Ninety-seven years after a devastating nuclear apocalypse wipes out almost all life on Earth, thousands of people now live in a space station orbiting Earth, which they call the ‘Ark’. Three generations have been born in space. Still, when life-support systems on the ‘Ark’ begin to fail, one hundred juvenile detainees are sent to Earth in the last attempt to determine whether it is habitable or not. Or at least save resources for the remaining residents of the ‘Ark’.
This is the story plot of an American post-apocalyptic science fiction television series. It is scary for a human being to even imagine such a thing occurring in the real world. What if, after a few years, Earth will no longer be sustainable?
Since the rise in technology, humankind has distanced itself from the natural world. We have even forgotten how nature is continuously supporting our life system. Earth has provided everything humans need to survive and thrive, and we cannot reduce our reliance on the natural world. But the question is, do we even consider Earth an irreplaceable part of our lives? Do we care about it? What are we doing about climate change or the alarming rate of global warming? Are we living in a sustainable environment?
No, we are becoming selfish for ourselves and for our future generation, too. We do not care about exhausting natural resources, and we will suffer because of it. Humanity’s biggest learning challenge is the lesson of sustainable development.
“Living sustainable comes down to whether or not you care about the future and future generations.” – Robert Richardson
How are we supposed to incorporate sustainability into our lives? Sustainability is just a lifestyle we can adopt, lessening the use of detrimental products to reduce their carbon footprint. Our health is directly related to or proportional to the environment’s health. By conserving natural resources and protecting global ecosystems, we can ensure the well-being of humankind for now and for the future.
Incorporating sustainability into daily life is much more accessible than we think. Growing our food to maintain a garden can promote sustainability. Green spaces aren’t just crucial for our state of mind; they can play an important role in offsetting carbon emissions. Practising a minimalist lifestyle ensures that everything we own is put to its maximum purpose and anything unnecessary cut out.
Just look around; whether you need them or not, you are inescapably surrounded by material things. Every amount of this material we use is part of a vast worldwide action network that is steadily robbing people of their emotional well-being, depleting Earth’s resources, and harming the habitats of our planet. The Anthropocene, a new period in which humans are the main protagonists of global ecological change, has begun. Although nature and human civilisation have long interacted, scientists are now drawing clear conclusions on the links between human actions and the grave modern instability of the Earth’s natural processes. The recorded history of human consumption and the waste it generates show that human activities have crossed the line.
Numerous issues plague the Earth. One of the most significant is deforestation. People are aware that they shouldn’t remove flora, but they do so in reality, ignoring the need to protect the environment. Another major issue that contributes to the degradation of the biotic and abiotic components of the Earth is unchecked overpopulation. While the population is growing, the amount of land remains the same. The world can only be saved if trash is appropriately collected, natural resources are used wisely, and various forms of pollution are controlled.
The most significant danger to our Earth is plastic. Plastic never goes away. It takes millions of years for plastic to decompose. Plastic has been produced more quickly than any other material since the 1970s. By 2050, it is predicted that the world’s production of plastic will increase by 1,100 million tonnes. A whopping 36% of all plastics are used in packing, including single-use items for food and drink containers disposed of in landfills or as uncontrolled garbage in a whopping 85% of cases. We can significantly reduce environmental hazards by switching to alternative reusable items and ditching single-use things.
According to the Plastic Soup Foundation, in just one human lifetime, the annual global production of plastic has surged dramatically. Three hundred sixty-eight million tonnes in 2019 compared to 2 million in 1950. These numbers come directly from the plastics industry, but since synthetic fibres are not included, the production is far higher. Only in 2000 was plastic introduced to the market entirely—more than half. By 2025, it is anticipated that production will rise, even more, reaching around 600 million tonnes. This is about equivalent to the weight of the planet’s entire population today!
Can we save planet Earth?
The reply is “yes,” but with a lot of caveats. Here are a few steps we need to undertake immediately:
The 3R Strategy: We can conserve the environment by 3Rs: Recycling, Reducing, and Reusing. Uncontrolled trash is the source of the spread of many diseases. The 3R strategy of waste management is the only one that allows for environmental sustainability and preservation of resources. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle garbage to protect and maintain natural resources. We should consider the Earth the world’s home, where all living things are housed.
Reducing use of plastic bags: The use of plastic bags impacts the environment. They pose a specific threat to animal species and take several centuries to degrade. Every year, a large number of marine creatures perish as a result of mistaking chemically laced plastic bags for food. Many animals suffocate after being caught in plastic bags. Refusing shop bags when your product can be carried without them or bringing your bags is a smart strategy. Regardless of whether they are intended to be “reusable,” use and reuse all of the bags — paper, plastic, and fabric — that have been gathering in the closet over the years. Use them to line trash cans or to pick up litter if they are too dirty to carry your new items. Finally, dispose of them appropriately by recycling them, if possible.
Your shopping list: We purchase far more than we need, and most consumer goods are hardly used. Increased energy use and pollutant emissions during the extraction of natural resources and during the manufacture, transportation, and disposal of commodities are all consequences of excessive personal consumption of products. These expenditures can be significantly decreased by avoiding impulse purchases and conducting a genuine need analysis before making a purchase. When you need to purchase something, seek long-lasting substitutes with the least amount of packaging and carbon footprint feasible, and preserve them in good condition.
Use of natural-renewable resources: Solar energy systems are power plants that don’t emit greenhouse gases or pollute the air. We can also prefer electric vehicles to gasoline or diesel cars because they release fewer greenhouse gases and air pollutants.
Irtiza Khurshid is Assistant Professor at SSM College of Engineering, Parihaspora Pattan. Mohmod Irfan Shah is a BE Civil Engineering student at SSM College of engineering.