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Why Conservation is Vital

Sarah Westrick, Staff

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Conservation is a word that we used to hear often pushed by people of all backgrounds. But unfortunately, the word has become politicized in recent years, and quite unnecessarily. Conservation is officially defined as “the management of human use of the biosphere so that it may yield the greatest sustainable benefit to the present generation while maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations” by the World Conservation Strategy of 1980.  But that definition is long and can leave readers almost more confused than before. So what is conservation, actually? In the simplest terms, conservation is getting more usage out of less resources, and minimizing the waste and impact we produce on the environment.

But, ok, sure, enjoying nature is a valuable experience, but beyond that…is conservation really that important? Most people would honestly answer “no”, but they do this without realizing the multitudes of benefits conserving our resources has on our daily lives beyond the long-term preservation of the Earth as we know it. Here are the three most convincing reasons to actively conserve our energy and waste:

1) Resources are expensive! It is estimated that the U.S. was just 39% energy efficient in 2012, meaning over half of the energy created by activities like burning coal, which are detrimental to the environment, wasn’t used. And it’s costing us, $130 million a year in fact. $130 million spent every year on resources that aren’t even used. The energy we don’t need, the food we don’t consume; it’s all money being thrown down the drain.

2) There are people in need of the things we waste. There are multitudes of people very much in need of resources we discard, like food. Currently, if food waste were a country, it would be the third leading producer of greenhouse gases, just after the U.S. and China. Producing food is land intensive, water intensive, and harvesting machinery intensive. On top of that, energy must be used to transport the food and to keep it cold in grocery stores and in homes. For all the greenhouse gases emitted from all this work, exactly half of all food produced is thrown in the garbage can. Half. And these statistics come from a time when 1 in 8 Americans live without consistent access to food. To be careless with our food- overbuying, not diligently checking for signs of expiration, and throwing out our leftovers-is to completely disrespect  our hungry Americans, and is downright uncompassionate.

3) We damage the environment when we do not make an effort to conserve. NYU graduate Lauren Singer was an environmental science student and activist when she realized the unintended effects that her consumption of disposables was causing. The average American produces around 4.5 pounds of trash each day. That’s 1,642.5 pounds a year! Singer instead came up with new tips and tricks to eliminate her personal contributions to landfills. She has lived zero waste for the past four years, meaning that she doesn’t actively purchase items that can’t be recycled or re-used. For instance, Singer does not use straws at restaurants, and takes re-useable bags and containers shopping. Her personal efforts, which are really only small lifestyle shifts, have collectively saved some 6,570 pounds so far from ending up in landfills.

Despite the political polarization you may see on the news today, conservation has not been a partisan issue until very recently. In fact, former Republican president Richard Nixon is considered to be one of our most environmentally conscious presidents, and is credited with founding the Environmental Protection Agency, or the EPA. The consequences of indifference to conservation affect all of us, regardless of political affiliation, and the effects of even one person’s actions can be tremendous as Lauren Singer has shown. Practicing using all that we need and taking no more than that will allow us to reach our potential today while allowing our children to reach their potential tomorrow. And that’s a goal I feel we can all rally behind.

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Why Conservation is Vital