Strictly Speaking: A Column


Elaina Martin, Editor-in-Chief

   A couple weeks ago, I had a problem in my AP Statistics homework that was related to great white shark size. The problem had measurements for 44 sharks and my immediate thought was, “Huh, I didn’t think there were that many great white sharks left.” My own apathy shocked me right afterwards — why was that my first thought? A quick Google search proved that great white sharks aren’t actually endangered (They are vulnerable, however — close enough?), but my automatic cynicism towards the natural world and how humans have jeopardized it still jarred me. My expectation wasn’t hope, but passive acceptance that humans are wrecking the earth.

   I think there is an inherent reason for that. A lot of the time, I feel disconnected from nature in general. When I walk my dog, it’s on sidewalks in developed areas plastered with cement and landscaped with non-native plants. Even worse, I spend most of my waking hours indoors: studying, sleeping, scrolling on my phone. Sometimes, it feels as though my entire life is man-made and, while there is a certain beauty in urbanity, it limits my experience and puts a damper on the compassion I might be able to feel for the natural world.

   And yet, when I do get outside or even look at the news, it’s hard to be hopeful. So much of destructive modernity is on this all-encompassing wide scale that I could never even try to fix on my own. The weights of the global climate, pollution, and endangerment crises are crushing, and sure, call it a coping mechanism, but it’s definitely easier to be apathetic than constantly depressed about the state of the earth.

   But if change is going to happen, hope must be present, because a global shift can’t happen unless people believe it can. I think that awareness of consumerism is the first step to cleaning up our habits as modern humans. Ever so often, modern equals unsustainable. So, I’ve been trying to scan my life for unsustainable practices and figure out solutions. 

  Two of the biggest problems I have noticed are single-use plastic and clothing. Plastic is omnipresent in our lives, because it’s cheap to produce and so durable that it never breaks down completely when nature gets exposed to it. Luckily, there are many ways to cut down on plastic use. Carrying a reusable water bottle is a no-brainer for me — it’s something I have always done. My family and I have also started brewing our coffee at home, which helps cut back on single-use cups and lids, many of which are non-recyclable.

  Another wasteful industry is the clothing business. Trends come and go so quickly in the age of social media, and the availability of cheap, unsustainable clothing is a major issue. The best way to avoid this consumerism is to donate old clothes and shop second-hand at thrift stores. I love thrifting, not only because it takes pressure off of the earth’s resources, but because it’s a fun experience to hunt for items.

   Finally, I believe that getting back into nature is one of the best ways we can become more sustainable as a society. Hiking, swimming in the ocean, and going to parklands and reserves enable us to appreciate the beauty of nature. And when we’re aware of nature, I believe that we can foster that wonder of the natural world that makes us want to protect it.

   Not appreciating the beauty of nature makes it so much easier to cut it down, wipe it out, and pollute it beyond repair, and I don’t want to be complicit in that. I truly believe that small, individual changes have the power to add up to something so great it has the power to start global healing. Passive acceptance won’t get anyone anywhere, but actively hoping and changing habits can make a world of difference.