The Environmental Impact of Our Favorite Pastimes

There is no mistaking that humans are having an incredibly profound, as well as an incredibly negative impact on the surrounding environment. Thousands of climate and ecological reports have reiterated the same information: humans are deeply disturbing the ecological health of the planet, destroying entire ecosystems and raising the overall global temperatures at an unprecedented rate. Without substantial changes to our day to day lifestyles, the world as we know it will likely disappear within our children’s lifetimes.

Unfortunately, even for the most environmentally conscious of us, the challenge isn’t in getting people to believe the information (although that issue still certainly exists). Rather, the biggest difficulty is actually getting people to take the issue seriously enough to really start making the necessary changes in their lives. For now, it is just “something society needs to address” or “something that the government needs to start taking seriously.”

What most people don’t realize is that although changes in the government do need to take place, most of the power to actually solve our problems lies with us and our personal decisions. You, and me, and our families have to be the ones to challenge the change we want — need — to see in the world. For better or worse, this means we need to take a serious look at some of our favorite pastimes and look for alternatives.

Boating

Boating is a great load of fun, but it has myriad negative impacts on marine ecosystems. Boats are also expensive to insure and difficult to maintain in clean working order. Because of this, motors and other mechanical parts are known to leak toxic chemicals and gasoline directly into water systems. Furthermore, in shallow water particularly, boats have been repeatedly linked to the goring, disfiguration, dismemberment, and even death of thousands of marine creatures. Boats are also known vessels for transporting dangerous invasive species into previously pristine waterways.

Beyond all that, boats are loud. This noise has been linked to other serious issues in the habitats they intrude into, as well. For instance, sound pollution can scare wildlife away from their safe habitats and push them out into more marginal areas where they are at greater risk from predators. This fear could also cause them to fail to reproduce or eat, leading to long-term declines in populations.

Fortunately, making a change doesn’t necessarily mean you have to give up boating altogether. There are new electric boats emerging on the market that greatly reduce noise pollution, gasoline leaching risk, and wildlife deaths. There are also plenty of ultra-sustainable options such as kayaking or canoeing that create zero emissions, are completely quiet and safe for wildlife, and actually benefit you personally by being a cheaper and healthier option.

Traveling

Traveling by air is another thing we all need to consider limiting in our lives as much as possible. This is especially true for shorter flights that can be made via train or another form of waste-reducing transportation. For the majority of the Western populations, air travel is the biggest contributor to their annual carbon footprint.

Choosing to limit air travel or give it up altogether is not really a new idea, but it could benefit from being spread more widely. In fact, numerous groups have dedicated themselves to spreading the message about the negative impacts of air travel and promoting cleaner alternatives. Climate activist Greta Thunberg, for instance, refuses to fly and travels via train or boat to the events that she attends.

If you aren’t flying to major travel destinations, this means you have a far greater opportunity to travel locally and see many of the awesome things in your area. For example, most countries have amazing natural areas captured in National Parks. The ones in the United States are world-famous, but there are plenty of others that are perhaps more local. For instance, there are some amazing National Parks in Europe — all of these being places you would never see while in the air.

Making a Difference

It doesn’t take much to begin making a major difference in your local area. Doing small things such as just focusing on reducing your need to drive can be huge. It may feel like a significant lifestyle change to start biking to work, for example, but the benefits of similar adjustments like that are incredible both for you on a personal level and for your local environment. These are exactly the types of changes that we need to challenge ourselves with.

Many organizations that hold back on embracing a more sustainable future fear that the economy will be hurt or jobs will be lost in the shift. Certainly, there will be losses in some sectors, but the overall number of jobs is likely to remain stable or even grow. For instance, the need for engineers in every sector from water management to nuclear power that can help lead this charge is desperate.

What many people tend to forget is that, although these companies have a great deal of power, their profit margins are completely dictated by their consumers. You choosing not to purchase something because it doesn’t stand up to the necessary sustainable lifestyle of the future is a signal to these companies that it is time to change for the better. In the end, your decisions matter more than you could ever begin to imagine.