With Earth Day being tomorrow, there are bound to be celebrations and cleanup events aplenty. For far too many, the environment ceases to be of concern just one day after. Everyone needs to be environmentally conscious and concerned about sustainability year round. After all, it does little good to clean up tomorrow only to litter the other 364 days of the year.
Many human activities have unforeseen and surprising environmental repercussions. For example, fertilizer used on farms in the Mississippi River watershed causes fish to suffocate in the Gulf of Mexico in oxygen-devoid dead zones. Personal actions are much easier to regulate because the effects are widely known and available. All it takes is a walk down the hall to a recycling bin to reduce one’s environmental footprint.
It’s hard to tell by looking at it today, but the Thea Foss waterway was so polluted it had to be dredged out back in 2006. The Thea Foss and the rest of the Puget Sound are very fragile ecosystems, with many aquatic animals struggling to survive. The economic pollution in the Sound, especially in Commencement Bay, makes it even more imperative that every day people take care not to further damage the system. Everything dropped or spilled on campus washes straight into the Thea Foss waterway. Cigarettes in particular contain a lot of chemicals that kill fish and make the Puget Sound a nasty place to swim. The campus community has a responsibility to Tacoma to protect the Puget Sound.
A less pressing but more important issue – climate change – is already affecting the planet; it’s up to all of us to decide how bad it gets. The exact severity of the rising sea level, increase in extreme weather, and oceanic extinctions have yet to be seen.
A practical way anyone can reduce their carbon footprint is simply to drive less. Public transportation accommodates travel to and from campus for many places and it is cheaper to boot. A $45 quarterly U-Pass is cheaper than a parking pass, which can cost more than $100 each quarter. The U-Pass allows unlimited access to Pierce Transit’s busses, as well as the light rail, and doesn’t require one to pay for gas at all. Increased use of the bus system will also ease traffic and provide extra time to read course materials. Saving money, time, and the planet isn’t a bad deal.
Don’t become complacent the day after Earth Day. Internal reassurances that the environment will be ok will only hurt us all in the long run. The only way to help the environment is to make it ok, political and personal actions can both help. If you take away one thing from this Earth Day, let it be the knowledge of how to be environmentally responsibly. It is only through remembering and committing to sustainable lifestyle choices that we can improve things.