To find the answers we need, we need to know what questions to ask. So, we’ve identified some questions to ask to help us get started.
Find some questions that interest you and think about the answers. This may lead you to ask more questions and search for more answers. That’s great. Keep on thinking!
Q: Why is sustainability important?
A: Sustainability is important because we’d like for future generations to have opportunities that are as good as the ones we’ve had. Sustainability across the board (economic, social, environmental) will result in higher standards of living and better lives for everyone.
For more information, see: http://www.environmentalscience.org/sustainability
Q: What are human health impacts associated with climate change?
A: There are numerous human health impacts associated with climate change, some of the most commonly seen are asthma, food scarcity leading to malnutrition or starvation, and water quality related illnesses such as cholera.
For more information check out: http://www.cdc.gov/climateandhealth/effects/
Q: What are the national security implications of climate change?
A: Warming is causing glaciers to melt and seawater to expand which results in coastal flooding. Climate change and ocean acidification threaten food security. Coastal flooding and food insecurity cause human migration. Human migration causes political instability.
For more information, see: http://archive.defense.gov/pubs/150724-congressional-report-on-national-implications-of-climate-change.pdf?source=govdelivery
Q: What is a carbon footprint?
A: A carbon footprint is an expression for the amount of carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere from a single entity or activity. It can relate to a person, a family or a product. A product’s carbon footprint may be reported in pounds or kilograms of carbon dioxide. A family’s carbon footprint may be reported in tons of carbon dioxide per year.
For more information, see: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2010/jun/04/carbon-footprint-definition
Q: How can I determine what my carbon footprint is?
A: There are a lot of free online calculators that can help you estimate your carbon footprint. The UC Berkeley CoolClimate Network provides an example. Some calculators are associated with organizations that sell carbon offsets.
Q: What can you do to reduce your carbon footprint?
A: The key word here is reduce – reduce what you use, what you buy. To reduce your footprint you can do all sorts of actions, buying from sustainably sourced places, using less fossil fuels to go to/from work/school/vacation, and educating yourself about the issues.
For more information go to: http://shrinkthatfootprint.com/13-steps-carbon-footprint And https://sustainability.georgetown.edu/getinvolved/thingsyoucando And http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/reduce-your-carbon-footprint/
Q: Why is it important to reduce the amount of fossil fuels we use?
A: Each gallon of gas (or equivalent amount of other fossil fuel) that we burn adds to the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and increases the acidity of the oceans. The cumulative effects of carbon dioxide emissions are negatively impacting our planet and people’s lives.
The population of the planet is currently increasing. So, even if we keep using the same average amount of fossil fuel per person, total emissions would go up. As people attain higher standards of living and greater mobility, there is a tendency for individuals to use more fossil fuel. These factors are compounding the challenge.
For more information see: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/ And http://www.npr.org/2011/10/31/141816460/visualizing-how-a-population-grows-to-7-billion And https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/global-greenhouse-gas-emissions-data#Sector
Q: What is ocean acidification?
A: Ocean acidification is the process by which the ocean is becoming more acidic as a result of carbon emissions. Carbon dioxide reacts with water to form carbonic acid. As the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the ocean increases, thereby making the ocean more acidic.
For more information, see: http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/acidification.html
Q: What is the harm of the ocean becoming more acidic?
A: Just like what happens in a home aquarium, if the pH gets out of balance, creatures start to die. Acidic conditions impact oysters, clams, corals, some plankton and other creatures. Impacts to these creatures could disrupt the ocean food web. This could be catastrophic to people who depend on the sea for food
For more information, see: http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/acidification.html
Q: How fast is sea level rising?
A: Satellites began to measure sea level precisely in 1993. Since then sea level has been rising about 3.2 mm/year. This rate is equal to just over one foot per century. The impact of such sea level change is substantial, yet the concern is that far greater sea level rise will occur this century if the major ice sheets disintegrate.
For more information, go to: http://www.columbia.edu/~mhs119/SeaLevel/
Q: How might environmental degradation cause geopolitical instability?
A: Environmental degradation can lead to geopolitical instability because as the climate changes and regions become uninhabitable due to desertification or sea level rise, people are forced to move inland and away from these areas. This type of forced migration can cause mass refugee crisis and war.
More information can be found at: http://archive.defense.gov/pubs/150724-congressional-report-on-national-implications-of-climate-change.pdf?source=govdelivery
Q: How have carbon emissions been changing over time?
A: Carbon emissions increased dramatically from 1950 to 2013. Recently studies show that the rate has not increased much since then.
More information can be found at: http://cdiac.ornl.gov/images/global_fossil_carbon_emissions_google_chart.jpg
Q: What is environmental justice?
A: Environmental Justice is the equitable treatment and the involvement of all people, no matter their race, religion, color, national origin, where people live, gender, sexual orientation, income, etc., in the creation, implementation, and enactment of any environmental policy, law or regulation. An environmental injustice would be when a policy, law or regulation would result in unfair treatment for a group of historically marginalized people (ex: environmental racism, environmental sexism, etc.). Environmental justice also refers to a movement that desires the equitable treatment of environmental costs and benefits.
For more information concerning environmental justice, look at: https://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice
Q: How are certain communities affected disproportionately by different environmental issues?
A: Certain communities can be disproportionately affected by environmental issues resulting in environmental injustice. While these injustices may not have been intentional, they nevertheless affect historically marginalized communities more than privileged ones. Environmental injustice and more specifically, environmental racism, can be seen in Flint, Michigan, where the population is 57% African-American (13.3% of the United States population are African-American) and 41% of people live below the poverty line (13.5% of the United States population lives in poverty) (http://www.census.gov/). There, the ongoing water crisis disproportionately affects those of low socioeconomic status and people of color. Both the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline are examples of environmental racism. Native American communities and their lands have been disproportionately affected by environmental destruction throughout United States history. Native Alaskans are also hard hit by the environmental changes that are taking place which are forcing them to change their traditional way of life. Women are also hit harder when there are environmental impacts on communities because of the traditional roles that women are still expected to fill in many places. Unclean water and toxins affect women in more immediate ways including household work, childcare, and reproductive health. People living on islands and low-lying coastal areas are hit harder as well as sea levels rise causing forced migration, an occurrence that has already begun to happen.
If you are interested in looking into the unequal distribution of environmental issues such as the Flint Water Crisis, the unequal burden that women face due to climate change, and how other people are disproportionately affected by climate change and other environmental issues, here are some places to look:
Q: Why is environmental justice necessary to achieve sustainability?
A: Environmental justice is necessary for sustainability because of a multitude of reasons. To achieve
sustainability, we must act in ways that are both socially and economically sustainable, and this involves
the equitable treatment of all people. It is unsustainable to destroy the land and cultures of native people, even disregarding that when such land is destroyed it is frequently done in order to create energy in an unsustainable manner that pollutes the environment, waterways, and air. Sustainable infrastructure depends upon understanding the complexities of social history and culture, and taking them into account in the engineering and design of facilities for production of products, services, or energy. As we move forward into what must be a sustainable society for our survival as a species, we’re therefore required to take environmental justice into account. Every culture and society brings to the table a different piece for discussion, and to make it so that sustainability is possible, everyone must be equitably listened to and allowed into that conversation. At We Make HASTE, we invite you to enter the conversation about sustainability, and ask that as you do so, you keep all cultures and societies in mind. Understanding differences and accounting for them in the sustainable society we’re trying to create will be vital to our success.
Q: What are some organizations that are focused on environmental justice and what are their missions?
A: Some organizations that are focused on environmental justice include:
Their website: http://www.globalexchange.org/
Their mission statement: “Global Exchange is an international human rights organization dedicated to promoting social, economic and environmental justice around the world.”
Their website: http://www.bioneers.org/
Their mission statement: “Bioneers is a fertile hub of social and scientific innovators with practical and visionary solutions for the world’s most pressing environmental and social challenges. Bioneers is an innovative nonprofit educational organization that highlights breakthrough solutions for restoring people and planet.”
Tides: What’s Possible
Their website: https://www.tides.org
Their mission statement: “Tides accelerates the pace of social change, working with innovative partners to solve society’s toughest problems. At Tides, we are building a world of shared prosperity and social justice, founded on equality and human rights, a sustainable environment, healthy individuals and communities, and quality education.”
Their website: https://350.org
Their mission statement: “We believe in a safe climate and a better future — a just, prosperous, and equitable world built with the power of ordinary people.”
Fighting For Life!: East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice
Their website: http://eycej.org/
Their mission statement: “East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ) is an environmental health and justice non-profit organization working towards a safe and healthy environment for communities that are disproportionately suffering the negative impacts of industrial pollution.”
California Environmental Justice Alliance
Their website: http://caleja.org/
Their mission statement: “The mission of the California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA) is to strengthen the progressive environmental justice movement in California by building on the local organizing efforts and advocacy successes of our member organizations and use them as a means to achieve state policy change.”
Q: What movies and documentaries document environment injustices?
A: Erin Brockovich, a film about “an unemployed single mother [who] becomes a legal assistant and almost single-handedly brings down a California power company accused of polluting a city’s water supply.” More information can be found at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0195685/
Maquilapolis, a documentary film about the Maquiladoras in Tijuana and their effect on the population and surrounding lands. It focuses in particular on the mothers and their families who work in those factories. More information can be found at: http://www.maquilapolis.com/project_eng.htm
Yellow Fever, a documentary film about a native American woman and her family and how their lands were tainted by uranium mines. More information can be found at: http://www.yellowfeverfilm.com/
Gaslands, a film that is “an exploration of the fracking petroleum extraction industry and the serious environmental consequences involved.” More information can be found at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1558250/