Environmental optimism

Perspectives

By: Tom Dolloff, USM Eco-Rep

Climate change is a wicked problem with complex causes and unpredictable effects. If these issues aren’t addressed at a global scale, we will face the dire consequences of a planet not adapted to its climate. This is an unprecedented amount of pressure on both millennials and Gen Z who will both live to see the effects come to full fruition if action isn’t taken.

While that was a pretty abysmal opening, this article is aimed at encouraging you to view climate change through a more positive lens. Climate anxiety is a real problem that many young people are facing, and its effects are not completely understood. Environmental psychology plays an important role in the direction of humanity as we internalize our surroundings. However, it is also important to address how you are processing these issues and how they are affecting your day-to-day behaviors.

As someone who wants to work in a sustainability-related field, I still struggle with this notion. I want to make the world a better place, but will it already be too late by the time I get a chance? The fact that I am even able to study in such a field as a business student is a very good sign,it means there is value in caring about the future. This and the rise of environmental sciences as a popular major not only at USM but nationally is a signal that the world does care about solving this wicked problem. States and municipalities are also focusing on monitoring and maintaining their environment. The rise of sustainability coordinator positions is just one indicator of that.And this is not only an ethical move but an economically sound one.

Environmental disasters are expensive and ecosystem services are invaluable to our communities. Robert Costanza, et al. placed a value on these services and estimated that ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration by trees and wetlands as storm buffers are around$158 billion adjusted for inflation.. To put that into perspective, the global GDP for 2019 was about $86 billion a year.

So why does it appear that these resources are so undervalued in the free market, I would say perspective is the biggest factor. Accounting for externalities like environmental degradation has not been the status quo for businesses of the past, but that is changing. Green businesses are on the rise and people are voting with their dollars to support them.

Patagonia, for example, has been in business for less than 50 years and yet their model “use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis” still rings true. As a generation of bright-eyed, and maybe not so bright-eyed youth cannot look to business and governments alone to save us. The best thing you can do to feel better about the environment is to actively take steps to reduce your impact and create demand for a more sustainable world.

USM

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