The Ripple Effect: Another human achievement, but not the good kind

By Aishwarya Jayadeep

Carbon dioxide emissions from human activity contribute to the melting of the Arctic ice. Photo courtesy of National Geographic.

Sixty percent of Americans can’t change a flat tire. Sixty percent of traditional college students in America graduate within six years. Sixty percent of the world’s wildlife has been wiped out since 1970.

One of these things is unlike the others — and no, it’s not the fact that millennials don’t know how to care for their cars. According to the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Report, in just four decades, humanity has somehow managed to decimate the other populations we share this planet with.

Also, our state, California, is on fire. The Arctic is melting. Hurricanes and cyclones have slammed into other parts of the world with alarming regularity. These events, along with a late October report about how we only have until 2030 to change our ways and halt the tide of climate change, ought to be a wake-up call as to how much we’re mistreating the Earth. But for many people in power, that wake-up call is just another thing to hit the “snooze” button on.

Some simply don’t want to cross the big businesses and wasteful industries that benefit them and their supporters. Take, for instance, President Trump, who’s frequently defended nonrenewable energy — like coal — because many of his supporters work in those industries. Moreover, his administration is filled with climate change skeptics, including Jim Bridenstine, the current NASA administrator who claimed in 2013 that “global temperatures stopped rising 10 years ago.”

And in having abandoned the Paris Agreement, the United States is blatantly in the process of reneging on its promises to help stop climate change, all because of political pressure. But political self-preservation is one thing; wreaking havoc on the planet is another.

Yes, part of the onus of reducing wasteful practices rests on the industries producing the waste to begin with, but no one will keep politicians and business in check if they don’t want to be kept in check. So it’s time to increase the pressure in return.

Individual effort, at the outset, may seem insignificant. Who cares if we reduce, reuse, recycle? But if we reduce demand for their waste, if we increase demand for change, companies will take note. If we consume less, they will produce less. If the companies change, the politicians relying on them may just change as well.

And it’s not too late for change. We’ve spent years hearing about how the ozone layer has a gaping hole in it over Antarctica because humanity used too much hairspray, but a recent UN report has predicted the ozone hole will close back up by 2060.

This didn’t happen because governments sat around twiddling their thumbs and hairspray-makers continued pumping harmful chlorofluorocarbons into cans. It’s all because in the 1980s, not long after ozone depletion was discovered, 24 nations around the world adopted the Montreal Protocol, banning the use of depletion-causing chemicals.

The world is changing, and not for the better due to our impact. But as the Montreal Protocol’s success shows, we’ve still got a chance.

Sixty percent of wildlife gone. That statistic is only going to continue creeping towards 100 percent. And it’s going to include us — if we don’t take a stand first.