Now is the Time to Start

Take baby steps to live a sustainable lifestyle...

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By Jane Kim, Communications Major, Sustainability Communications Intern

I love the Earth, do you?

Then please read on.

Since this past Wednesday was Campus Sustainable Day, I thought I'd write up a personal post about my experience and realization from Peter Raven's "conserving species in a changing world" lecture, which was one of the lectures of the Cornell Plantations 2013 Fall Lecture Series. I didn't have any expectations simply because I had never attended a lecture about how to protect our Earth. My mind was blown.

The lecture took place in the auditorium of Statler hall. A classy, prestigious academic ambiance filled the air. I was surprised to see the whole auditorium filled. However, I was taken back by how few students were there. The majority of the audience were alumni, probably from the class of 1945, since the lecture was “class of 1945”. I got a seat upfront, in the middle to soak in my first lecture related to sustainability.

The picture shown is of Peter H. Raven, photo shopped onto the cover of Time magazine. Although I think that such Times magazine cover and an article on what he presented during the lecture would be a wonderful idea. His PowerPoint presentation was incredibly informational about how our Earth is in trouble. He showed us data about global warming, extinction rate, trouble in agriculture due to the disappearance of bees, levels of consumption, and population levels. His main point was that we need to figure out a way to maintain internal sustainability and get to action. The reason why our Earth is off balance in terms of usage of resources comes down to greed.

During the lecture, I felt bombarded by the overwhelming data that showed that where I'm living, where my family and friends, and people are living is seriously in danger of exhausting of resources. I thought... What can I do? What can we do? My immediate feelings were of sadness, wanting to change my lifestyle, and educating others about this issue. I understood why our humanity as a whole was avoiding this issue. It is the same reason as mine: it seems complicated. I feel like one ant who is struggling to build an ant home with one hundred fellow ants, and we need one hundred thousand ants to make it possible. Having to convince those numerous other ants that are disinterested, or just unaware about this ant home building project seems impossible. This is where communication comes in. Through word of mouth, or just by being that one person in your apartment of five friends to shut the water off when scrubbing the dishes will inspire someone else to be more interested in learning about how they can take part in maintaining internal sustainability.

It is daunting at first to think, if I'm going to be eco friendly, that means I have to be careful about what detergent to buy, recycling properly, turning off lights always, or eating meat even. It makes sustainable lifestyle sound like a religious act. Striving to be perfectly Earth friendly by being always cautious, changing wasteful habits, and getting rid of indulgences. And there is the label of being called a hippie.

However, sustainable living is not about giving up all of your guilty pleasures such as eating out at fancy restaurants to indulge your taste buds, or buying more shoes despite having a whole closet full of shoes. Do you remember in your intro bio class, learning about how energy comes in, and goes out? While resources such as dirt, air, and fuel are recycled? Our Earth is not only amazing because it is the perfect environment for us to thrive in, but because of its ability to recycle. So we don't have to give up everything and live with a minimalist attitude in every aspect of our lives. Instead, we just need to figure out what things we absolutely love and can't live without, while realizing and letting go of other things that we probably don't really need. It is about having balance in your use of the Earth's resources because the Earth is not a genie that will eternally provide to satisfy all of human greed.

We come from the Earth. Now is the time to reuse, recycle, and reduce just as mother Earth does. Only then will Earth be able to continually support our future generations.

Isn't it our natural tendency to want to survive and reproduce? Then that means we should naturally want to conserve our world and species! So what are you waiting for? Think about your talents and interests. It's great to pursue a career of your dreams. But you can also use those talents and interests to support saving our planet. You can keep that in thought. But what you can do now is think of one thing that you probably can't ever give up and one thing that you can definitely give up for the sake of our planet. So for me, one thing I cannot completely give up would be shopping! On the contrary, one thing that I did give up this year was eating out. Since I am living off campus, I did not opt for a meal plan, but rather started cooking from scratch. It is awesome to learn to be a better cook step by step and to be watchful about healthy eating. Plus, you save a lot of money and save our planet's resources!

So there you go. I believe that there are two secrets to saving our Earth. First, reevaluate your lifestyle and start off with one thing that you are willing to give up for the Earth. And eventually, that Earth friendly conscious attitude will become a part of your lifestyle, influencing little habits that will add up to saving a big chunk of your carbon footprint. Second, think about how you can use your talents, education, and interest to influence others, spread the word, and get people involved on a bigger scale.

The Earth is beautiful. Beauty is around us all the time constantly reminding us to conserve our species. Now is the time to start. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery (author of The Little Prince) says, "The time for action is now. It's never too late to do something."

Views expressed in News posts may not be those of Cornell University. No endorsement is implied.