(Un)sustainable

(Un)sustainable

By: Urmila Ramakrishnan

There seems to be a disparity between government action and public perception about the changing atmosphere. People who are not alarmed by climate change and global warming may actually undermine government and corporate efforts to reduce waste. This stark contrast may have an effect on how the earth ends.

“Compare climate change to gun control,” says Anthony Leiserowitz, from the Yale Project on Climate Change. Unlike gun control, there isn’t a set organization that takes paper and turns it into action. “Movements like pro-life or anti-immigration are organized,” he says. “The community hasn’t done that with climate change yet.

Researchers from the Yale Project on Climate Change asked 2,008 American adults for their opinions on climate change over the course of five years.

The poll showed that the number of people truly concerned about global warming has decreased 5 percent since 2008. “Of the people that were alarmed by global warming, 82 percent hadn’t done anything to control or stop it,” Leiserowitz says.

On the other side of the spectrum are projects like the Kyoto Protocol, headed by the United Nations to reduce green house gas emissions. The success of the project cannot be determined yet, a representative of the Green House Gas Data Center says. Gas emissions from the European Union decreased 10 percent since the project started in 1990.

“In the U.S., companies like Waste Management convert landfill waste into renewable energy,” says Julie Ketchum, the director of government affairs for Waste Management.

“You’re going to hear two different answers,” Ketchum says about waste reduction over the years. “Overall waste generation has decreased because of the economy. Most of the waste is from stuff you’ve bought. Volumes are down at least 10 percent nationwide.”

Combine that answer with the perception study from the Yale Institute, and you’ve got a chasm between concern and action. Could it spur an environmental apocalypse? Probably not. But it is something we should think about. The debate between individual action and organizational policy pushing is something to consider when thinking about Earth’s untimely demise. Most people do acknowledge Mother Nature’s changing attitude, with more catastrophic storms and an earlier onset of seasons.

That’s not saying that there aren’t climate change cheerleaders rooting for defensive moves. Based on this study and the actions currently being taken, there needs to be more noise. Unlike abortion or voter identification, there aren’t set lobbyists rooting for the Earth. There are no particular individuals affected like there are with same-sex marriage. Changing the perception of an issue is something that happens only with time.

Whether humans have contributed to the end of the world is undetermined. It depends on which side of the chain you pull, as with any issue. In the end, human perception is a deciding factor on how the world’s axis continues to tilt and whether the world crumbles like a teetering landfill or stands tall like the Himalayan peaks.

• 10% – Dismissive: does not believe that global warming is happening, and most likely think it is a “hoax.”

• 15 % – Doubtful: not sure if global warming is happening, but if it is it is a natural occurring phenomenon.

• 6% – Disengaged: do not know much about global warming or whether it is happening.

• 29% – Cautious: global warming may or not be caused by humans and it is not an urgent problem.

• 26% – Concerned: believe global warming is a serious problem not personally involved in trying to stop it.

• 13% – Alarmed: most convinced that global warming is happening and that humans caused it and it is a serious and urgent threat to the earth.

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