Pushing Beyond Nature's Limits

It has become common knowledge to most of us that at the rate things are going the Earth, in the coming decades, could cease to be a “safe operating space” for human beings and our animal kin. That is the conclusion of a new paper published Thursday in the journal Science by 18 researchers trying to gauge the breaking points in the natural world. According to the article, we have already crossed several "planetary boundaries". Meaning that with our common practice activities - economic growth, technology and rapid consumption - we are pushing the limits of the natural global environment necessary to sustain life as we know it today.  

"If you really think the economy is more important than the environment, try holding your breath while you count your money." - Dr. Guy McPherson

The effects of these activities have and continue to increase destabilization of our environment by means of ozone depletion, atmospheric pollution, freshwater use, ocean acidification and introduction of toxic chemicals and modified organisms. It seems we have already steadily begun to cross four of these “planetary boundaries.” They are: the extinction rate; deforestation; the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; and the flow of nitrogen and phosphorous (used on land as fertilizer) into the ocean. Persistent crossing of these boundaries is predicted to lead to an uncertain state of our planet. And while there is no guaranteed certainty that catastrophe will follow, there is something unpromising and ominous about contaminated waters, dying animal populations and constant toxic emissions.

New York by GABRIELLE ASSAF

New York by GABRIELLE ASSAF

"What you do makes a difference, and You have to decide what kind of difference you want to make." - Jane Goodall 

With a growing global population of over 7billion it becomes clear that what we do collectively has the largest impact. Recommending we all go back to hunter-gathers might not sit easy with today's standards of living, however changing even our smallest habits can have significant beneficial outcomes. These current movements of sustainable and organic eating are just a start, shopping and supporting local businesses another. We, as consumers, have a choice - What we eat, how we eat, the lifestyle we live and which companies we support. Through our individual choices and support of this worldwide 'sustainable movement' the collected efforts of everyone making even just one minor change could dramatically shift these unpleasant predicaments. 

Promote, conserve and respect nature. | Wild horses of Iceland.  

Promote, conserve and respect nature. | Wild horses of Iceland.  

Some things to keep in mind when considering a more sustainable lifestyle:

Move closer to work. Or work somewhere in your community. Commuting accounts for more than a third of all car travel. 

Focus on quality goods over quantity. With fewer possessions you can save money, resources and landfill space. This includes buying eco-conscious products and supporting local, sustainable companies and manufacturers.

Opt for non-plastic products.  Photography by Melanie Jenkins

Opt for non-plastic products.  Photography by Melanie Jenkins

Boycott plastic. Plastic is quite literally at our fingertips all day long. 50% of that plastic we use, we use just once and throw away. More-so, only 5of the plastics we produce is recovered. Avoid disposable plastic items (bags, bottled water, coffee lids, excessive packaging) and seek out alternatives to the plastic items that you rely on. Recycle, if you must use plastic.

Use non-toxic cleaners. Many (if not most) of the large corporations responsible for manufacturing cleaning products are also responsible for excessive plastic packaging, toxic ingredients and environmental pollution during manufacturing. Borax, vinegar, baking soda, salt and lemon juice are among the many natural alternatives. 

Embrace smaller, sustainable and more energy efficient homes. Photography by Simon Wilson for Green Modern

Embrace smaller, sustainable and more energy efficient homes. Photography by Simon Wilson for Green Modern

Move to a smaller, more sustainable home. Living in a 200q ft micro-home isn't right for everyone, but think about how much space you really need. Chances are most of us, especially in rural areas, have far more space than necessary. Other options include making your home more sustainable: Including energy efficiency, how much power you use, considering different energy sources, etc. 

Consider what you eat. This is a big one. And includes eating organic, eating local, eating seasonal and considering the sustainability of the products you consume. Eat lower on the food chain. Meats and dairy disproportionately require more resources to produce than what they return in food value. We're not suggesting everyone become vegan, but we sure don't all require a 12oz steak a night. 

Consider how you eat. While being conscious of the foods you buy is one thing, there are somethings you simply don't need to buy. If you have a garden, try landscaping with edibles. Think kale bushes, cabbages, fruits and nut trees. If you live in a smaller space consider indoor gardening that can provide you with fresh herbs, greens and some vegetables. Some other highly overlooked options include hunting and foraging for wild, local edibles. If you simply can't grow your produce, support your local farmers that do.