Human Indulgences and the Environment
Human Indulgences and the Environment
by Eric Specht January 14, 2012
The way of life for all species in all the world’s environments may be experiencing an era of mass extinction due to human indulgences. Since the industrial revolution, humans mine unprecedented amounts of earth’s resources for consumption because industrial countries learn that material benefits or the law of supply and demand leads to economic growth. Industrial countries and developing nations striving for industrialization are consuming more than an adequate share of resources to sustain life. Additionally, a large portion of material consumption is due to sustaining life’s comforts or material possessions that make human life easier. Since as early as 1950, the world’s people have consumed more goods and services than the combined total of all humans who ever walked the planet before (Tilford, 2000). Although there are varieties of production and consumption habits humans relate to material resources, I believe cell phone technology and paper stress the environment most.
Cellular phones are one of today’s most innovative means of communication. Cellular phones are not only wireless and portable devices that enable persons to make or receive a telephone call from almost anywhere; they also allow people to communicate by means of text messages, emails, and instant messages. Furthermore, cellular phones enable people to surf the internet to obtain local or foreign news, research websites, view programs, listen to music, play games, connect to social websites, and purchase consumer goods. Cellular phones are portrayed as a must have device for personal and professional purposes because they are an affordable multipurpose hand held computer and as a result, cellular phone manufacturers continue to develop new and more sophisticated cellular phones to maintain and increase demand and production. Conversely, the convenient and popular cellular phone also perpetuates cellular environmental damage.
Environmental Impact of Cellular Phones
The complete production process of cellular phones negatively affects the environment. There are many resource extracted from the earth to begin the production of cellular phones. Although most resources to produce a cellular phone are renewable, such as gold, silicon, copper, silver, nickel, aluminum, and more, they will deplete because it takes thousands of years for the earth to generate more. The refinement phase consists of transforming the resources extracted from the earth into a cell phone product, which requires considerable amounts of energy and that energy generates large amounts of pollution and waste. During the phone’s usage phase, the cellular phone and the wireless infrastructure consumes electricity, which mostly derives from fossil fuels. The final stage of the cellular phone is disposing it breaks or when we no longer need or want its outdated services and as a result, ends up in a landfill (Rayapura, 2005).
However, there are actions that may reduce the environmental damage created by the ingenious innovation that humanity must possess. The best way we as cellular phone consumers can minimize environmental impact is by getting a new cellular phone only when it is necessary or get a refurbished one! Using a cell phone longer or buying a refurbished cellular phone reduces the amount of natural resources extracted from the earth, saves energy, and prevents pollution. A study suggests that extending the consumer usage of a cellular phone from one year to four years decreases the environmental impacts by about forty percent. Furthermore, recycling the material in a cell phone requires significantly less resources than mining the earth for more (Fishbien, 2005).
Forests are an important species to earth’s ecosystem. The forests act as the earth’s lungs by breathing in large amounts of carbon dioxide and exhaling oxygen back into the atmosphere. Earth's forests absorb billions of tons of carbon dioxide gas each year, which include about thirty percent of the carbon dioxide gas that humans put into the air. Trees also filter ground water and prevent erosion, especially by water systems, because their roots absorb and store minerals from the water as well as keeping soil from washing away. Furthermore, trees provide shelter and homes for thousands, sheltering roughly two-thirds of the world's plant and animal species (Tilford, 2000).
However, global forest is lessening by 30 million acres a year mainly due to human production and consumption rate (Tilford, 2000). In 1997, the average American consumed seven hundred and thirty-seven pounds of paper. According to the author, for every ton of paper, two to three and a half tons of trees fall victim to timbering. In the United States, fourteen million trees fall annually to make mail order catalogs. As a result, each American receives about thirty-four pounds of junk mail a year for a total of over nine billion pounds in the U.S. alone. Advertising is a major contributor to the United States paper consumption; Sunday papers in particular contain an expanding addition of advertising circulars and classifieds. By one estimate, the Sunday New York Times alone uses roughly seventy-five thousand trees per edition. Although we live in an era where computers electronically transmit media, computers contribute to printing advertisements and the internet promotes more paper advertisements than ever before (2000).
However, organizations around the globe attempt to preserve earth’s forests. Conservation International prevented more than eight million tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere by protecting the Makira Forest in Madagascar, which is equivalent to removing one hundred and forty-five thousand cars from the road for ten years. Conservation International has twelve other additional projects around the globe in an attempt to protect the environment (“Saving Forests ”, 2012). Another method to reduce paper production and consumption is to recycle. Although paper recovery is more than all glass, plastic and aluminum combined, the American Forest & Paper Association has set a goal of sixty percent recovery by the year 2012 because recycling paper is one of the best methods to reduce deforestation and its hazards.
In conclusion, human production and consumption of material goods needs regulation and limitation to ensure a quality life for future generations of all species. Purchasing new cellular phone every year and expending the use of paper products beyond necessary means is a result of human indulgences that affect the environment. Humans may be one of the most intellectual species, but one of the most selfish.
Fishbien, B. K. (2002, n/a n/a). Inform. Retrieved January 15, 2012, from Resources:http://informinc.org/reportpdfs/wp/WasteintheWirelessWorld.pdf.
N/a. (2012, n/a n/a). Saving Forests. Retrieved January 15, 2012, from ConservationInternational:http://www.conservation.org/learn/climate/forests/Pages/overview.aspx.
Rayapura, A. (2005, n/a n/a). The Secrete Life Series. Retrieved January 14, 2011, fromInform Building Environmental Literacy:http://informinc.org/reportpdfs/wp/RBRC_Wireless_Waste.pdf.
Tilford, D. (2000, n/a n/a). Sustainable Consumption. Retrieved January 14, 2012, from SierraClub: http://www.sierraclub.org/sustainable_consumption/tilford.asp.