Environmental Concerns: the First Step Towards a Healthier Life
By Elisa Furlan
reviewed by Amadou Barrow
We only have one world; yet, we’re damaging it. Even though environmental problems need to be discussed, few people do so. Caring for the environment and acting to minimize or prevent negative effects isn’t as simple as it may seem.
But first, let’s properly define the term environmental concern. According to András Takács-Sánta, a researcher at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, environmental concern means positive affective attitudes referring to the seriousness and importance of environmental problems and people affected by those problems, and negative affective attitudes referring to the organizations and people causing such problems.
But in order to care for environmental problems, we must be aware of what those problems entail.
There are two main problems related to the environment that are mainly caused by humans: urbanization and climate change.
Urbanization is defined as “the increase in the proportion of a population living in urban areas.” According to The United Nations, more than half of the world lives in urban areas. However, urbanization poses a threat to nature, especially biodiversity. Since it leads to the physical fragmentation and loss of natural habitats, as well as pollution, urbanization has been the main contributor to extinction for decades. An example is artificial light: since cities produce a massive quantity of artificial light at night, it disturbs the sleep-wake cycle of animals, impacting their health. Moreover, noise pollution has dramatic effects on biodiversity. Noises produced in the city, such as industrial and traffic noises, have been shown to have a negative effect on animal communication, use of space, and reproduction, since such noises interfere with the sounds animals make to communicate or detect prey and predators.
For decades, scientists have tried to warn us about the risks of climate change, but we haven’t listened. It’s only in the last twenty years that governments started questioning the role of humankind in this process. As stated in the Kyoto Protocol, a 1997 international agreement, we must reduce our footprint before it’s too late. However, climate change leads to many consequences apart from physical changes. I dare say that one of the major problems is mainly an ethical one: the people who are most affected by climate change are also the ones who are least responsible for it. Here’s an example: the change in rainfall patterns affects access to safe drinking water for billions of people. The richer countries, or the ones that are most responsible for environmental problems, have no trouble finding water. On the contrary, poorer countries that use the most environmentally friendly technologies and are therefore least responsible for such changes have progressively less access to water.
The difficulties of raising environmental concern
As long as we don’t pay attention to these problems, our environment and our world cannot be saved. But spreading awareness about environmental concerns isn’t as easy as it may seem.
There are a lot of factors that slow the increase in environmental concern.
- Slow trend: Environmental change is a slow process, meaning the effects aren’t immediately perceptible to the human eye. It’s observable changes that promote the greatest interest/worry, and because the human brain registers changes better than constants, small and slow changes like UV radiation, gases in the atmosphere, and ionizing radiation are hard for our brain to process.
- Technology: Technology can help us in many ways. Through the internet, we’re able to read and see things that happen miles away from us. However, there’s the risk that such focus on faraway places might alienate us from what is happening near our own home.
- The economic elite: When it comes to spreading information about environmental problems, the actions that need to be taken may be influenced by some of the people and organizations connected to the economic elite. These people may question the credibility of scientists and studies about the environment and influence the choices of the media because some measures that need to be taken to save the environment might go against their interests.
- The media: The media is a powerful source of information. However, it’s highly dependent on advertisers; it’s not uncommon for media companies to refuse to give high publicity to ideas that might hurt their sponsors’ interests. Apart from that, a study revealed that almost two-thirds of the articles examined in the span of a year didn’t mention the risks related to environmental problems connected to news stories, but only the story itself.
If we don’t spread awareness, the people who are more likely to suffer are those who are most vulnerable. In fact, the poorest people are the ones who cannot afford to move away from their home country if the environment suffers from climate change. More often than not, however, the problem lies deeper: due to the lack of information, they’re not even aware of the threats they’re facing. Finally, if they are aware of the danger, they have a hard time making their voices heard.
The next steps: approaching future problems
The footprint we’re leaving is too large and we need to change our approach to the outside world. 73% of the planet’s surface is experiencing human pressures, which are intense, widespread, and rapidly intensifying.
Luckily, there are changes we can make to improve our environment and leave a smaller footprint. Finding new ways to live sustainably with the environment, for example, cleaner energies instead of resources that pollute the environment, can be a great first step towards a better future.
Certainly, being able to change a whole culture’s beliefs — mainly Western, the culture most responsible for the environmental problems we’re facing today — is a daunting task. We need a revolution, from the inside out. As with any revolution, it starts with a spark. And a spark can be ignited by a single person.
I am a positive and enthusiastic writer with an enormous passion for books. I am mostly interested in the fields of equal rights, global environment, and justice. I believe in the power of words: everything we know, we know because we read about it, heard it on the news, or someone told us – it is all connected to words. Contributing to change this world – the one and only one we will ever know – is a privilege as well as a duty: everyone can write something on the internet, especially these days; not everyone, though, can communicate effectively. It is my goal to help this world change, word by word.
My areas of expertise center around climate change and global health; Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH); environmental and occupational health; health education and promotion; and health risk communications. I have experience as a lecturer at both university level in the area of health psychology, health education & promotion, water supply & sanitation, biostatistics, epidemiology and research methodology. I have published several scientific manuscripts in various reputable journals on maternal & child health morbidities and mortalities in LMIC settings. I am a passionate digital health enthusiast with a special focus on holistic wellbeing at all levels.
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