You've heard that a walk a day can be good for your health, so you decide to try it out one morning before you really start your day. You've got two choices for where to start your walk, Door #1 or Door #2.
Door #1: You open your door to the fresh air of a summer morning. The birds are happily chirping away. You look up and down your street, taking stock of the green lawns, hearty trees, and diversity of flowers before walking down to the local creek. It's flowing briskly, and there are little pools with minnows and crayfish, you can splash around and even drink from it without worrying about rash or infection. You come back from your walk refreshed, with energy to meet the rest of your day.
Door #2: You open your door and are met by the fresh scent of smog. It's eerily quiet. Visibility is low, but you can see enough to crunch through the dehydrated grass, over the plastic bags blowing around, and out to the street. You walk down to the creek - barely a trickle and choked with beer cans, soda bottles, and who knows what else, with no living thing in sight. You'd never think of drinking from it. You're wheezing by the time you get home, and you're definitely not feeling any more refreshed.
I don't know anyone who wouldn't pick Door #1. Even if you deny human-caused climate change and believe that environmentalists are all a bunch of overzealous nut-jobs standing in the way of progress and modern living, you still want to live in a clean environment. You expect the water coming out of your tap to actually be clean, not just look clean; you want your food to be free of harmful chemicals; you prefer if there isn't trash along the road; when you vacation by lakes, rivers, and oceans, you should be able to swim in them without sharing the swimming hole with sludge and dead fish; and so on.
With the way our society has grown up, these things don't just happen on their own. People carelessly toss junk out the windows of their cars, out of sight, out of mind. Companies dump poison and pollutants into our water supply (check out this article about BP using a loophole to dump nearly 50 times the mercury limit per year into Lake Michigan. As a Michigan girl living in Indiana, it made me sick to my stomach, and angry. This was in 2007, but I'm not holding my breath that anything has changed.). Companies sheer off entire mountain tops, destroying environments that keep us healthy and releasing toxic runoff into our water supply. The list goes on, and you'll probably hear more about it from me later.
We have to be proactive to keep our communities clean, the same way you have to actively pick up the clothes from your bedroom floor. It's not easy to change old habits, and I'm still having a terrible time remembering to pick up my clothes. But Mike reminds me, I remember more often, and I'm doing better. We don't have to make these changes on our own, and we don't have to make a ton of big ones all at once, but we do need to be more proactive in the way we live. Think about things you throw out. Do you really need that styrofoam cup, or could you bring a mug? Where does that plastic water bottle go? (Hint: A lot of them end up in ocean gyres) There are small changes we can make that will make our communities, wherever we may move, a lot better places to live.
I have heard the idea from theists that 'This is not our home, we are not of this world, we are merely temporary residents, our true home is in heaven.' When I get down and think about it, I'm personally a little disturbed by this way of thinking, but it's not an inherently bad idea. However, I have heard it used to justify, '... so why should I care what happens to the planet?' If you're thinking along those lines, think about this instead: If a god created this world specifically for us, lovingly designed it to support our life, which was made in his image, then he has given us a great gift. One we should love, cherish, and protect, not ignore simply because heaven is waiting.
For non-theists: This is the only life and world that we have. We don't have the time or luxury of waiting for it to get better on it's own. We should all be striving to leave this world better than we came into it, to protect it for future generations so that they can move forward, instead of working backwards to fix our mistakes.
This isn't a topic we can choose to ignore, just because it's uncomfortable and we don't like change.
Never stop questioning,