyles and habits for the greater good of this planet. We need tax breaks for those who purchase green produce, for those who purchase green automobiles, who engage in public transport, who recycle, who compost, who purchase green cleaning products. Again, these tax breaks could be funded by taxation on current environmental abusers, such as the automotive and airline industries. (Collins) It is simply wishful thinking to believe one day everyone will wake up with the dream to save the planet. They may change one or two things that they do, but they won’t change the majority of their habits, which is in essence what is needed at this point in time. We are a simple species. We need an immediate incentive.
Another way that the population could be motivated into action by global climate change is if some type of individualized financial or economic risk was associated with ignoring or failing to commit to preventing the impending environmental catastrophes that we are subjecting ourselves to. In other words, when not being green costs people money, people will start caring. Whatever currency has been used to conduct trade, be it bartering, coin or paper money, humans have been motivated by the will to cultivate as much of that resource as possible; money is our driving force. As mentioned by a variety of scholars, and system that imposed a tax based on C02 emissions per capita over a certain amount would result in a drastic reduction in total C02 emissions. (Dale) Depending on our usage of water utilities as well as electricity persons would be charged a C02 tax, any amount over a certain emission per capita would result in the tax being imposed on that individual. The Kuznets curve, as proposed by Simon Kuznets, postulates that environmental degradation grows constantly with an increase in income per capita, up until a certain point where environmental degradation drops as income per capita continues to rise. (Daly)
Implementing a tax such as the one proposed could prevent society from ever peaking on the Kuznets curve. We would never have to attain a certain income per capita before people decided to become green conscious. We could essentially draw our own Kuznets curve, one that rises and then flattens out just before the level of tax imposition, which would be imposed well below the current level of the “Turning Point,” as illustrated in the graph. This would drastically decrease the level of emissions that we give off as a society. As aforementioned, another method to create some type of financial risk would be to increase taxes on goods that are known to pollute, such as non-hybrid or non-electric cars, as well as conventional light bulbs etc. The increase in tax revenue could in turn be put towards a subsidy directed at the public transport system, making it less expensive and hence more accessible to a greater majority of the population.
Furthermore, to disagree with or to dismiss the role that major corporations play in the lobbying of laws and the capacity to influence politicians financially is to be utterly naïve and close minded to the realities of the 21st century and to the inherent nature of the vast majority of human beings who have climbed their way to the tops of society and put themselves in positions where they are able to influence others and decry to those beneath them the ways in which they should behave; greediness. (Removing the Roadblocks) Their capacity to influence others and rearrange society for their own benefit is a main reason why there is so much political resistance to making the necessary changes to protect the environment. To refute this fact is futile. Presidential campaigns are funded by millions in “support” from pharmaceutical companies, ingenious and life-altering green technologies are purchased by major corporations and then either destroyed or left on the side, never to be made market-ready, and politicians are financially swayed by automotive giants and airline megaliths to bend their rigid policies in order to accommodate their own causes. (Timm) As stated earlier, perhaps planet earth will only truly begin to recover and one day thrive once we as a species have been wiped off this planet; destroyed by our own insatiable, greedy lust for power and influence, our own infantile pursuit of economic growth at all costs that exhausts limited resources and pollutes the environment…and by our own stupidity to not be able to collectively realize the damage we are doing before it is done and irreversible. (Diamond) The aforementioned qualities are akin to those of a parasite. We are parasites, and without us the earth will finally be able to heal and rebuild. (The Matrix)
After thorough analysis, it has become evident that we as a species have figuratively dug ourselves into quite a deep whole. In order for us to make our way out of it and to permit the natural ecosystems of this planet to recover and fauna and flora to once again flourish the risk of global environmental collapse must become more tangible, the benefit one gets from adopting green living habits must become immediately recognizable and greater than the benefit one is foregoing, environmental problems must create some type of a financial risk, or, as a final alternative, society must collapse in a worldwide cataclysmic event that erupts fantastically and erases the human race from the face of the planet.
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"Encourage Sustainable Trade." Greenpeace.org. Web. 29 Mar. 2012. <http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/trade-and-the-environment/>.
Environmental Kuznets Curve. Photograph. Green.wikia.com. Wikia. Web. 3 Apr. 2012. <http://green.wikia.com/wiki/Environmental_Kuznets_curve>.
Lindstroem, Marianne, and Rikard Kueller. "Sustainable Development in Four Swedish Communities Priorities, Responsibility, Empowerment." Environment, Development and Sustainability 10.3 (2008): 311-36. Sociological Abstracts. Web. 3 Apr. 2012.
Mazur, Laurie Ann. A Pivotal Moment: Population, Justice, and the Environmental Challenge. Washington, D.C.: Island, 2010. Print.
"Removing the Roadblocks: How to Make Sustainable Development Happen Now." Berkeley Law/UCLA Law (2009). Web. 28 Mar. 2012. <http://http://www.law.berkeley.edu/files/Removing_the_Roadblocks_August_2009.pdf>.
Szabó, Zsuzsanna K. "Analysis Of Research On Sustainable Development The Goals Of Sustainable Development, Practical And Theoretical Framework In EU And Romania." Juridical Current 14.4 (2011): 253-261. Academic Search Complete. Web. 3 Apr. 2012.
Tainter, Joseph A. The Collapse of Complex Societies. Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: Cambridge UP, 1988. Print.
The Matrix. Prod. Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski. Dir. Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski. By Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski. Perf. Keanu Reeves. Warner Bros, 1999. DVD.
Timm, Jordan. "GREEN GONE WRONG: How Our Economy Is Undermining The Environmental Revolution." Canadian Business 83.15 (2010): 90. Academic Search Complete. Web. 3 Apr. 2012.