Sometimes doing the right thing isn’t easy…
Coal is a resource that all of us use every day, and the industry continues to grow. Unfortunately, the environmental repercussions are enormous. Coal mining destroys the landscape and results in soil erosion, dust, noise and water pollution, and impacts local biodiversity.
I have seen the other side of it, a side that presents more positives than negatives. I have seen the jobs that have been created in areas in need of good jobs. I have seen the money come into the town. I lived in Southern Illinois where the coal industry has really taken over. To my friends and neighbors, many of whom grew up there and their families have lived there forever, the coal mine coming to town is not seen as a bad thing. The town has had a rebirth so to speak. Store fronts are getting makeovers and new businesses are moving in. Many people I know have acquired lucrative jobs in the coal industry and are thankful for such an opportunity to improve their lives.
This is not unlike the destructive fishing practices used in many developing countries. In many of these countries, they are using a fishing method called cyanide fishing to temporarily stun and then collect reef fish. The purpose of cyanide fishing is mainly to supply live fish for the aquarium trade. The fish are caught by divers using a plastic squirt bottle of cyanide to stun their prey. Far more fish die with this technique than are caught. This practice is also destructive to the coral reef and any living creature that gets hit by the cyanide, not just fish species. This fishing method is not sustainable because without the coral reef there will be no reef fish.
You may be wondering why such practices are being used if they cause so much destruction. For many of the fisherman this is the easiest way for them to provide for their families. Cyanide fishing offers an inexpensive and effective fishing method. The destruction their causing is destroying their own livelihood but they don’t have the luxury of living sustainably. They can’t worry about tomorrow; they are trying to survive today. It is hard to think and act sustainably when you are struggling to provide basic human needs.
How about the farmer who uses unsustainable agricultural practices, like slash-and-burn farming, so they can put food on the table. The farmers are not ignorant, they know their methods aren’t sustainable and in a short time they will be worse off. The choices for some are not easy when trying to provide basic human needs. Some have to choose the wrong path for the “right” reasons.
Add to these issues the abundant amount of biased information out there. You know the one sided story that doesn’t give you the whole picture. When it comes to environmental issues, one must use critical thinking to decide if it’s real or baloney.
In a town I lived in, the local electric utilities coop, who supplies most of the power for the area, would send out monthly newsletters. In these newsletters, they would talk about how great fracking is and their support of it. What they didn’t talk about was the negative impacts of fracking. This is an example of a one sided story people base their view off of. If you don’t have the whole story, how do you make an informed decision? How would you know if you are supporting the right cause?
These are just some examples highlighting the challenge of achieving sustainability. These examples are real examples of extreme cases with huge impacts. What about the average American who isn’t facing starvation or poverty. Why do so many Americans choose not to live sustainably? It’s not like there aren’t a ton of reasons to live sustainably. Think about this past winter and the propane gas shortage. If that doesn’t motivate you to explore renewable energy options, I don’t know what will. When faced with freezing to death, renewable energy alternatives look very attractive. Often, it’s not until things get serious and basic human needs get compromised that people get motivated to make changes.
Many Americans choose not to live sustainably because they don’t care, they’re not aware of the issues, or they don’t know how to get started. This is where Sustainable Springfield (SSI) can help. Making the necessary changes towards sustainability can feel overwhelming. How relieving it is to have an organization willing to lend support and help Springfield area citizens and businesses make sustainable changes. Remember, even making small changes can lead to big impacts.
I have been taking part in an internship with SSI for four months now and it has been an honor to be involved with such a wonderful organization with a beautiful mission. Please take advantage of such a wonderful resource available to you. The members of the SSI organization are ready to help make Springfield sustainable, one citizen or business at a time and one step at a time.
Thanks again SSI for taking me on as an intern. Through this internship, I have gained a deeper understanding of the role a not-for-profit organization has in promoting sustainability. I truly feel you will continue to do great things for my hometown Springfield.