What is the relationship between the environment and human behavior? Environmental psychologists study this question in particular, by seeking to understand how the physical environment affects our behavior and well-being, and how our behavior affects the environment (Schneider, Gruman, and Coutts, 2012). For example, pollution, a component of the physical environment, absolutely can affect our well-being and health. Ozone pollution can have unfavorable effects on humans including shortness of breath, coughing, damage to the airways, damaging the lungs, and making lungs more susceptible to infection (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], 2016). Meanwhile, us taking the action to recycle affects the quality of our environment. Recycling and using recycled products saves a substantial amount of energy considering it takes less energy to recycle products, than it would to create new materials entirely. In turn, the action of recycling helps battle climate change, one of the biggest threats our planet faces.
If humans can have direct effects on the environment, are we responsible for climate change? A lot of hard evidence suggests, yes. Every once in awhile, our planet warms from natural causes. This can occur from events like volcanic activity, or a change in solar output. However, recent evidence shows climate change is occurring too drastically to be solely explained through natural means. Humans have made remarkable advancements in technology by creating more automobiles, machines, factories, etc. But this revolution is not all positive. We have seen a rapid increase in greenhouse gas emissions over the last century. Sources of greenhouse gasses include automobiles, planes, factory farming and agriculture, electricity, and industrial production. The issue with greenhouse gasses is that they absorb and emit heat. Abundant greenhouse gases in our atmosphere include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases (EPA, 2017). When there are large quantities of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, the planet is going to get gradually warmer.
What happens as a result of climate change? Believe it or not, we are already experiencing some very damaging effects of climate change. Heat waves, floods, droughts, wildfires, and loss of sea ice just to name a few (National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA], 2017). Scientists predict we will begin to experience even more harmful effects of climate change in the future. At the current rate we are going, the Arctic sea ice is expected to disappear entirely by the end of the century. The current effects we are seeing are also expected to intensify. An even greater problem is the fact that plants and animals are unable to adapt to the quickly changing environment, and are dying off. As a result of climate change, animals’ habitats are becoming completely inhabitable. We are seeing a rapid loss of species which will inevitably effect the natural flow of the biosphere and the individual ecosystems it is composed of.
What can we do to slow down the effects of climate change? The first, and most simple response is we need to recognize climate change is a real threat to our planet, and even our existence. Given the recent political shift that has occurred in the United States, climate change and environmental issues do not appear to be a prime concern to some individuals. The blunt truth is we do not have time to wait. Climate change has already started to take its toll on the planet, and ignoring it is no help to anyone. As I stated above, human behavior has the potential to make dramatic changes to the environment. Practicing beneficial behaviors such as engaging in environmental activism, recycling, conserving energy, decreasing water use, and decreasing the frequency of automobile use, are all useful measures to take regarding this issue. You can also research ways to reduce your carbon footprint. As a vegan, I always advise people to cut down on meat, dairy, and egg consumption given the large toll agriculture takes on water loss and the environment in general. If we collectively work to battle this giant threat to our environment, we may be able to slow, and even reverse the effects of climate change.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)., (2017, January 31). Consequences of Climate Change. Retrieved February 2, 2017, from www.nasa.gov
Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology: understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Los Angeles: Sage.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)., (2016, March 4). Health Effects of Ozone Pollution. Retrieved February 2, 2017, from www.epa.gov
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)., (2017, January 20). Overview of Greenhouse Gases. Retrieved February 2, 2017, from www.epa.gov