When looking at current CO2 levels, we must also consider that levels have varied greatly over the history of the earth. The overwhelming majority of carbon dioxide is locked up in the crust of the earth.
CO2, as well as all the other concerns, are tied to economic activity. In the examples looked at, the environment and society are very interconnected.
Reducing emissions is an economic disadvantage that no one wants to undertake; who would want less profit? This means that whatever it may be, being sustainable and reducing pollution must be made profitable so capitalism can work its magic.
The key may not be in the companies’ hands, but in the consumers, a point echoed throughout the concerns.
As economies change or develop, such as in Europe, trees do eventually come back to the landscape. However, secondary growth does not foster the same kind of ecosystem as primary growth forest. Also, re-growing trees in the United States, which would involve economic restraint, simply means that trees are cut down elsewhere, such as Africa, which does not save trees at all.
Do trees have rights? What are the needs of trees if they cannot express them? Also, if the needs of trees differ or conflict with the needs of humans, do we respect their wishes? I cannot imagine some third party brokering a compromise between trees and humans; we just take what we need.
Wolves in many ways are similar to humans and our society. The development of a social system and hierarchy is incredible to compare to ours. Wolves are also near the top of the food web, and play an integral role in the outcome of everything below them, just as our status in the web commands influence. As with trees, do wolves have rights and should they be considered?
Individuals have the ability to make changes to help and protect wolves. By not killing wolves and protecting them, by compensating for livestock killed and fining those who kill wolves, a balance can be created that minimally affects humans and allows wolves to thrive and function as their part in the food web.
The level of extinction occurring today is on par with the last great extinction, which killed the dinosaurs, likely caused by a meteor impact. Thus, our impact on the environment is a severe as the impact a meteor had on earth.
A clear example of how economic forces can dictate the environment, tuna was regarded as a “trash-fish” and now fetches top dollar at markets. Despite advances in technology that have saved many dolphins, technology now allows humans to harvest fish at a rate that is far from sustainable. This leads to the idea of “maximum sustainable yield”. By catching fish at sustainable rate, it actually ensures long term economic benefit and keeps a species alive and does not tip the scales of the ecosystem.
Consumers may also wield power by instituting a boycott on certain fish that are caught unsustainably. Dolphin safe fish give a false sense of being “environmentally friendly”.
In the United States and other developed countries water is ridiculously overpriced. The bottled water industry in the United States is 11 billion dollars a year. About 240 grams of fossil fuels go into making one bottle and it probably takes more water to product a bottle than what actually goes into the bottle.
Bottled water has been about as commoditized as any product. There is a perception about bottled water, even if it is the same as the water from our taps. This perception is totally created and can be changed. It is up to us.
Potatoes began as lowly, not very nutritious crop in South America to a truly global product, not much associated with South America but with fast food and the a staple in the American diet. It is has become a cultural thing. How do you change something that is part of a culture? Even if it is recognized as a negative, what incentive is there for Americans, or anyone, to change their way.
To make our economy and culture green, there must be an advantage for embracing it.