An article I wrote to increase environmental awareness. Published in Issue 7 of Papier Mache Magazine. I made the leaf cape from collected red and golden maple leaves to accompany the article. Photo by Adam Weiss.
The Air We Breathe
Imagine living a life free of concern for the environment. Imagine feeling confident that the earth you will one day leave your children and every other generation to follow was a planet cared for and respected by all people alike. Within this utopian vison, each of us would see a diverse range of the earth’s natural wonders. Whether it be turquoise oceans, lush rainforests, white peaked mountains, no matter the landscape that you hold in your minds eye, you would see it with clean air.
Of environmental issues pressing for us to address, the balance of the atmosphere is one that rises to the top. The very thing we can not see, the air we breathe, is somthing we need to think about. The first breathe of air a newborn takes, says I am alive, as does every breath there after. Like with the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe must be good. Surprisingly many people in this world are trying to survive without clean air. The question is, though, would you want to? It is important that we give thought to clean air, to how we get it, and how we keep it. Sadly we are no longer in a space where we can take clean air for granted, we are living on an earth with polluted air that is causing imbalance, illness and extinction. While our children are free to play outdoors, and we are free to ride bicycles to school and work, these simple rituals that you and I enjoy are not an option for many others. A disconnection allows us to forget that polluted air really is a problem for some people. The truth of the matter is that air pollution actually causes problems for all people, because air pollution causes problems for earth, it upsets a finely balanced eco system. Whether we can personally see it happening or not, air pollution is causing climate change.
Air is a recipe of elements: oxygen and nitrogen, argon, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, Neon, helium, Krypton and Xenon. If these elements are out of balance, and there is too much of any ingredient or other elements added, it changes the the air quality and it changes earths atmosphere. This year the level of carbon dioxide in the air reached record highs. What happens when you have too much CO2 in the air? The earth gets warmer.
25 years have passed since we started to see the statistics of the Earth’s temperature rising. Science has put to rest the debate over global warming, it is happening, and it is happening because of people. We are seeing cities in China close down from air pollution, we are seeing Arctic ice melt, we are seeing the water level of the ocean rise. We are experiencing more extreme weather conditions and we are seeing species of rare plants and animals become extinct. Despite this being under our nose, we are still in the midst of raising global consciousness and undoing belief systems that do not serve us. We are fighting a battle to stop the damage being done by excess carbon dioxide emission, simultaneously being responsible for repairing the damage that our choices have caused.
Carbon occurs naturally in the environment, but it becomes a problem when too much carbon is produced by burning fossil fuels in the production of electricity, by transport and by industry. Carbon producing plants dump unlimited amounts of carbon into the air for free. At this point there is no global regulation of CO2 omission of existing industry. China is the worlds largest emitter of Carbon, second, being America, with Australia having the highest rate per capita emissions compared to other major western nations. The world is using phenomenal amounts of energy, some necessary for well being and needs, and a whole lot of energy being used for wants.
It is time for us to ask ourselves what we are willing to do as an individual to make the changes that have to happen. It is time for us to look closely at the damage being done, and act on it. No one person or country in particular is to blame, we all support the factories in China with the things that we buy. We have all supported the companies in America making the biggest carbon footprint. We all waste resources. This is a climate challenge that we all face. We have the power to be conservative consumers, we have the intellect to decipher needs over wants with conservative reason. We also have the ability to stand behind and support the companies that are willing to make the change, and will continue to make change. As a whole we are using more and more non renewable resources, it needs to be a global collective consensus for sustainability, and a conscious choice to live wisely. We share a planet and we all have to shoulder the responsibility to keep the planet healthy.
Look to those that inspire you on a conscious path, from friends to politicians there are people out there that are passionate about our planet’s health. Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, called on world leaders at United Nations’ climate talks to drastically reduce their carbon emissions in an effort to curb global warming. Mr. Morales got congressional approval for a Bill of Rights for Mother Earth, that grants nature the same rights and liberties as human beings and treats resources as blessings.
“Sooner or later, we will have to recognise that the Earth has rights too, to live without pollution. What mankind must know is that human beings cannot live without Mother Earth, but the planet can live without humans.”
To keep the earth’s atmosphere balanced we have to stop using fossil fuels, coal, oil and natural gas at the rate we are using them. We need to generate electricity using clean efficient renewable sources, like solar and wind. We also need to reduce the existing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Neither of which should feel impossible. Changing to clean energy may take time, but it can happen. Repairing the damage done, can also happen. The best way to remove excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is through photosynthesis.
Photosynthesis is the process that converts carbon dioxide to oxygen. It is through photosynthesis that all living things are able to breathe air. Without enough oxygen in the air, in our bodies, we can not survive. We need to think green, think plants and trees, think photosynthesis. Leaves are the nostrils of trees and plants. They breathe in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through tiny stomata, process it with water and light, and they release oxygen. Photosynthesis maintains atmospheric oxygen levels. The combination of destroying vegetation, and increased population and industry, has affected these levels. We must protect old growth forests and increase vegetation, both on the land and in the sea. As earth is 70% water, the plankton growing in the oceans is responsible for much of carbon absorption in the carbon cycle. To unsure this can happen, we need to nurture and allow for expansion of the naturally occurring carbon cycle.
You must feel fortunate that you can make a difference. Individual action is powerful in a sea of many feeling the same thing. If you speak up, the person that can create change will hear you. Let your wallet vote for you, buy from companies that have strong ethical environmental under pinning. From the company you bank with, to the shoes on your feet, you have choice to support those that are consciously trying to make a difference, on every level. You need not go without, but what you do consume, source from a good place. Working for the environment is not something to be left up to environmental organisations, it is a responsibility for us all, every step of the way. Teach children to respect earths resources, where things come from and how they are made, and they will grow into adults that make good choices for the planet. Our children deserve to feel earth is a safe place to live, and we have to guide them well. As the American Indian proverb says, we do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children. Cultivate a sensibility that supports a sustainable future. Be conservative, be conscious, and be strong, together we can turn over a new leaf.