Everything is Connected
What follows is an article that I wrote in June of 2005 for Dalhousie Peer magazine, but I think that the message is a relevant today as it was then. – Brian Fulton
I suppose that it might be simpler if everything on the planet weren’t so deeply connected. That way we could do just about anything that we wanted without fear of repercussion. If problems did crop up we could just simply fix them without needing to look for complicated answers. Sounds great! In fact this deconstructionist approach is closer to the way that many of us think, rather than realizing that everything is connected.
Case in point. We have been burning hydrocarbons and releasing a host of other chemicals into the environment at an unprecedented rate. We in North America have wonderful lifestyles, but every day there are more vehicles on the planet; coal-burning hydro plants are spewing out toxic emissions to keep up with our increasing energy demands; industrial emissions are worse (and would undoubtedly be much worse were it not for a shift of production to poorer geographic regions on the planet). These emissions don’t simply disappear. Some are responsible for ozone depletion; some are creating climate change; some end up in our food and some in our lungs. Toxic airborne compounds settle out onto every square inch of the earth, from the arctic tundra, to our oceans and our back yards. Every breath that you breathe contains a witch’s brew of compounds because of these emissions.
Do you feel affected yet by these emissions? Clearly many Ontario residents are fatally affected by these emissions. The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) says the cumulative effects of smog will cause 5,800 premature deaths this year in our province.
How about some other connections?
Connection #1– Last week I attended a talk by Dr. David Suzuki, Canada’s eminent scientist who has been educating us for over thirty years about environmental issues on his long running series The Nature of Things. David has been very active on the environmental front for over forty years, and he came to St. Catharines to help out a local group (Niagara Action For Animals) that is being sued by Marineland. In his talk, David blasted SUV owners, and urged every audience member to be more environmentally responsible.
Connection #2– A few days after David’s talk, the city of Toronto announced that it had broken previous smog records. On June 14 2005, Toronto was at 21 smog alert days. Toronto hadn’t ever had that many smog alert days in twelve months.
Connection #3– That same day, the OMA released its stunning report which almost tripled previous estimates of smog-related deaths. (It turns out that there are also cumulative effects of breathing dirty air that can cause arterial tissue damage that adds up over the years and aggravates other medical conditions.)
Connection #4– The next day the government of Ontario announced that it will be keeping the province’s biggest single polluter (Nanticoke Generating Station) open past the promised deadline of December 31, 2007, primarily because we just don’t have enough alternative generating capacity.
What are we to do? Well clearly things are going to have to change. We are trying to put off the inevitable, but sooner or later we are going to have to fundamentally change our relationship with the planet. Finger pointing will not get us out of this mess that we are in. You can blame government, industry or whomever you like, but unless each one of us begins to make changes in our lives; we are headed down a slippery slope.
Everything is connected– depleting oil reserves, pollution, our lifestyles, our pocketbooks, and our health. You can’t pull one issue out of the equation without it affecting everything else. What I am suggesting here is an exciting new way for you to live your life. Act as if everything were connected. Act as if you are connected to the planet, to the water, to the air, to the plants, to the animals, and to every person walking the planet.
Am I making any sense here?
Under the heading “What are we to do?” I invite you all to go to David Suzuki’s website and type Nature Challenge into the search engine. There you will find lots of practical ways for you to be a part of the solution.
For those of you who want to know what the Nature Challenge is all about, here is an overview taken directly from David’s website.
Here are the Top Ten Ways You Can be a Part of the Solution
1. Reduce home energy use by 10%: A more energy-efficient home will lower your utility bills and reduce your impact on the environment. Heating accounts for nearly 60 per cent of energy use in the average Canadian home.
2. Choose an energy-efficient home and appliances: R-2000 homes use 30 percent less energy than standard homes. Modern appliances save more energy than older ones. New refrigerators, for example, use 40 per cent less energy than models made just 10 years ago.
3. Replace dangerous pesticides with alternatives: Small children and pets are especially vulnerable to the dangers of chemicals.
4. Eat meat-free meals one day a week: The production and processing of grains requires far less water and land than does meat.
5. Buy locally grown and produced food: Buying locally reduces greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants from food transportation. One study estimates that the average meal travels 2400 km (1500 miles) from the field to your table.
6. Choose a fuel-efficient vehicle: A typical SUV uses almost twice the fuel–and releases nearly twice the emissions–of a modern station wagon, although both seat the same number of passengers.
7. Walk, bike, carpool or take transit: Researchers in California found the air we breathe inside our cars can be up to 10 times more polluted than the air outside.
8. Choose a home close to work or school: A convenient place to live reduces the amount you drive, which means you’ll lower your emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. You’ll also have more time to spend on things you care about.
9. Support car-free alternatives: More alternatives to the car mean less pollution, gridlock and urban sprawl.
10. Learn more and share with family and friends: By working together we can inspire our elected leaders to incorporate environmental conservation into public policy. A healthier environment isn’t possible unless we all get involved.