Crazy Environmentalists

Melinda Markin, 08-09 EC Intern, making cardboard angels.  EC file photo

Melinda Markin, 08-09 EC Intern, making cardboard angels. EC file photo

People are always trying to find ways around “primitive” environmentalism – primitive as in trying to reduce waste and emissions, planting some vegetables, stop killing everything and overall trying to make the world a better place. They’re the “futurists,” the “creative” ones who really think they have the answer. And they’ve come up with some pretty crazy solutions to global environmental issues. The earth is getting too hot? Hmm, I know, let’s pump sulfur clouds into the sky to reflect the sun’s rays out of the atmosphere! Too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? Rather than reduce emissions, we can just bury it, or dump iron into the oceans to promote the growth of phytoplankton!

I have a very serious problem with these so called “alternative answers” to environmentalism. Sure, it’ll work in theory, but all we’re doing is fighting fire with fire. Sulfur clouds can reflect the sun’s rays and reduce the greenhouse effect, but have you considered what the large scale effect might be on any organism that uses the atmosphere (such as for breathing)? Or the fact that sulfur is the main component of sulfuric acid, and sulfur clouds might possibly lead to acid rain which damages not only the natural environment but urban areas as well? Maybe it’s not such a good idea to combat problems caused by pollution with more pollution. Burying carbon could have a devastating long term effect on bacteria that live deep under the ground or water and rely on extreme conditions. Many species of bacteria are vital for nutrient recycling – even those that live far away from what most people consider “life.” Underground pockets of carbon could even cause tectonic disturbances, i.e. earthquakes. A boom in phytoplankton growth will throw off the entire oceanic food chain, and extra iron in the water can poison fish and mammals. These quick fixes and short term solutions will only cause more damage in the future.

The solution to global environmental problems doesn’t require sulfur clouds or giant storage facilities underground. We can’t hide from our destruction. We can’t change the world to suit our needs. We need to change ourselves. We need to become less selfish, reduce our carbon emissions, reduce our waste, and give something back to the earth for a change.

Liz Grogan