There is a very interesting question that whirls in my head very often. The question with a multitude of answers, but none of them satisfying my curiosity. The question so simple and logical to ask, but so difficult to find logic and rationale in its answers. The question:
WHY DO WE, HUMANS, POLLUTE OUR ENVIRONMENT?
For instance, you… yes, you… why do you pollute? Why do you produce hazardous waste, why do you contaminate soil, why do you deplete supplies of freshwater, why do you cut down forests, why do you destroy ecosystems by converting them into agricultural and urban land, why do you emit greenhouse gases that enhance climate change…? WHY?
- Because it is a natural and inevitable part of mankind’s survival, living, and development. We need food, water, shelter for survival… then technologies, transportation, infrastructure for development… then more food, water, shelter for supplying our constantly growing population… then more technologies, transportation, infrastructure for increasing our welfare and utility…, - you may reply.
But all this is possible without so much damage to the environment. Around 25% of food from your table and 30% of all your consumed goods end up in a trash bin. With each person throwing out similar share of products, it accumulates into a huge amount of polluting waste. Moreover, before ending up as a pile of garbage, these items were produced with conversion of many hectares of natural land for agricultural purpose, with large emissions of greenhouse gases, with leaching of contaminating fertilizers into groundwater, with extraction of many nonrenewable resources… should I continue?
- Well, yes, but this requires more efficient processes and technologies… And to develop them requires sufficient knowledge, innovation, time, need and demand for them…
True. However, we have knowledge – there is a gigantic amount of books and articles written about sustainable and environmentally-friendly technologies. We have innovation – come on, nowadays we are more than 7 bln units of brainpower! We have time… still… if we start doing something nowadays. Need and demand… yes, but why we do not have them?
- Because we do not experience the consequences of pollution... at least not much. We do not have enough economic and social incentives to make the environment our priority.
In other words, we need someone to reward us for good behaviour and punish us for misbehaviour, right? But can’t we stop polluting our home planet and start caring about it without this “carrot and stick” approach? Can we do it just because we want a clean home, because we care about others, because we want future generations to have a nice place to live?
- Here we talk about changing a worldview. And doing it of the whole mankind. Even if you are so eco-friendly, it is extremely difficult if not impossible to turn everyone in the eco-morale direction. Besides, why should we care about the future and our descendants, when there are many opportunities to live a happy carefree life nowadays? The descendants will find a way to deal with pollution, because they will be smarter and technologically more advanced.
But is it right? Just think about it… Though we pollute the environment in order to develop and ensure future prosperity, but we put no value on our future… Isn’t it kind of controversial? And besides, we can live a happy life without degrading the environment along the way. It does not reduce our utility to do simple actions, such as reuse goods and share them among each other, thus reducing depletion of natural resources, waste generation, and pollution…
- But who would share anything when he can own it and display it as confirmation of his welfare and power?... Ah, enough already! Stop worrying and start enjoying the life! Benefit from the so-called “Power of NOW”! And let someone else care and clean after you.
That was a shortened version of self-reflection and discussion with my other self. It was not very convincing and resultative, was it? So, I am still in search for the reasonable answer to my question.
And what about you, dear Reader?
WHY DO YOU POLLUTE?
1. EEA, 2010. The European Environment: State and Outlook 2010. Consumption and the Environment.
2. Government Office for Science, 2011. The Future of Food and Farming: Challenges and Choices for Global Sustainability. Executive Summary. London.