The second unit describes how human beings relate to the environment of which you are a living part. The natural environment consists of multiple self-regulating systems. What happens when you add yourself to the mix? How does your daily living have an impact on the environment? The accompanying PowerPoint presentation looks at how these natural processes interact, the role of human intervention, and asks you to consider your personal obligation for this shared environment.
- The Human and Environment Connection with PowerPoint Presentation: Where do we fit in?
- Videos of Leading Thinkers
- Lecture: My Environmental Impact (Carbon and Ecological Footprint)
- Exercise 1: Ecological Footprint
- Lecture: Where I live
- Exercise 2: Walkscore.com
- Talking Heads Video: Gord Miller
Of all the planets in the solar system, or all the known planets in the galaxy, the only place for certain that complex life exists is on Earth.
The significant issue for you is that while the Earth will, in the long run, survive and flourish, human life, being dependent on the eco system services of clean air, water, and plentiful soil and a rich collection of living things from plants and insects to fish and wildlife, might not. It’s your own fate you need to be concerned about, or at least the continuance of a level of comfort, from a warm bath to a good book (be it hardcover, paperback, or digital tablet), that you might take for granted.
Tools for determining your environmental impact are extensive. Two particularly useful concepts are the individual measurement of your carbon footprint and your ecological footprint. Too some extent they overlap and so they are combined into a cumulative, though limited measure of environmental impact. Carbon describes waste, or atmospheric pollutants from resources not successfully treated, or used more efficiently. Carbon influences climate in ways we are still quantifying. Ecological impact examines your use of fresh water, your waste, and your impact on bio-diversity. While no means exhaustive the survey in the Activity section (to the left) provides a starting point for understanding your environmental impact.
The Resources section after Unit 3 includes the Environmental Footprint Methodology Document from which this survey takes its results.
One response to the impact of our cumulative ecological and carbon footprint is to wilfully ignore its meaning. Sooner or later however it effects the place where you live. You can deny its impact, erect a big fence around your property, argue that water is safe, the air is clean, and that changing weather patterns have nothing to do with human impact. Arguing and debating are fine tools but they can’t change reality. Sooner or later you have to acknowledge the nature of the world and your obligation. Hopefully it isn’t too late!
Your obligation is to make conscious choices. They start with your own life. You might be putting out recycling materials once a week, installing energy efficient lighting, or perhaps even buying a bag of locally grown potatoes. One of the most significant choices you make is where you live and how many of your needs are within walking distance. These determine how lightly you tread on the earth and in many cases how healthy you are.
Gord Miller, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO). The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario is the province’s independent environmental watchdog. Appointed by the Legislative Assembly, the ECO is tasked with monitoring and reporting on compliance with the Environmental Bill of Rights, and the government’s success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and in achieving greater energy conservation in Ontario. In this video, Miller describes the emerging environmental challenges that you need to be aware of and their impacts on all of us. More information on the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario is available at: www.eco.on.ca