If you don’t care about climate change, there is a good chance you are fortunate enough to live in a region that has been largely spared from its negative impacts. In fact, if you live in places like Boston, you can even trick yourself into believing that our warmer, drier summers and milder winters are an improvement. These changes, however, have serious consequences, including increased droughts in the summer and flooding in the spring. Perhaps, climate “change” is too mild a term (change is good every once in a while, right?). Maybe, climate “crisis” would be more fitting.
Not too long ago, on the recommendation of one of my professors, I had an interesting opportunity to attend a virtual climate change discussion. These talks focused on the impacts of climate change, as well as large-scale actions that the host organization is taking to combat the devasting effects. In addition to this conference, I also attended an outdoor leadership training, which included a focus on small steps one can take to help protect the environment. With these two different, yet complementary events, a few key lessons about climate change and environmental protection can be drawn.
Who Suffers Most from Climate Change
In a cruel twist of fate, the world’s poorest, those surviving on less than $1.90 a day, are also the ones who are projected to suffer the most from the climate crisis. The changing climate has ruinous effects, including a greater number of typhoons in areas like Bangladesh, flooding in India and China, and deadly droughts in sub-Saharan Africa. These severe impacts could actually undo global development and push millions of people into poverty. Of course, climate change will touch all people, not just the world’s poorest, however, without adequate infrastructure and social systems, the world’s poorest remain the most vulnerable.
Climate Ambition & Appreciation for the Environment
In the virtual climate change discussion that I attended, “scaling up climate ambition” was one goal of the event. Specifically, by connecting scholars, innovators, and policy makers in these fields, the organization hopes to promote a new wave of climate research, innovations, and legislation to support a healthier earth. Even in the local outdoors training that I attended, “awareness” and “appreciation” for the environment were promoted as ways to facilitate a deeper concern for the environment. Research has even shown that the more exposure someone has to the natural world, the more they develop and support eco-friendly behaviors. For example, by encouraging people to hike, camp, and just immerse themselves in nature, you can help them feel a deeper connection to the environment. This connection can motivate people to become more green friendly and uphold policies meant to protect the environment. (Given my new interest in hiking [more here] … I may be an example of this phenomenon 🙂 )
Leave No Trace
“Leave no trace” is more than just “taking only pictures, leaving only footprints.” It is a code of ethics that can help guide you in making decisions that allow you to enjoy your time in nature, while minimizing the negative impact of your visit. One helpful tip is to “travel and camp on durable surfaces.” Many hiking trails have been trampled down by visitors. When you travel on these trails, it is important to stay on these worn paths to minimize damage to the natural environment. Additionally, if you plan to camp, make sure your site is at least 200 ft from water sources and that the camp is on a hard surface (like packed down dirt, rather than in soft grass) to minimize the disturbance to the natural environment. Leave no trace has seven core principles that you can learn about on their website: https://lnt.org/why/7-principles/
Overall, we live in a global ecosystem, which means that our effects on the environment are not isolated, rather reverberated with both second and third-order consequences. Understanding our impact on the environment and the small steps that we can take to help improve it are important to support a more hospitable Earth. In the spirit of environmental appreciation, I hope you will take a few minutes today, dear Reader, to get outside and immerse yourself in the natural world and enjoy everything it has to offer (except for bears… I for one do not enjoy bears).