We all hear about corporate responsibility when it comes to the environment. We look towards corporations to lead the way in design and ideas to better our planet and to reduce our carbon footprint. And, when the company spills a tanker of oil or releases too much pollution, we expect them to find ways to make up for it. This can include carbon offsetting, or the planting of trees to donating to environmental groups like The Nature Conservancy.
But what is expected of the individual? Most of us are not part of a billion-dollar, multinational company. We are just normal citizens and consumers. What kind of responsibilities to the environment should the individual have?
To answer that question we must first determine what impact the individual has on the environment. It should be logical that what we owe can only be set once we know what we are been given.
Obviously the by-products of the environment are numerous and obvious. We receive all the necessary requirements for life from the Earth: food, water, shelter and oxygen. More than that we live in a society that can provide the most important of those needs, water and air, for free.
Looking further we see we use the Earth’s resources for our own gain. We use wood for fire, oil for fuels, and crops like cotton for clothes and other materials. These are all items we generally consider were put on the planet for our use.
With all of these gifts, it would seem our responsibilities should be as frequent to match. But we are given, or rather have assigned ourselves, very few chores to maintain the environment around us, on a person to person level. Most people don’t recycle or reuse items. Even more don’t use public transportation or transportation besides driving, which would greatly reduce our use of fuels.
Now some of us might be out doing our part for the environment, through recycling or eating local or vegetarian options, but these people are exception to the rule. A majority of society considers environmentalism a fad at best and at worse a group of hippies trying to convince the world that the sky is falling.
If everyone is allowed to enjoy the benefits of a good ecosystem, the clean air and the drinkable water, why should they not be forced to join in on the work that comes along with it?
Now surely more people will catch on to the wave of environmentalism, but it might not be until the side effects of a mistreated planet begin to spread. Once the smog and the smoke that is only currently found in the bigger cities moves throughout the country people will begin to realize the depth of the situation. They will seem upset they had never realized before the dire situations had spread, and will wonder why they could do then to offset it.
But once we reach that point we would be too late. We all need to be striving now, before we can see the problem materialize before our eyes, to prevent this world of smog and smoke from becoming a reality.
So what does it mean to take individual responsibility for the environment? In part it means cleaning up when you see some trash, whether or not it’s yours. It means reminding yourself to walk to campus instead of drive. It means ordering your drink when you’re out to dinner in a regular cup and no Styrofoam.
The most important thing you can do as an individual is spread the word about environmentalism. The more people that are out there discussing the importance of taking on environmentally friendly concepts, the better the outcome will be. Use your voice as a person to help turn the tide on the mindsets people have about environmentalism.