In our growing world and rapidly developing society, we are faced with an increasingly urgent problem: how can we feed 7 billion mouths and counting? How do we do so without permanently damaging our environment through reckless use of water, pesticides, and monocultures? Something we can do is actually beneficial for both us and our environment.
The answer is for us to eat locally grown, healthy food. How does that help alleviate our problem? First off, transporting food takes vast amounts of energy through keeping the food at a suitable temperature over thousands of miles, and consumes fuel through this transport. When our food is grown down the road or merely has to be moved a few miles to our grocery store, we know it’s more safe and fresh to eat. Additionally, it gives local farmers a chance to grow their own strains and types of crops, promoting biodiversity amongst crop populations.
Healthy eating means eating a variety of foods, with a focus on vegetables, fruits and nuts. The efficiency of growing plants for consumption far exceeds the efficiency it takes to raise livestock, such as cattle and pigs. These animals require a lot of food and space, while also contributing to large portions of methane emissions—a notoriously dangerous greenhouse gas—through their droppings.
This does not mean to stop eating meats altogether—it still brings nutrition! However, I urge everyone to at least attempt to cut back on eating meats. When we eat healthier, we not only vastly reduce the amount of energy needed to get our food to the table, but also lessen methane emissions while increasing efficiency of total food grown! What steps have you taken to eat healthier for yourself and the environment?
I’ve always been passionate about our natural world, from the birds and insects that live in our environment to the beautiful natural scenery it provides. Looking back, I think my earliest memories of this fascination with nature were when my mom took me to the botanical gardens. I vividly remember looking at the countless multitude and brilliant colors of the butterflies that fluttered around me, and really being awed by how amazing the gardens looked.
Then, in the 5th grade, I went to Jekyll Island on a school trip. I was at a loss of words at how beautiful and fascinating nature could be—whether it be the thousands of tiny fiddler crabs scuttling around during low tide, or the gentle swish of the waves against the shore.
These early experiences I had really unearthed my love for nature and the environment. After asking around my school, those who seemed to be the most supportive of conservation and appreciative of nature had some amount of exposure to the natural world when they were young as well. One friend said that watching Captain Planet made him interested in environmental protection. Another told me a trip she went on in the 9th grade up Stone Mountain. After a long and exhausting hike, she started to notice small things such as insects, wildflowers, and even the dewdrops sitting on the tips of leaves. At the summit of the hike, she looked out at the rising sun, painting the canvas of the sky with shades of deep purple and pink. No matter the magnitude of nature, its enduring beauty is unique and breathtaking. Experiences early in a person’s life like these really stand out, and results show.
This is why I think it’s important that we expose people to nature at a young age. It piques their interest and causes them to feel a genuine appreciation for the environment. Once something makes an impressionable impact upon a child, that memory will stick with him or her for a very long time. With that in mind, I leave y’all with a question: was there ever a distinct moment or experience in your life where you realized you had a passion for the environment, and felt compelled to protect it? What exactly made you step up and take initiative?
Your ACE fellows, Lauren Smith, Galen Xiang, and Kayla Robinson