The Importance of Environmental Sustainability
|Sand hill cranes fly over the|
Black Fork Wetlands Preserve.
Travel, technology, and education allow us to “view” farther away and see with greater resolution. More and more, humans are considering how to make our collective environment more sustainable. How do we do a better job of living within our means? …And why make the effort? We all use environmental resources and rely on natural systems to renew and replenish resources, but there is only so much stuff. An important corollary is that natural systems of renewal and recycling are also limited.
Natural resources and their limits get a lot of attention inside and outside of the classroom. Drought affects crops and wildlife and it is important to social and economic concerns. Western U.S. farmers looking at recently fallowed fields know this. There just isn’t enough water to go around (and even the stock underground had already been depleted). Agriculture both harvests and replenishes soil nutrients essential to plant growth. Food production, but also manufacturing and power generation, consumes far more resources than we can see. Collectively, we use a lot of stuff.
|Students and faculty watch bald eagles at Black|
Fork Wetlands Environmental Studies Center.
The abundance of our species has increased and increased, and colonization, trade, and urbanization have accelerated over the last 500 years or so. The resulting interactions are complicated. Grocery store items don’t tell us their stories, but often there are stories. More and more consumers have learned to ask questions, even press for change.
When we figure out how to adjust our ways, things can get better, so the on-going discussion of when-where-how-why has value. We stopped hunting whales and shooting bald eagles. We breathe easier. The restoration of natural “services” is good for people, too. We learned years ago to protect soils from erosion. Now, many people are changing habits to protect rich, but dwindling, communities of pollinator species. Strategic areas of land are taken out of development in order to protect urban and suburban water supplies. Rates of deforestation in Brazil slowed a lot when the effort was made. Protected areas in general serve as nurseries and oases for species we value and species we don’t even recognize.
|Ashland Middle School students assess |
fish resources at the Black Fork Wetlands
Environmental Studies Center.