As we roll through the last quarter of 2019 on our way to the start of a new decade in 2020, I was increasingly curious to know how the last 20 years of human activity has impacted the planet and our environment. Diving into the rabbit hole of information and discovering disheartening facts on environmental degradation, I decided it was important to have a reference point of previous decades for comparison. The story of our environment has been extremely telling from just 50 years ago in 1970, until now. Yes, 1970 was almost 50 years ago! From the release of the first plastic Pepsi and Coca-Cola bottles in 1978, to the cell phones and electric cars of the new millennia, the advancement of the human race over the last 50 years has been something for the record books. Unfortunately, not every advancement we have achieved has been positive for the planet. In fact, as you will read, we’re rapidly depleting the natural resources that sustain human life while wreaking havoc on the one and only planet we have to live.
The 1970s were a decade of new environmental regulations, treaties as well as an increased awareness for the protection of marine and land animals. No longer were industries able to have a natural resource free for all. 1970 was the year of the first nationwide Earth Day celebration, as well as the creation of The Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Everything was moving in a positive direction environmentally with environmentalists prevailing in protecting Everglades National Park and slowing the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline construction, to the signing of The Clean Air Act by Congress on December 31, 1970, setting a 6 year deadline for the automobile industry to develop a 90% pollution free engine.
Much of the environmental progress that happened early in the 1970 would change when President Nixon fired the Secretary of the Interior Walter Hickel for reportedly being increasingly militant in defense of the environment. After his departure, regulations were loosened in The Clean Air Act as well as other environmental regulations. The 1970s was a decade of great advancement in producing laws that protect the environment, as well as regulating industries that exploit the environment. Even as environmental regulations and advancements in technology have increased over the last 50 years, the planet’s current rate of degradation is at an all-time high. This degradation is leading numerous scientists to believe we are well on our way to the 6th mass extinction. Whether you’re a climate change believer or not, these are actual facts and statistics based on the direct impact caused by the manner in which we humans are currently treating our planet and its limited natural resources.
Global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) for fossil fuels have more than doubled since 1970 when they were at 8.8 trillion pounds. Twenty years ago, in 2000, global GHG emissions were just over 13 trillion pounds. Current global numbers reached over 22 trillion pounds in 2018. Just take a few seconds to think about the kind of damage this quantity of greenhouse gas emissions has had and is having on our planet!! After a 2,000 year period of very little sea level change, the last century has shown staggering concerns. Just in the last 50 years coastal sea levels have risen over 5 inches. Over 3 of those 5 inches have risen since 2000. Sea level rise is caused primarily by two factors related to global warming: the added water from melting ice sheets and glaciers and the expansion of seawater as it warms.
Ocean surface temperatures have risen over 1.5 degrees since 1970. The rise in temperatures is believed to be in part from the increase in CO2 levels, as the ocean is currently absorbing over 26% of all CO2 greenhouse gas emissions. Global temperatures have risen over 1.7 degrees fahrenheit in the last 50 years. In the US our trash generation is becoming a huge detriment to the planet. In 1970 the US produced 242 billion pounds of municipal waste. The year 2000 brought an increase to 462 billion pounds, and the latest statistics from 2015 showed we produced 540 billion pounds of trash. The increase in trash is a direct representation of our dramatic increase in consumption. In the last decade consumption of goods and services has risen over 28%.
The rise in temperatures, sea levels and greenhouse gas emissions is not the only thing on the planet that has been affected. The World Wildlife Foundation has reported that over 52% of all animals on the planet have become extinct in the last 50 years. Some animal species have been affected more than others such as marine sea turtles losing over 80% of their total population over the last half century. Statistics show that over one million animal and plant species are currently threatened with extinction. The loss to biodiversity and damage to the ecosystems that are essential to life is beyond alarming.
From greenhouse gas emissions to dams and the current fracking craze, human activity has, by far, caused the biggest detriment to our planet, and all of the life that depends on it. Numerous experts have stated for many years that we’re nearing a tipping point from which we will no longer be able to correct the ongoing damage that will make our planet uninhabitable for humans. We all want to give our children and grandchildren everything and at almost any expense: excellent education good values and upbringing, life skills, etc.. But, what about gifting them a healthy planet with clean air, water, and healthy soil that will provide food, water and clean air for generations to come? When will the mindless destruction from man shift into a new era of preservation, sustainability and reconstruction, and the fact that we (all humans) are part of nature and depend on nature for our survival. Only then can we unite to save this beautiful planet we call home.
You can choose to be a part of the solution and we’ve made it super simple for you.
Heal The Planet has created an amazing new resource called 100+ Ways to Heal The Planet:
Each of us has the opportunity to choose Small Acts (new habits) that create Huge Impact so we can Heal The Planet Together. Pick some new habits to adopt and share them with your friends and family.
“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”