A Call to Action

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Our earth is in trouble. With factories and cars all over the world emitting tons of carbon into the atmosphere, oceans being polluted, and energy being obtained from nonrenewable sources, the time is now to do what we can for the next generation. The ultimate way to better the fate of the future is to become sustainable. Sustainability calls for the collective enforcement of social and environmental practices in the community that protect and enhance resources needed by future generations. As the world we live in slowly wears out, we must do everything we can to work together to improve our carbon footprint.

Sustainability is a global concern; however, progress must begin on a local scale. There are many people in our communities who are unaware of the volatile changes in our climate and atmosphere. The only way to overcome the environmental issues we face today is by first addressing the need for community participation. How can we move forward to implement sustainable practices if we don’t have community backing for these initiatives? Before we revert to plans of maintaining clean public drinking water, protecting open space, or transitioning to clean energy to minimize global warming, we need to influence minds first.

Individual initiative can only take us so far; however, if the community as a whole works together, a snowball effect will occur. Take, for example, a homeowner installing solar panels on his roof. It is true that he will save a significant amount of money and generate clean energy for his home and his community. How much of an impact, though, is he making if he is the only person on the block who is implementing this type of change? Here’s another scenario: a woman who usually drives to work every morning decides to cut emissions by commuting by train everyday instead. Taking one car off the road, unfortunately, does not make that much of an impact. However, if the majority of the community cuts down on driving, overall emissions will drastically decrease. Individual initiative can make an impact, but the transition required to reduce global human consumption to within reasonable sustainable limits involves much larger changes on all levels of society. Only through community collaboration would we be able to move forward and implement sustainable practices together.

Community participation is an issue that will significantly determine the extent to which our society addresses global environmental concerns. The result of the impact completely depends on the number of people involved. In order to effectively create a foundation, we must be practical and garner widespread involvement using both short-term incentives and long-term goals. Short-term incentives, like refunds for people who recycle their bottles or tax-deductions for solar installations, offer quick rewards for people who change their practices. They are a good initiator for action; however, proper education and awareness will provide the long-term movement needed to sustain those efforts and tattoo these ideas into people’s minds. To achieve the goals of the movement, we would need to improve the quality of school education and generate public awareness. In much the same way a rolling snowball accumulates snow, these methods will accumulate greater participation and create a more unified effort in our communities.

Education will not only provide the knowledge people need to be informed, but the motivation to generate new ideas for a sustainable future. Knowledge about sustainability gives people an understanding of how the choices they make will impact their own communities. According to the United Nations report, the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, education will enable citizens to confront the challenges of the present and future to enact changes for a manageable environment. Basic education needs to focus on the distribution of knowledge, skills, values and viewpoints to encourage citizens throughout their lifetimes to rethink and improve their lifestyles. The children of today have especially vital roles—they will become the leaders of tomorrow and choose which path to take to implement and continue sustainable practices in the future. The elementary level is the time in which the brain is the most susceptible to new development and ideas. It is the time when our thought processes are molded and influenced in a specific way in which the circuits of the brain become "wired." The outside world shapes its development and determines the decisions it will make in the future. In fact, early interaction with the environment is critical for a child’s thought process growth. Constantly conveying simple conservation ideas in the classroom, such as turning off the lights when leaving the room or avoiding excessive food waste, will develop children’s minds to think greener at the advent of their lives. The integration of sustainable education into the school curriculum will encourage students to begin enacting their own environmental initiatives and eventually build a strong foundation for future action.

Community participation would also require gathering support, which will reinforce and strengthen knowledge beyond the school level. Newspapers, the radio, local television stations and the internet all provide the capabilities to disseminate information. Therefore, community environmental initiators should partner with all available media sources to encourage them to spread information about growing environmental issues and solutions in the community. Other social methods, like informing residents about environmental issues through petitions, presentations and local events, will help them understand the weight of global problems, generating civic participation for future developments. Through this type of visual exposure, people will begin to see the value of their role in the environment and therefore take responsibility for their actions. If everyone starts to think this way, the community as a whole will be able to take a step forward.

Achieving sustainability requires contributions from local and state bodies, which are comprised of individuals. The collective impact of a single action will significantly change the world around us, and communities are key leaders for engaging all initiators. Short-term incentives that blend into community education and awareness will be a logical method to create a shared knowledge on the importance of sustainability. By creating this mutual understanding, the effort built up can finally be channeled into pushing for sustainable changes, such as large scale solar installations or clean air legislation, which will maintain the capacity of our society. You see, the power lies in the numbers. If all people work together, a lasting impact will be created.





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